They always tell me that stories should start at the beginning. Isn’t that the classic line? But no one knows the beginning of Flotsam, and I’ve been here ages and ages. Recounting all that history would take far too long.
Maybe I’ll just start with the new arrival. Unlike most of our new drinkers, who enter the bar looking like all they’re missing is the gun to put in their mouth, this guy came bursting in through the door filled with exuberance. I almost dropped the tumbler I was polishing.
“Woo! Let’s get this party started!” he yelled as he threw open the wooden door with a heavy thud. “Five year reunion! I’ll still drink all you under the table!”
The newcomer’s entrance was loud enough to rouse most of the stupefied drinkers, and he was
greeted by a wide range of expressions, from blank stares to homicidal glares. We get all sorts at Flotsam. Our newest customer was pretty quick on the uptake, though, and he quickly realized that most of the faces were angry. Or maybe it was the fact that most of them weren’t human. Like I said, we get all sorts at Flotsam.
A couple of lizards, who had previously been sipping gin-and-gasoline in their booth, rose menacingly out of their seats and began to sidle towards the new guy. His eyes wide with shock, he backed away from the pair, raising his trembling hands above the popped collar of his polo shirt.
I sent a meaningful glance towards G27’s corner, but he had already extended his limbs, and his manipulator arms let off hisses of released hydraulic pressure as he readied his servos. “Settle down, boys,” G27 drawled in his tinny Southern accent. “We don’t want any trouble here.”
The lizards gave my bouncer a once-over, but settled back warily into their booth. They might be six and a half feet tall, even without the tail, and corded head to toe with muscle, but they knew better than to tangle with a robot the size of G27.
Trying to defuse the system, I gave the newcomer a cheery grin. “Welcome to Flotsam, sir. What can I get you?”
The man dejectedly took a seat on one of the bar stools. He dropped his baseball cap on the counter and ran a hand through his short brown hair. “I swear I only pounded a couple Nattys before I left for the bar,” he said to me. “No way am I drunk enough to be seeing giant lizards.”
I think my most common wish is for a standard opening speech – something to explain to each new person how they had ended up in Flotsam. Every person’s different, though, and it’s damn tough for anyone to hear that they’re part of the unneeded refuse of the universe, swept into the alcoholic equivalent of a dust trap. “Where were you headed tonight?” I asked instead, opening one of the mini-fridges behind the bar. I pulled out a metal can of Natural Ice and set it down in front of the man.
He started to fumble in his wallet for payment, but I waved it away. “No charge for the first one – just your story,” I said pleasantly.