A Bartender's Tale: Satyros and her Soldier Boy
>Of course, at first glance there really isn't anything to distinguish it from any other cabaret or evening club, but then again I am afforded the opportunity to take more than one glance.
>Being the bartender does have it's priviledges.
>It means I can see anything that goes on, see this microcosm of humanity through the haze of tobacco smoke and the aural curtain of wailing saxaphones and delicate piano notes
>In the corner booth, I see a young man wearing a fine suit, beside him a ruddy haired woman with feathered hands and chicken like legs, wearing the garb of high society, but almost with a guilty air, like she knows she doesn't belong.
>The sparkling golden ring on her finger completes the story, another rich boy eloping with the maid.
>Close to the stage, there is some foreign businessman, throwing his money around freely
>Beside him is an woman with long black hair, which seems to snake around him as he carouses, no doubt he thought her a simple lady of the night. For his sake he should hope he's single.
>In the Gallery, I can see a regular to our club, some author and his wife. A muscular maiden with a rather unladylike gold ring through her nose, looking downright embarassed in her evening dress, her head angled towards the table to such a degree that her bovine horns seem in danger of skewering the couple sitting across from them.
>No doubt he's telling the story of how he won her hand at a "bullfight" in Spain.
>But without a doubt, the one face I never tire of seeing is hers
>Up on stage is a woman, her hair the color of freshly poured claret.
>The loveliness of her face is at once distracted from and enhanced by the curling horns jutting from her head just above her caprine ears
>Underneath the fine silk dress she wears, I can still make out the two digitgrade legs ending in split hooves.
>A satyros, that's what she called herself. The headline act, the owner of this club, and my boss.
>Her voice resonates with a husky sensuality, snaking through the club like the smoke hanging in the air, her voice lending the song she sang a much different quality.
>It still was a song about pining for a lost love, but with her singing it the song became less the lament of a young girl and more the meloncholy resignment of an older woman, despairing at love slipping further and further away from her.
>As she hits the final note, the crowd erupts in cheers and applause, just like every night.
>And also just like every night, I can see her making her way to my station.
>How she manages to sway her hips while balancing on hooves, I will never know.
"Evening, Ma'am. Your usual?"
<"Now, what did I tell you about calling me "Ma'am", Soldier boy?"
"Sorry, your usual, Ms. Irene?"
>I know the drink by heart, two parts brandy, one part vermouth, a dash of bitters, pour the whole thing over ice and stir vigourously.
>She takes the drink from me, raises the glass to my health and then takes a small sip
<"Ah, so tell me, how was my singing tonight?"
"Wonderful as always."
>She shakes her head, the smile never leaving her face
<"I could ask any man in the club that question and they'd give me the same answer, I come to you when I want the truth."
>I consider it for a moment
"You need to stop smoking, boss. Your voice is teetering on the edge between "deep and sexy" and "smoker's growl"."
<"Funny, my doctor said cigarettes could only improve my voice."
"The same doctors that were having us piss on hankercheifs if we couldn't find a gas mask."
>Her face becomes one of concern
<"Now, what did I tell you about mentioning the war? You know I don't like how you get when you think about it."
"If I could just forget, believe me I would."
>A tense silence passes between us
<"Have the nightmares come back?"
"That implies they ever stopped."
>She downs the rest of her drink and then reaches down to remove one of her long white gloves.
>The feeling of cool flesh on my cheek is one I haven't experienced in years.
<"Maybe you should try finding a nice girl?"
"None of them want me, I keep trying but the treat me like I'm a married man or something."
<"Perhaps there's a reason for that?"
"Maybe, but I wouldn't know."
>She frowns and then taps the bar to indicate her want for another Brandy Manhattan.
>Hours pass, until eventually closing time arrives.
>Since we have no dedicated janitor, I usually am stuck cleaning up
>This includes testing the lights for bulbs that need changing, my least favorite part
>One flip of the switch, and a loud pop issues forth
>I'm back on the front, short before the war ended.
>Another attempted deserter lies dead in the mud, the Captain holds the still smoking pistol that dispatched him
>I regard the cause of his desertion, a photograph from home showing what must be his sweetheart
>"must" being the operative word because the woman in the picture is almost inhuman, her entire body below the waist becoming a serpentine tail
>"Burn that photo, Sergeant. I'll not have it affecting morale."
"Damn it, Captain. You heard what's happening back home?"
>"I have, Sergeant, and it's preposterous, pure propaganda."
"You hear them, though. All across the front, "Monstre-fille", "Monster-mädchen", and so on."
>"I'll hear no more of it!"
"One of the nurses sprouted bat wings and a tail, if it wasn't for the chaplain being there the men would have killed her!"
>He says nothing, but I notice a crowd forming.
>"What about our wives and daughters, Captain?"
>"I don't want my mother to sprout tentacles or feathers!"
>"Stuff this, I'm not gonnna fight this bullshit wa-"
>The captain slowly brings his smoking pistol down, having fired a shot into the air
>"I'll hear no more insubordination! I'll have any man who even thinks the word "monster" put before a firing squad! Do I make myself clear."
>The war ended a few weeks later, soldiers were mutinying en mass.
>And so, I found myself back in the city. No job, no skills, a few combat medals.
>The problem was, no one was hiring.
>So, I found myself in the gutter, only my uniform and a few belongings.
<"You have a place to sleep tonight, soldier boy?"
>The first time I met her.
>As my mind settles back into the present, I notice a figure stumbling towards me on unsteady legs.
<"You're sti, still here, soldier boy?"
"You pay me to sweep up, Ms. Irene."
<"We've known each other five years, you can just call me Irene."
"You might as well ask me to call you "sweetheart", boss."
<"Heh heh, I wouldn't mind that either."
>I shake my head, she always has to tease me.
<"Why do you keep rejecting me? You know a lot of guys would kill to have a woman like me talk mushy to 'em."
"They aren't good enough for you, and neither am I."
<"Oh, that implies you've thought about me before?"
>She doesn't know what she's getting into, but hell, she's drunk so I guess I'll humor her.
"I think about you every day, the whole reason I come to work every night is because I get to see you, hear you."
"I loved you since the day you picked a destitute vet out of the gutter and gave him a new lease on life."
<"Huh? Do, do you really mean that?"
"Of course, but a woman like you deserves better than a bartender. You deserve a Baron or a Duke."
>She's struck by my words, though eventually I hear her mutter
<"Idiot boy, falling in love with a drunken old goat."
"Just like the shell shock, I can't help it."
>Slowly, she breaks our conversation and heads to the bar
"I think you've had enough to drink, Irene."
<"This isn't for me."
>She heads behind the bar, and I can hear a jingle of keys as she opens the forbidden cabinet. The things we technically aren't allowed to sell.
>Opium from the orient, a few bricks of hashish, but eventually she finds what she's looking for.
>A bottle of wine
<"This is my private vintage, I had it made when I first came here. I've been letting it mature for almost six years."
>A wine glass is produced, and a small amount of the maroon liquid is poured into it.
<"You'll be the first to taste it, you should feel honored."
>As not to disappoint her, I walk over and take the glass, taking the mouthful of wine, swishing it around like mouthwash before swallowing it in a single gulp.
>Almost immediately, I begin to feel tipsy. God, I thought I could hold my liqour better than this.
>The only thing I know is that I want more.
<"Ha, you know why all those girls keep avoiding you, soldier boy?"
"Naw, I toll you I dun."
<"Do you know what a mana mark is?"
"Izzat a monshter ting?"
<"It essentially is like a finger print a monstergirl leaves on a guy she likes, invisible to humans, but to other monsters it may as well be a neon sign saying "Property of such and such girl, keep away.""
"Whereareya goin wish dis, Boss?"
<"You've been marked by me for five years, Soldier boy. I was just being a lady and waiting for you to make the first move."
"Ur not drunk atoll, areya?"
<"Nope, but I got the confession I wanted nonetheless."
>She takes the bottle in her hands
<"I bet you want more, right?"
>With a wicked smile, she takes a large pull off the bottle, then opens her mouth so I can see the red-purple liquid slosh about.
>Immediately guessing her intention, I pull her in for a kiss. Choking slightly as the wine goes down my throat, aided by her tongue.
>At this distance, I am drowning in her perfume. I used to cherish the faint wiffs I'd get from across the bar, but this is almost too much.
>I can feel her guide one of my hands to her thigh, her fur is surprisingly soft, not wiry like I would expect of a goat's haunches.
>I break the kiss and stay still for a few moments
>Even with the wine taking effect, I don't dare go any farther. I feel like a peasant getting intimate with a princess.
<"It's okay to go further, you know. I sing at a cabaret, soldier boy. No count or duke is going to want me except as a mistress and I don't play second fiddle."
>Her fingers dig into my hair as she brings my eyes level with hers, I can almost see the need present in them.
<"I want a husband, a man I can come home with every night who loves me for me, not the illusion on the stage."
"Id doeshnt hurt that I can micksh a good Brandy Manhanan."
<"No, it doesn't."
>With that, she quickly sets to work on my trousers, as I finally begin snaking my hand up her dress
>I plant a few kisses down from her neck to her semi-exposed bosom.
>Tonight is the night, we're both tired of waiting
<"Before you do anything, take me up on stage."
<"I'm going to sing you a song none of those other morons are ever going to hear."
>Strangely, the tune sounded more like pleasured moaning than anything else, but from her it may as well have come from a choir.
>Two years later
>Things really aren't much different
>our clientele have changed, but only slightly
>The author and his minotaur are still here, thought now he is arguing with one of his contemporaries and his spouse, a wight
>A dark haired man with an odd moustache is multi-tasking between putting the finishing touches on a fine painting and discussing politics with a beret wearing fairy
>I can hear the crowd every now and then
>"I wish Ms. Irene would sing again."
>"I heard she stopped going on stage because she got married."
>"I heard she had an affair with some Russian prince and bore a bastard."
>They're all wrong, you can see Irene perfectly. Watching over the club from a balconey booth, holding a young boy in her lap as she listens to the music.
>She mouths the words as the new singer belts them out, a tune about reaffirming ones love
>As the last note hits, she looks down and meets my eyes.
>She and my son wave down at me.
>This really is the best club in the world