All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

The Female Bukowski? by Kathryne Cherie

The night started out with 2 racists in the Middle East Nightclub & Bar on the South side of Cambridge. Each man on the wrong side of a real bore of an argument. The spit that flew off their tongues stained the fabric of this particular dimension. The one we selfishly call ours.

NOTE TO SELF: Pick up stain remover on the way home from menial task #716 on Monday evening at precisely 6 PM sharp.

It’s dark in here, the air is stale. Smells like a mix of sour body odor, rain, and cheap gin. Sonya (she’s been working in this same bar for 45 years) breaks up the first fight and leads the defeated party to the exit while he’s spitting the last of his venom to excited patrons. 

—Come one, Come all, ladies and gentleman of all ages, shapes, and sizes!—

It was my naive doing that the psycho even made it back into the bar after the bartender Nyrie kicked him out earlier in the night. I stepped out front on the sidewalk for a smoke, and he just immediately interrupted what was supposed to be me escaping human interaction for 5 fucking minutes. But, ignorance doesn’t usually read social cues very well, so here I am…entertaining a mentally ill stranger. How fitting for my return to a semi-normal social life.

He’s standing far too close to me for comfort. Like, invading the area that harbors my insecurities, but I’m a hide and seek master. I know how to stuff, stuff, stuff, until a hollow smile and empty eyes deceive you like they deceive me in my reflection in the bar washroom’s crooked and slightly cracked mirror. He smells like your typical homeless smoking/drinking/unclean and generally unkempt specimen. His eyes dart a little too fast back and forth to things other than my eyes…I wonder why he keeps forgetting things I literally just fucking told him. As if I have all night to spend repeating futile pieces of information to him such as where I’m from, and if I know (for the 3rd time, he informs me) that I vibe with the rhythm of the music? MMM. I nod my head. I look around him down the sidewalk a bit hoping that any one of my friends will walk out of the other door of the bar, the door that vomits happy drunks back onto the corner of Brookline St. and Massachussetts Ave. Left out of this door will take you down to where the EMF used to reside. I’m told the EMF was THE spot before I got here. I know nothing of the EMF or its so-called artistic influence. Did it have an artistic influence? Who knows? I guess we could debate what constitutes as art, but doesn’t that defeat the point of art?


I’ve lost myself in my own train of thought again. YES! BALTIMORE. I answer him, when he asks again where I’m from. Then, he lies to me and tells me he’s been to Baltimore before. YEA? WHAT PART? I say. He lets out some grunts of incoherent mumbling. THE UH. THE UH, NORTH PART, YEA, he finally answers. MMM. In my head, I tell myself that imitation is the purest form of flattery. He wants something in common with me so that he can try to relate. I finish my butt, and cut him off abruptly, as he opens his mouth to tell me something else I don’t give a shit to know. I GOTTA PEE. I’LL SEE YA AROUND.

He ignores yet another social cue and follows me back into the bar and seats himself on a worn red leather stool at the end while I book it into the respite of a leaky toilet and Sharpie marker phone numbers scrawled on the walls at eye level on both sides of me. The exposed light bulb flickers a bit, making me kinda dizzy. I just sit down and breathe in the piss scent for a few minutes, thankful for that particular smell over the smell of my newfound friend.

Come to think of it….I’ve been telling you about a lot of smells so far in this story. Why is smell such a theme here right now? In retrospect, I wasn’t consciously thinking about the smells at the time all of this was happening.

NOTE TO SELF: Buy some air freshener when you stop at the grocery store on Monday evening. Maybe they carry one that doubles as human repellent.

As I’m writing this, I’ve listened to Bukowski by Modest Mouse at least twice. “God, who’d wanna be such an asshole?”

People are proper fucking bores, yes? We can agree on at least that one point, I hope. They’re so self-absorbed and pretentious. Everything they do is so important and meaningful. Their feelings are all valid and matter, right? 


They are nothing more than little specks

On a speck of an island

On a speck of a measly ass planet

In a speck of a galaxy

That is a minuscule part of the storyline

In a much bigger ripple on the sheet that our reality rests upon.

See? Remember that one thing, and you’ll have no problem following the path of least resistance for rest of this journey you’re stumbling through. If you happen to forget it, well…don’t worry too damn much. Someone will quickly come by just to remind you.

I reach around and flush the toilet as someone bangs loudly announcing that they REALLY NEED THE PISSAH! I wander back through the tiny kitchen to the other side of the bar where my new friend is now arguing with my bartender friend, Nyrie.

NO! What are you doing back in here?! You were bothering me earlier, and You HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE, NOW! I don’t care, no. You have to go. Someone call security! Kat, you know him? No, Nyrie, he just followed me in from outside the door…Oh, yea, he’s been doing that all night…trying to get people to buy him drinks. At this point, I’m seated slouched on the stool to his right, and Sonya has come to stand on his left. Sonya, by the way, is a 5 foot nothing older Colombian lady who has the eyes of your favorite grandmother, and the grit of that grandpa who stoically recounts WW I like he’s telling you about the weather.

She meets his unstable gaze with laser focus and her face reads, TRY ME, MOTHERFUCKER. The security officer finally comes to stand in between Sonya and me, and directly behind him. We now form a little human triangle at the bar, and he spins around on his stool, and then spins right back to look at Nyrie and yells (a little too loudly, for my taste) YOU’RE A RACIST BITCH! Whoa…I groan and lean back and to my right…as if trying to put some distance in between me and this kook I attracted with my aura like a perfume would attract the mosquitoes that devour your ankles in the summer.

Of course, everyone on this side of the bar is gawking, now. Fuck, this is just great. Everyone here must think I’m just casually out barhopping on a Friday night with a textbook fucking headcase like it’s the most natural thing known to man. I turn back to the scene unfolding next to me, and I can’t help but wonder why that’s the first card EVERYONE plays these days…the race card. It’s easy to pull, right? I mean this guy is black like charcoal, and Nyrie is a pale shade of flesh mixed with Italian, maybe??? So, obviously, he would instantly have the upper hand on her if he just plays the victim of a racist attack by ol’ Whitey yet again. I wonder to myself where racism began on the timeline of our fragile species. What exact point on that timeline did people begin to divide each other up and place them in a hierarchy based solely on the color of their skin? What about what they contributed to the rest of society? Hmph. Doesn’t matter, I guess, because it’s been going on for thousands of years so far…so, it must just be the way people are, yes?

By this time, they’ve managed to start walking the victim toward the door. All the while, he’s yelling to Nyrie, informing her of her own personal beliefs about other people. SHE HATES ALL MUSLIMS! SHE HATES ALL THE JEWS. IT’S BECAUSE I’M DARK-SKINNED, ISN’T IT, BITCH?! OH, YEA! Nyrie shouts back…I’M RACIST, YEA, OK! (She laughs.) GET HIM OUT OF HERE ALREADY.

And, yes, just in case you were wondering, Sonya is leading the victim out from the front of the now group of 3 or 4 security officers who tower over her and could easily throw her over their shoulders if the situation so dictated such a show of manliness and chivalry.

I turn back to Nyrie as the chaos is transplanted out into the open night to multiply and divide like a virus that seeps through the cracks into the rest of society’s facade of morals and ethics. It will fester out there, while we drown our hopes and dreams right in here at this particular bar on the south side of Cambridge. It’s cozy in here, and laughs follow long gulps of our favorite flavor of forgetting memories.

So we forget what’s right outside the confines of our safe space, and keep drinking like nothing in the world ever occurred close to what we all just witnessed. Soon, we will actually forget this memory altogether, so it will be as if it didn’t really happen at all.

I told you humans are SHIT. That’s the only piece of information you need to make it through life. Through life and right on into death. Just keep that one thought at the forefront of your mind, and you’re gonna do just fine, sweetheart. Trust me. I know this kinda thing. I had to teach myself this important lesson at a very young age. No one really gives a shit if you’re hurting or not. They don’t care that you’re depressed. They don’t give a flying fuck if you’re a mental disaster. Get it, now? I can go on if you think you may have any doubts. No? Ok, good. Let’s keep moving then, shall we?


Kathryne Cherie

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3 thoughts on “The Female Bukowski? by Kathryne Cherie”

  1. Hi Kathryne,
    This was excellent.
    The observations were cutting and very realistic.
    The bar setting was brilliant and the characters are out there.
    People watching in a bar is something I have done many times and probably after a few brandies I will have probably been watched myself!
    This is superbly written, brilliantly constructed and the social commentary is as truthful as it gets.


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