I picked up the cheap-looking pair of glasses from the bar’s countertop, turning them over in my hands. “And what are they, again?” I asked.
“Beer goggles!” replied Dave, standing behind the bar and beaming back at me. “Great idea, see? And they’ve got the bar name on the side, so we can hand them out as a promotion!”
“Well, they do have the name, I guess,” I admitted, trying not to hurt the guy’s feelings. “But they also don’t say ‘beer goggles’ on them, Dave.”
“Yeah, they do! I got it printed on the other side. One side says ‘Dave’s bar’, and the other one says ‘genuine beer goggles’! Isn’t it clever?”
I turned the pair of glasses around, holding them out to him. “Bear goggles, Dave.”
“What?” He took them from my hands.
“See?” I repeated patiently, as his frown slowly but steadily deepened. “They say ‘bear goggles’, not ‘beer goggles’.”
“Oh, shit.” And then, just when I thought Dave wasn’t going to do anything dumber for the day, he reached down under the bar and pulled out a big cardboard box. He dropped it on the counter and, to my amazement, it was filled literally to the brim with these knockoff Chinese sunglasses!
“Oh, Dave,” I said, overcome with pity for the poor guy. “Tell me you didn’t order them all without a proof set.”
But sure enough, each pair looked identical. On one side, “Dave’s Bar and Tavern.” And on the other: “Genuine Bear Goggles.”
“I can’t return them!” Dave lamented, as I fished out another pair and held them up. The lenses looked a little yellow, probably the cheap plastic. “No refunds on custom printed stuff! What do I do with them?”
Much as I wanted to laugh, I hated seeing the guy look so downcast. “Well, you could still hand them out, I suppose,” I said, sliding the pair in my hands onto my face and looking out through the bar’s front window. “I mean they do still have your bar’s name on them, and in this town, people might find it funny- HOLY SHIT!”
After a second, Dave’s round, creased face peered over the bar, looking down at where I’d landed after toppling off my stool. “Brian. You okay?”
Mutely, I just shook my head, my hand coming up to point unsteadily towards the tavern’s front window. “T-tell me that you, you saw that!” I gasped out.
He directed his attention towards the window, frowning. “Saw what?”
Dave looked back at me, the crease in his forehead deepening, as I hauled myself up from the chair, snatching up the glasses from where they’d fallen off of my face. My feet unsteady beneath me, I charged out of the tavern, into the bright midday sunlight, staring around in horror.
Bears. Bears everywhere. Bears in clothes, bears talking to each other. Bears driving cars. Bears, big and furry and brown and tall and with claws flexing on their fat paws. Bears!
I clawed the glasses off my face like they were alive. They clattered to the ground, and I dared to open my eyes after another minute.
No bears. People, ordinary everyday people. Mrs. Higgins, proprietor of the flower shop across the street, glared suspiciously at me. She always seemed to harbor a mean streak towards me, ever since I tried to ask out her snotty daughter in the seventh grade. Barry the bus driver gave me a wave as he passed, turning the big wheel in both his hands.
My fingers shaking, I picked up the glasses from where they’d landed on the pavement. Slowly, I slid them back onto my face.
I pulled them back off.
No bears. Normal people, doing their everyday tasks.
I stood there, frozen, my brain feeling like it had been pumped full of especially thick molasses. Finally, as an inspiration slowly bloomed in my brain, I turned back to the front window of Dave’s Bar & Tavern.
From the outside, the window reflected back the outdoor scene, like a mirror. Looking at my own pale reflection, I slowly put the glasses back on my face.
A bear stood there, gazing into the window, its little black bear eyes together in a frown of concentration. The bear, I noted dumbly, wore a pair of cheap looking sunglasses on its face, one side of the frame labeled with the words, “Dave’s Bar & Tavern.”
I took the glasses off and moved unsteadily back into the bar, where Dave peered at me. “You look like you could use a beer,” he said, not unkindly, sliding a mug over to me.
Accepting the offer, I put the glasses back on Dave’s bartop. “You know, I think we might be able to work with these,” I said, my thoughts finally starting to work again.
I just smiled. Now that I’d recovered from the initial shock, my mind was already starting to see some marketing possibilities. Give a pair away in exchange for a certain number of drinks. Raffle them off, perhaps, especially as the patrons started to hear about it. Hold a dating night, where the guys all wore the “bear goggles” and couldn’t see the women after exchanging phone numbers…
“Dave, just trust me,” I said, reaching over and patting his hand. “I’ve got this. We’ll be able to use these, after all.”
And as Dave smiled and went off to tap a fresh keg, I looked into the box full of sunglasses, imagining the possibilities. Sure, I didn’t know how the things worked – but that didn’t matter right now. We could market these, and we’d definitely draw in a lot of customers.
“Bear bodies night,” I murmured to myself, my grin widening. “Oh, this has a lot of potential.”