Umber colored skies blocked the sun and a v formations of birds flew south on a one way lane above. Dead leaves, brown grass, and dried up roses covered the ground beneath. Snow fell, water became ice, a thermostat read minus forty degrees. My dreams of warmth and maybe love died too, and I wanted to hibernate until spring.
I didn’t see why I had to live in such a place. I saw there were plenty of books written about ways to survive in an environment such as a winter in Chicago. I read them all to no avail. Like an animal, I found a den to while away time while the storms raged and the snow piled high.
My den wasn’t far from home. It was a bar with a pool table, a juke box, plenty of beer and now and then a woman who looked good enough to rouse my hibernating winter brain for an hour or two. Sitting around drinking beer all day, wishing winter would go away became a bore. I listened to stories others had to tell, and I decided to write about the tales I had heard. Sometimes I made up ten, twenty, or several hundred pages of words that no one wanted to read. “Why should I go on punching my keyboard, trying to please those who can barely read?” I shouted out loud.
The music stopped as the words came from my mouth. All four patrons sitting at the bar and Red the bartender turned to me. They thought I had a speech to make. Not wanting to disappoint I continued thinking out loud, “Whatever made me think I could write? It has taken its toll. I don’t see happy days ahead.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Billy Bob raised his glass in a toast.
I watched three more glasses lift off the bar in salute to not seeing happy days. I raised mine and we all emptied our glasses.
All eyes were on me expecting more. “I think I’m done, unless I can impel equatorial heat to dash north, instead of heading south like birds and dreams.”
“Know what you mean,” Red said as he refilled everyone’s glass, “My dreams went south when I got this bar.”
“We all had dreams, so let’s drink to that,” Billy Bob held up his glass. Four other glasses were raised and drained.
“My dream was to get married and raise a family,” Ken, an old man of 45 said.
“Hell, anybody can do that,” Red said as he refilled our glasses again and took money I had sitting on the bar. “What happened to that dream?”
“I thought it was coming true. I married a beautiful girl when I was eighteen and she gave birth six months after we were married.”
Laughter erupted, and words like shotgun marriage went up and down the bar.
“Wasn’t like that. I married her the day I met her.”
Silence fell at the bar like a theatre curtain had risen and the show was about to begin. Everyone thought how Ken had been taken in.
“How’d that happen?” Rocky, a hard working roofer during the summer months, and a lush during winters said.
“It was a day like this, 25 years ago today. I sat here daydreaming, and she walked through the door like a ray of sunshine. I offered to buy her a drink and before I knew what happened, her sunny smile had me twisted like a pretzel. I would have done anything for her, and I told her so.”
“Marry me, she looked me in the eye when she spoke and I couldn’t say no. Well, six months later she gave birth to a nine pound baby boy and she told me he was premature. I wanted to believe he was mine, but I had to ask, ‘How come he’s black?’”
“You must have it in your blood. It’s not in mine; my parents came from Sweden and are as white as can be.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Billy Bob said and we toasted to black and white. “Go on, tell us more.”
“I didn’t want to believe what she said was true. I went to a genealogist to trace my family tree. I discovered I was related to King Henry the eighth.”
“Did the genealogist find out who your black ancestor was?” Red wanted to know as he once again filled our glasses and made Ken pay.
“She said I didn’t have one, unless of course there was some infidelity going on. I wasn’t sure until my wife gave birth to our second child. It was then I knew it was her and not me.”
I couldn’t wait to hear. “Give us all a drink,” I paid and waited for Ken to continue. He took a long drink of whiskey and said, “The second one was a girl, with slanty eyes and yellow skin.”
“She has a disease. That’s why she’s yellow,” my wife claimed. So you guys can see how my dreams turned into nightmares. I felt like my wife screwed everyone in the United Nations.”
“I’ll drink to the United Nations,” Billy Bob raised his glass, but no one else did.
“Why do you say that?” I asked ken.
“She had five more and not one was the same color as me. That’s it I . . .”
Interrupted by the opening door, Ken and every man turned to watch as sexy Samantha entered like a warm spring breeze. Apparently everything Ken had said was forgotten as Rocky, Red, and Billy Bob fought over who would buy Samantha a drink. She sat next to me and my body heat melted the winter freeze around my heart.
“Marry me,” she whispered into my ear.
“Ken continued, “I did what Henry would have done. I cut her head off, just got out of prison today.”
“Got what she deserved,” I said. “I’ll write a story about that,” I raised my glass in a salute to cuckolded Ken, Samantha slapped my face. Was she three months pregnant?