21 August 2003


About a year ago, my literature class read selected poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Mr. Riley came up with yet another one of his absurd ideas, and I actually took him up on his suggestion to write a short story in which all the lines of one of the characters are lines from Mrs. Browning's poems. Some of the quotes are strained, but here it is.

Mountain Bars

A short, bald man in a wrinkled coat and tie walked into the bar. Being on the side of a mountain, this place had the best view this side of the Rockies, or so he'd heard. He had never been to the bar before, or even this strange country. The sight which met his eye as he placed his hat on the rack was quite odd. A pale woman in Victorian dress knelt in front of a red-bearded dwarf, pleading with him.
"I love thee...Mark! I love thee!"
"That's Marc with a 'C,' you maniac! Get away!" The dwarf grabbed his axe off the table and stormed out into the snowy wilderness.
The pale woman hopped up onto a bar stool and pounded her weak fist on the bar. The bartender brought her a glass, the contents of which were unfamiliar to the observer. She downed it in one gulp, and banging the glass down on the bar, proceeded to straighten the laurel wreath on her head. A cyclops lumbered by and demanded another keg of beer. Eyeing the laurel bedecked woman, he lifted the keg effortlessly with one arm and headed back to his party. Nearly everyone who went by, dwarf and giant, biped or quadruped, looked at her sideways. But she was the only human female in the room, so the bald man clambered onto the barstool next to her.
"Hi. My name's Jerry."
The woman did not stir. She stared into her empty glass as if searching for the meaning of life somewhere at the bottom. Jerry tugged at his collar. "Do you come here often?" She passed out and tumbled off her bar stool. The bartender leapt over the bar and calmly plucked her up off the floor. "Miss Barrett can't hold her liquor. I keep telling her to sip slowly, especially that stuff, but she never listens to me," he explained.
Miss Barrett, recovering slowly, chose a wing-backed chair. This, at least, seemed a wise choice.
"So, I take it you do come here often," said Jerry.
"All the mountain-bars," muttered Miss Barrett.
"Oh, a bar-hopper, eh?" Jerry thought she didn't look the part. A dragon flew by the window, breathing fire. Miss Barrett gazed at it with a sort of blank wonderment.
"Fire is bright," she stated, "and love is fire." This last statement made Jerry nervous. He loosened his tie.
The bartender came by again. "Another drink, Miss Barrett?"
"Behold, I erred in that last." Miss Barrett looked slightly green and gloomy.
"I'll take that as a no. You, sir?"
"I'm fine, thanks." Jerry was about ready to give up on Miss Barrett. He was pretty desperate, but not this desperate.
Just then, a somewhat startling figure appeared at the door. He was human, unlike many of the bar's partons, dressed after the fashion of the same period as Miss Barrett. The exception was that, where most Victorian men would have worn a hat, he had a laurel wreath. These things in and of themselves were not so extraordinary, but the fact that his hair was on fire was a bit unusual. Miss Barrett contemplated this phenomenon and whispered, "Love is fire." The man swept into the establishment, took hold of Miss Barrett, and carried her out the door.
Jerry paid the bartender. "See you again soon, sir?" the quiescent barkeep queried. "I don't think so," replied Jerry. "This isn't really my sort of place.

No comments: