Friday, December 31, 2010

A Sports Bar At 1900 Baum Road

The seven men took a seat around the table in the dimly lit sports bar. The smells of old cigarettes and greasy meat filled the air. The circular seat that circumvented the scratched wooden table was made of dark crimson leather.

"Drinks are on me, boys," Nick told them.

"What about food? I'm not thirsty, but I could eat a baby!" Hugh exclaimed.

"Just don't eat too much," Nick replied with an amused smile.

The waitress came over and took their orders. They all ordered various beers, except Hugh, who ordered beefsteak and potatoes, and H.M., who asked for water. She smiled cheerfully at them at skittered off to the kitchen in her precariously high heels. The seven men began talking cheerfully with one another, excited to catch up with old friends. They rarely were all together at once, but at one time in their lives they had been inseparable.

"So, Nick, how's the old lumber business?" Smith asked. Smith was a wide, round man with an impressively thick moustache and a distracted, almost lifeless gaze.

"It's chugging along, as ever," Nick replied. Nick had been a lumberjack his whole life. He had prosthetic arms and legs. "Thanks for asking. And yourself? Clock-making treating you well?"

"Monotonous and unchanging," Smith said bluntly.

The waitress returned with the beers and water. She informed Hugh that the beefsteak and potatoes would be just a few more minutes, then left to attend to another table. Hugh moaned and slumped in his chair.

"Kill me now!" he droned dramatically. "Whatever method you choose would be more humane than leaving me to die from hunger."

"Oh stop whining, Hugh," said Leonard. "You'll be perfectly fine. You've been hungry your whole life, yet here you are, alive and growling."

"Well, if that's how you feel, you'll be the one dragging my corpse outside after I keel over in a couple of minutes."

"Some things never change," Leonard sighed. He was a tall lanky man with spindly, crooked blond hair and he had the friendliest smile that you had ever seen.

"But what if he's right?" Jack said nervously. "People weren't made to work without food."

"He'll be fine Jack," Nick assured him. Jack was as tall and lanky as Leonard, but bald, and with sun-burnt skin. He was always grimacing uneasily and glancing about.

At that moment, the waitress appeared next to Hugh with a steaming plate. She set it on the table in front of him with some silverware--which he ignored-- and he began devouring it voraciously.

"So little sophistication, that one," said H.M. He had a nice coat and tie on, as well as a pair of glasses that would have looked perfectly at home on a librarian. He was of average build, though he was a bit short. His moustache was very French-looking, and was long and curled at the tips. "If you were one of my students back at the Royal College, you would've been reprimanded for such manners."

"Let him eat, H.M.," Nick said. "At least he's enjoying himself."

They all chatted amongst themselves and drank their beers and water for hours. They laughed and had a grand old time. Eventually, when it was well passed midnight, they walked out of the sports bar and took a stroll down the snow-dusted sidewalk. The flakes fell gently to rest on the very tips of their noses and eyelashes, and crunched underfoot, just enough to be satisfying, but not enough to soak into their shoes. They continued to reminisce about adventures of days long gone as they walked down the deserted streets of the city.

"I'm afraid," said Leo suddenly. He had been oddly quiet the whole evening. "I'm afraid of what may happen to us if we grow too far apart."

Leo was an enormous, muscular man. He had long blond hair and a thick blond beard, and weary eyes.

"What do you mean, old friend?" Nick asked gently.

"How long has it been since we all got together like this? Does anyone remember? How long shall it be until it happens again? What if it never does?"

"Of course we'll see each other again, Leo," Leonard said, hugging his friend's shoulder.

"So we'll just keep pretending until we forget?" Leo said. "Or until we die?"

"What do you mean, pretending?" Jack asked nervously.

"You all haven't been thinking it this whole time? Don't lie. Where are Shaggy Man and Saw Horse? They showed up last time. This time? Not a word. There were barely any of us that made it here in the first place, and there are fewer and fewer each time we get together."

The other six men stood in solemn silence. The snowflakes seemed heavier as they fell on their shoulders. The orange fluorescence of the street lights seemed to dim a bit in their eyes. Of course they remembered.

"There is nothing to do," Nick whispered.

"That is bullshit, Tin Man!" the Cowardly Lion roared. "We can go back. We can find Dorothy and Ozma. We can be home again."

"Damn it, Lion, you know it isn't that easy!" Nick argued.

"What choice do we have? What kind of life is this? Sitting in this bleak, magic-less world, withering away until we die, and the memory of our home with us? We used to be heroes back home, Nick. This isn't how heroes act."

"I..." Leonard started slowly. "I agree with the Lion."

"Scarecrow, please don't encourage--"

"You don't get to tell me what to do, Tin Man," Scarecrow said assertively. "You aren't the emperor of anything here."

"I can't let any of you get hurt!" Nick Chopper yelled, then fell to his knees sobbing. "I can't... I promised her..."

"Then lend me your axe, Tin Woodman," Lion said to his oldest friend, "and defend us, as we shall you, to your dying breath. Let us take back Oz."

The Tin Woodman sniffled and wiped his eyes with his palms. H.M. Woggle-Bug T.E. extended his hand and helped him to his feet.

"We only do this," Tin Man said, "if we all do it. H.M.? Hungry Tiger? Tik-Tok? Pumpkinhead? What say you?"

They all nodded confidently.

"You win, Lion," the Tin Woodman said. "Let's go home."

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