A while ago, my friend sent me a picture, asking me to write a one page story just for fun. So I did.
Octopus at a Bar
by Justin Lau
I saw an octopus with an accordion sitting in my usual spot at the bar I frequented every Wednesday night. It wasn’t the instrument or the eight empty shots that caught me off guard; it was the tears, dripping like intermittent water droplets from a leaky pipe.
Now I wasn’t really one to go out of the way just to make chit-chat with strangers, but now and again I enjoyed the occasional conversation, almost always superficial, either exchanging predictions about the next football match, or mocking the lady in the neighbouring county who had called the police when her five beloved canines went missing, or in every case, about the weather; the same conclusion would always be reached, that tomorrow’s weather would be sunny if the sun was out and rainy if it rained.
When it came to deeper, more meaningful conversations, I limited myself to the few mates I could count on one hand who wouldn’t consider me a dick if I ever turned into a blubbering mess. But I am human, and a slight sympathetic spark ignited in my breast.
I took my seat at the bar, leaving a stool in between us, and ordered my usual. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye and confirmed that he was well pissed. He didn’t seem out of control though, and that was a good sign. Probably one of the mellow types. I waited silently for the bartender to prepare my drink.
“Marvellous weather today, wasn’t it,” I said, matter-of-factly, half directed at him, half directed at the bartender. No response. I turned to face him and ventured, “What’d you think of the weather?”
He finally realised I was addressing him and he wiped away the tears with his fourth tentacle as he downed his ninth shot with his sixth. He mustered a smile that made his voluminous blubbery cheeks wrinkle up and replied in a slurred voice, “’Twas lovely.”
Seizing this chance, I decided to cut to the chase and said, “Sorry, but I couldn’t help noticing your unfortunate state. Are you all right?”
“I appreciate it,” he said. He didn’t say a word more, though I could tell by his pleading eyes that he wanted me to probe further. I motioned to the stool between us and asked if I could move over. He gestured, by all means.
I downed half my pint in subconscious preparation, put on my best reassuring ‘I’ve-got-your-back’ grin (or ‘fuck-everything’ depending on your interpretation) and said, “I don’t mean to pry but if you ever want to get a load off your back, I’d be more than willing to listen to your story.”
His eyelids were droopy but I saw a glint of sincerity in his eyes. He sniffed. “I thank you, I really do. But I really don’t think you’d understand even if I explained.”
“Try me,” I said, punching him playfully. He helped me remove my hand from one of his suction pads.
“You sure?” he asked. I nodded. “Well, you see, the ocean is turning into an absolutely dismal place. Not only is there an increase of dead zones, but the acidification is taking its toll -“
“You’re right, I wouldn’t understand,” I interrupted, wide-eyed.
“I’m just pulling your leg,” he laughed, then he gazed out dreamily. “There’s a girl.” A-ha, now that was something I could deal with, let alone comprehend.
“Can I sing you a song about her?” he asked. I was slightly taken aback and before I could reply, he had grabbed his accordion and laid his six tentacles on it (his other two were wrapped around the bar stool legs for support). I glanced around, relieved to see only two other customers who were minding their own business. Suddenly, he began to sing in a screeching, horrendous voice:
Oh Dappy, my dear Dappy, why do you not know
That when you swim away, you pierce my heart so
Please, oh please, won’t you raise me from the dead
With your squishy touch turn my white into red
The bartender, the two customers and I listened to six more verses about Dappy, the majority rather vulgar and which I will not repeat here. When he finished, I was the only one to clap. “You’re very talented with the accordion,” I remarked. He beamed and looked pleased. Then he started to weep, only this time he was making quite the ruckus. The bartender glared at me as if I was responsible.
“Look here,” I finally said. “We’ll have a few shots, no, a lot of shots, until you forget her. We’ll get wondrously pissed tonight, how about that?”
In between sniffles, he said, “That sounds like a plan. A very good plan.”
And so we drank the night away.
© Justin Lau, 2014