Nemesis: Another Promise, Another Scene Part 1
A small green straw arced across the bar, bounced off the lip of a glass and fell to the side. There were easily twice that around it, and none in it. If one were to look over the bar to the floor one might see a dozen more similar little green straws. Pops looked, scowled, and directed a raised brow to the man seated on the stool nearby. He already had another straw in his hand and was taking careful aim.
“You training for the retarded bartender Olympics or something?”
The man ignored the comment long enough to launch the straw. It glided slightly to the left, hit the side of the glass and fell with the others. The man frowned and let out a sigh.
“Yeah. No. I don’t know.”
Pops nodded sagely. “That was suitably vague.”
Luke Merriweather shoved a straw in his mouth to chew on and leaned forward to rest his forearms on the bar.
“Seriously, Pops. What do I do now?”
Pops smirked and waved a hand at the mess of little green straws. “How ‘bout cleaning this shit up?”
Luke just stared at Pops. The old man sighed and walked down to grab a pint glass in his meaty paws. He pulled a tap and began pouring a beer.
“Okay, okay. We’ll talk about it.’
He poured a second glass and set on down in front of the young man. He took a sip and wiped foam from his upper lip. Luke ignored his glass.
“What, exactly, is the nature of the bug up your ass right now?”
Luke leaned back, the bar stool creaking. He wasn’t a small man--tall and solidly built, all muscle—but the back of the stool held. It’d been made to handle all sizes of patron.
“The Conquistadors thing isn’t working. We’re bogged down in red tape and public appearances and stupid stuff. It’s not bad, but it’s not what I signed up for. People are starting to go their own way, do their own thing. When we do get together there’s this distance. Someone’s always arguing with someone, if they’re talking at all. No one agrees on anything anymore.”
Pops snorted. “Sounds like Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house.”
“I’m being serious,” Luke replied, taking the straw out of his mouth.
“I am, too!”
Pops came around the bar to sit down, chuckling between gulps of beer. Luke finally took a sip of his own.
“Okay, okay. Geez, you used to be fun.” He nodded to himself and continued. “Actually, yeah. You used to be fun. When it was just you out there. You were passionate about it, and when you weren’t out in your long johns fighting the good fight, you were usually pretty upbeat. Now it’s like you have this job you don’t wanna go to.”
Luke considered that.
“And it’s not just that,” Pops continued. “I told you from the beginning that the DiSantiagos were going to be trouble.”
That brought a frown from Luke. “They haven’t really caused much in the way of trouble lately.”
“Oh? You think all these little Pee-Ar stunts are helping? You’re distracted. You don’t get as much done. You’re all under the spotlight all the time. Even when you do something good you spend the next month making appearances, doing interviews, riding the news.” He scoffed. “You’re friggin’ celebrities now. You’re one bad decision away from being fucking reality TV stars.”
Luke was still confused. “How does that tie in to the DiSantiagos?”
Pops shook his head. “Christ on a crutch, kid. They’ve made you stupid, too.” He sighed. “Is there anyone better than that pack of weasels at public relations? They’re the biggest bunch of crooks this city has ever seen and they make it seem like they’re the freakin’ Rockefellers. They’re playing you, boy. They can’t take you out head on, they can’t beat you in a fight, so they’re killing you with kindness. You can bet your ass they’ve got something in the works for each and every one of you. You’re the poster children for heroes right now. Just wait, though. You’re going to get hit with some bullshit tabloid scandal. ‘I had Stone’s love child!’ or ‘JACE linked to terrorists!” or some dumb shit like that.” He nodded sagely. “You just wait. It’ll happen.”
Luke had to admit he hadn’t thought of anything like that. “You really think that’s what’s going on?”
Pops set down his beer and looked over at the man he thought of as the son he’d never had. “I don’t know. Does it matter? The results are the same, kid. You’re being gelded. You’ve had the fire taken out of you. It’s just a job, and no one ever works that hard for ‘just a job’.” He stood up, stretching his back with a grimace.
“I’ve got some errands to run. Clean that up,” he waved at the straws again, “then go beat on that punching bag of yours. When you’re done maybe you’ll come to your senses.”
As he walked away Luke turned his chair.
The older man stopped and looked back.
“What do you think I should do?”
Pops shrugged. “What do you do when you have a job that sucks? You quit.” He shrugged again and walked out.
Luke turned back to the bar slowly. “Quit?” he asked no one in particular.
He casually flicked the half-chewed straw out of his hand. It rotated once in the air and landed neatly in the glass. Luke didn’t notice.