a taste of ‘Barcode’

32 stories celebrating the sloppy, messy, often less-than-elegant downside of life

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Not every night but almost every night, when I shuffle off to the john to commune with James and take a leak, there’s a message on the bathroom wall for me.

The Man Who Can’t be MovedChristopher Allen


“Oh, the man asks the woman to dance from across the room by raising his eyebrows or with a nod of his head, and she accepts with a small nod of her own.”

CabeceoBeate Sigriddaughter


A whole barroom was laid out in there. And not coiled around a tree root like it was laid out by some rodent: a proper long bar with beams and struts.

Beaver LodgeDesmond Fox


I never knew anyone could smoke so many cigarettes and still have the ability to play piano like he did. Maybe cancer doesn’t affect the hands.

One Night at Harry’sAlun Williams


A hundred couples are gyrating to a dance band off in the distance. The musicians are either dressed as snowmen or wearing white tuxedos.

A Man Walks into a BarcodeNorman Conquest


Green beer sloshes out of my mug and onto the floor. St. Patrick’s Day in an Irish bar comes with hazards, and Lucky here is the least of them.

Union JackPaul Combs


She turned around and saw him, whoever the fuck he was. He was tall and skinny in a black t-shirt and blue jeans. He had curly brown hair and a wicked smile.

MiraclesMisti Rainwater-Lites


Before she died, my mother made me promise to kill the man who had taken the life of my father. That woman, that Rita, she said, got what she deserved.

Happy AnniversaryJoyce Juzwik


Scanning the bar again, just to make sure, he breathes out and says without looking at Stan-stan, “Can I have a Heineken? And have you seen Jason? He’s supposed to meet me here.”

WTF?Shane Frazier


Madeline started going to The Tam because it was cheap, and because it reminded her of Manny’s Tam O’Shanter, where she first ate quail in a dress too informal for junior prom.

The TamKaren Eileen Sikola


On TV a new round is starting. The Hispanic guy’s got his elbows tucked against his ribs. He takes to sharp jabs that snap his head back.

BoxersLen Kuntz


“Gets kinda lonely. Grubby motel room, TV movies and peanut butter sandwiches.” Mike stared down his beer.

Waiting with MerleRamon Collins


We’re not impressed. There’s a bar where drinks are named for novelists and another where they’re “inspired” by Pantone colors. But there’s a line to get in …

One More RoundDiana J. Wynne


“He’s your co-worker. You like him, you think he likes you but he’s too shy or scared to make a move outside his little Guy Sanctuary. Maybe he’s afraid of a sexual harassment suit.”

Lefty, Daisy, and the Clueless ManMatt McGee


She unfolded her legs under the stool; pushed her shoulders back, crossed her arms against her body. “So why are you the drummer? Are you moody? Can you not be trusted with a microphone?”

Hollywood CemeteryChristine Cook


“Oh, I hope you don’t mind taking off your shoes. We feel that the sound of heels disturbs the atmosphere,” she says. Her dark, soft voice matches the slight rustle of her dress. She smiles.

Coffin ShowroomClaudia Bierschenk


The girls slink toward the exit, the severed jukebox cord dragging from Larceny’s pant leg like a tail.

Another Saturday NightStephen V. Ramey


A short, round-shouldered man with graying hair and steel-rimmed glasses, Charlie was used to being overlooked on bar stools. Once seated, he vanished like a sapling among redwood trees.

Last Call at the Do Drop InnArthur Carey


You wake up in the morning to a voicemail that changes your life forever. Or beside someone you’ll have to remember, because the doctor visits have become a lifetime commitment to staying alive.

True ShockMatt McGee


I thought I saw seven empty glasses on the bar in front of me. And I pressed the eighth to my lips. That might have been why I bought drinks for the girl sitting next to me.

First TimeAndrew J. Stone


There were a few interactions with random strangers who sat on the next stool. Small talk mostly, followed by abrupt turn-downs.

HolidayS.H. Gall


“You speak English?” she asked. “Ya,” he said, with an accent quite a bit more pronounced than normal. It was that time of the year, play it up for the tourists.

GullibleJoanna Delooze


She chuckles breathy, sending up plumes of sweet and sour air. “Come on,” she says, “Nobody’s got it all good.”

ParasitesLen Kuntz


My regulars are the working stiffs: the UPS drivers, the plumbers, the painting contractors and the construction guys who want a quick one before going home. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that people are full of surprises.

Mac’s PlaceJoanne Jagoda


While he never acknowledged any needs, he certainly had lots of wants. Since his biggest want was probably a death wish, he should have been glad his wish was unfulfilled so far.

Sammy The Madman’s Near Death ExperienceWalter Giersbach


The Sobriety Group met at four every Wednesday night, just in time for the seven members to get a good table at Patrick’s bar to drink beer by six.

Sobriety GroupGloria Garfunkel


And he’s there too. Behind the bar. Pouring drinks. One after another. Sometimes they speak. But mostly she orders. He pours. And so it goes.

So Different NowBen Tanzer


These were words said at the end of shows by some of her favorite news anchors. She’s been sitting at a bar where some of the biggest newsmen have sat before.

Sloe Gin Fizz is PinkMartha Rand


“But your idea was a bit crap really, wasn’t it?” Peter says. “I mean, a cake shop in the middle of Berlin?” “Yeah,” I add, “slap bang in the middle of a nation of people obsessed with cake.”

Capitalist BastardMatt Potter


This is how to serve the salads, this is how to serve the beans; this here’s the stout, the lager. You know your white and tan? Good, here’s the way you love Guinness into her glass.

PlonkTeresa Burns Gunther


So when Martha called the ex-biker and warrior love-maker, she kept hearing, “This number is no longer in service.” But she didn’t give up hope. After all, she got laid, didn’t she?

StraysKyle Hemmings


I down the rest of my wine. “It’s my round though,” I say as I make a mock show of reaching for my purse.

The Life of a Pretty GirlJennifer Chardon


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