Shooter is the second piece by Amelia Roberts for us and it is a great one. Take a read.
It’s dark and warm almost to the point of humid, and the damp, stained wood beneath me vibrates with the bass of the music. The music that plays on a loop, because people never notice that the same song has played three times in the same night, as long as they have enough social lubricant in their system. It’s early, however, and the room is almost empty. Three girls sit on the shiny, fake leather seats across from the bar, clutching archers and lemonades in their hands, one sipping the beverage slowly through a neon green straw. Two young men, around twenty one in age, stand in the far corner, one of them leaning casually against the wall. They both stare at the three girls, debating between themselves which ones they will try to take home tonight – if nothing better comes along, of course. An older couple walk through the door, the woman clutching the man’s forearm in a display of ownership which goes unnoticed – not a single person in the club looks towards them as they make their way towards the bar. They order two beers, the standard fare for 11pm on a Saturday, and I sigh inwardly, imagining it will be at least another hour before I even get a look in.
The beat continues, almost monotonous in tone, the room fills up slowly – each of the people with a different reason to be here – and I debate which kind of person will be the first to make use of my services. Will it be the blazer-clad, clean shaven, hair gelled young man in the corner? The girl exiting the toilets, wiping the remaining tear marks from her rouged cheeks? I hear, over the music and the rabble by the bar, a male voice call out – “Four sambucas please pal.” – And I feel the clammy grip of the bartender close around me, slamming me down onto the sticky surface of the bar top. I feel the aniseed spice of the liquid as it fills me, warming me – it is not a particularly pleasant feeling. The man in front of me – stubbled, unkempt, and dressed entirely in black – lifts me and my three contemporaries, and carries us across the crowded dance floor. One falls from his left hand, a profanity escapes his lips, and his grip tightens as he speeds up, pushing past the writhing grinding bodies. I am placed unceremoniously onto a table – even stickier than the bar – to the sounds of a hurried apology from the man concerning the whereabouts of the fourth Sambuca.
“Mate, I’m sorry, some bird pushed right into me, have mine if you want?”
“Don’t be fucking ridiculous Tom. We’re here for you. In fact, have them all, we’ve got our beers.”
“Yeah mate, you deserve it after putting up with that bitch for over a year!”
The man – who I assume is Tom – forces a wry smile, lifting one glass to his lips and jerking his head backwards, his eyes wrinkling in a slight grimace as the liquid burns the back of his throat. His three friends, all equally scruffy in appearance, grin widely, one of them shouting out a slightly delayed “Go on lad!” Tom’s hand reaches out to me, lifting me towards his mouth. The whiskers of his not-quite-beard are rough, his breath smells of stale cigarettes and Budweiser, and I uncomfortably clink against his teeth as he downs the Sambuca. I hear his sharp inhale, feel the slight shake of his hand as he dramatically crashes me back onto the table, chipping the tiniest bit of glass off my edge. His friends laugh raucously at his reaction to the final shot of alcohol, one of them reaching to pat him on the back.
“Okay, maybe I do deserve that,” Tom smiles, the happiness reaching his eyes this time as he swigs from a swiftly warming bottle of Budweiser. The blonde opposite him, clad in a battered leather jacket and black skinny jeans, leans towards him, his left hand gesturing towards the growing crowd of drunk young women on the dance floor.
“So Tom…down to business. Which of these impressionable young ladies will you be rebounding with tonight?”
Tom scoffed. “None of them, Ben. Sophie and I broke up two days ago. I’m not ready.”
“Then why are we even here?!” a brunette in the corner of the booth cried indignantly. “Sophie was cheating on you for months with that prick, it’s time to start getting over her. The sooner the better I say!”
“It’s not something that a one night stand with a random bird’s gonna help, Matty…she moved all of her stuff out of my flat today you know, it looks so fucking empty…” Tom laments, staring down at myself and my peers, the smile completely faded from his visage now.
“Someone get this fucker another shot, Jesus Christ!” the man known as Ben complains, standing up and heading towards the bar, beer still clutched tightly in his right hand.
Tom remains silent, his head in his hands, his dark, greasy hair falls delicately through his outstretched fingers. His despondence seeps into the air, polluting the atmosphere that surrounds him. I have always been good at having this effect on people.
“Come on mate, cheer up! Onwards and upwards and all that…” Matty smiles uncertainly, resting his hand lightly on Tom’s upper arm as Ben returns, armed with more shots. Each man downs their shot in one, lips pursing as they deal with the after burn.
“Okay lads, I’ll make a deal with you. If I see a girl – the perfect girl – I will allow each and every one of you to be my wingmen. Sound good?” Tom relents, and I can tell from his face that he believes he will never find the perfect girl in the mass of bodies on the dance floor. The three men surrounding him, however, do not see this, and instead all look at one another, wide grins on their faces and plots forming in their minds.
“Any particular type? Blonde, brunette, redhead, tall, small, fat, skinny, big tits, nice arse?” the man whose name I haven’t yet learned leans forward, leering at the scantily clad girls, sweat glistening off their skin underneath the strobe lighting. “I think we can all agree she’ll need to be pretty hammered to go home with you, but I’m sure that won’t be too hard to find!”
Tom forces a sarcastic laugh, swigs more of his beer, and looks around. It is clear from his expression that every girl he sees just isn’t good enough. One may have identical hair to Sophie’s, but her eyes don’t hold the same sparkle. One may be wearing the same dress, have the same fluid curves, but her smile is a fake, faded version of Sophie’s. Tom is nowhere near ready for this, but at least his offer of a deal gets his friends off his back for a while, and I can see a slight release of tension in his shoulders as his friends search the club for his rebound girl.
“Ten o’clock, blonde in the short black dress by the bar?” Ben suggests, his left hand lifted to turn his friends’ attention towards the girl to which he refers. “She’s got a fantastic arse.”
“So you go and chat her up then,” Tom retorts, his hand gripping tighter around the neck of his beer bottle, his teeth ever-so-slightly gritting together.
“We’re not here for Ben to pull mate, he gets enough. We’re here for you, so get over there and buy her a drink!”
“You’re all dicks,” Tom sighs as he stands, gripping the remaining shot glasses on the tips of his fingers on each hand. He does not argue, yet though his friends assume him to be willing, in reality I know it is nothing more than a desperate crutch – a want to feel wanted, a need to feel needed – for his broken heart to feel loved again. His shoulders heavy, he walks to the bar, places myself and my peers back on the sticky surface, and turns to the blonde girl. “Hi. I’m Tom.”
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