When I heard Jake Venice had taken his life, I felt like I died with him. Suffocated by the fluff and fakeness of the plastic faces at his funeral, all I wanted to do was join him…wherever he was now.
I woke up the next morning with one last chance. Somehow, I was put ten days back, and I had one shot to try and save Jake. I drove across the country to find him, but when I did…How do you convince someone to hold on who’s already let go? How do you bring light to someone committed to the darkness? I have ten days to try.
No call from Jake. No call from the mechanics. As I take out my wallet to check on what cash I have left, the piece of paper falls out. It’s crinkled now. I unfold it.
I look up and close my eyes, then stare at the words again. The future I remember seems like the dream now.
Did Jake really kill himself? Did I just dream it, and drove all the way out here only to be reminded of his rejection? But it was so real. I can’t abandon him in his darkness.
I fold the piece of paper back up and put it in my wallet.
Early evening and I’m back at the coffee shop, ordering my mocha and a ham sandwich. The barista grins, “The usual, huh?”
I already have a usual.
He’s mixing my drink as I catch his attention, “Do you know a Jake Venice?”
He looks at me sideways, “Is that, like, some kind of drink?”
“No, it’s a guy. He comes in here sometimes, I think. Glasses, goatee.”
The barista laughs, “That’s 90% of the dudes that come in here, man. Sorry.”
“He said he plays piano at some club around here on weeknights…any idea of where that might be?”
The barista swirls whipped cream onto my mocha and hands it to me, “That could be a lot of places. Check out the board by the door—customers put up posters and stuff there.” He hands me my sandwich, “Have a nice day.”
I devour my usual and then take a look at the large corkboard by the door. Posters and advertisements, one on top of the other, desperately vie for attention.
Despite all the screaming ads, an image catches my eye: Jake in a tux by a piano. He’s trying to look relaxed as a lounge singer, but his natural stiffness shines through even here.
“Danny McGee’s Piano Bar in downtown…” I mumble to myself, fingers quivering as I punch the address into my phone. Perfect. It’s only a few minutes from the motel, just over the Potomac.
A cold wind picks up outside the bar, blowing my black jacket about and herding people inside for refuge. The fevered weather of the last few days is leaving.
Across the front, in bright cartoon letters, glows Danny McGee’s. Amplified piano reverberates from the walls, and my heart begins to pound. Another gale blows down the street, and the sky vomits rain. I flee for the doorway.
Asher Oswald hails from the cool, coniferous shores of Lake Superior. Raised on the boreal beauty of the North and long winter nights, Asher writes to penetrate the heart of the human experience, to lay bare its beauty as well as its anguish. To escape his own thoughts and inspire them, he enjoys hiking the North Woods, playing piano, and traveling the world to add to his growing collection of experiences.
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