Steve sat in his truck looking through the crystalized snowflakes clinging to the windshield at the cracked neon sign. The blue glow mixed with ice produced an aethereal quality.
His truck idled in the lone handicapped spot. Carbon monoxide fumes floated in the rear-view mirror. No handicap placard hung from the mounting arm, but it didn’t really matter. The VFW was closed.
The handwritten sign taped to the metal door looked more like a religious proclamation than a notice that the bar was closed on the governor’s orders. At the bottom of the note, the unnamed author, reminded the customers this was the third time the VFW was forced to close in case they lost count. Steve hadn’t.
He pressed down on the brake and put the truck in reverse. The cigarette received one last puff before the flickering embers fell into the ashtray. Snow tires sank into the running water that flooded up from the creek bed. If it got too warm over the next few days, the narrow dirt road to Steve’s farm would be completely washed over.
Steve parked the truck between his house and the barn. He turned the key and pulled it from the ignition. The glasses slid down his nose as they started to fog from his breath. Not bothering to lock the door earlier, Steve opened it without having to take the keychain from his coat pocket.
In the refrigerator, a sixpack of Keystone Light chilled beside the butter. Steve snapped a can from the plastic webbing. He sat at the kitchen table and popped the tab. After taking a sip, he shook his head and put down the beer.
It was way too bright. He got up and turned off the kitchen light. Now, the hand carved table sat in darkness. Steve opened the refrigerator a crack and let the sliver of light diffuse across the linoleum. He sat back down and examined the shadow on the wall. He listened. The only sound was the wheezing of the furnace.
He brought the portable radio into the kitchen from the bedroom. After setting it down on the counter, he plugged it in and flipped the toggle switch to FM. The dial was already tuned to 106.1.
By the hands on his watch, Steve knew the late-night oldies show would be on the air. He turned the volume up to six and then down to four. No, that still seemed too loud. He lowered the volume to three. Stepping away from the radio, it sounded about right.
Steve pulled out the spindle back chair and sat at the kitchen table. He picked up the can of beer and let the beads of moisture rub into his palms. The round table felt too low. The back of the chair too high.
After chewing the inside of his cheek and scratching his beard, Steve pulled the plug on the radio, took the rest of the six pack out of the refrigerator and trudged through the mud into the barn. He put the beer and radio on the workbench and looked around until he found four slabs of discarded flakeboard. At the other end of the barn, Steve came across several planks of two-by-sixes. He knew he could make them work.
After plugging in the circular saw, and cutting down the wood, Steve nailed the four flakeboard squares into a three-dimensional rectangle. He measured it making sure the top came to his chest
Steve pushed his makeshift bar against the wall of the barn. An orange extension cord dangled from a beam. He plugged in the radio and The Foundations filled the frigid night air. The lone light bulb swung on a wire from the rafters. Outside, the wind kicked up as the snow shower evolved into a blizzard.
Now he needed a proper stool. The one at the workbench was just about right, but it had a high back. The barstools at the VFW, didn’t. That meant only one thing. Steve retracted the blade guard and the metal teeth jerked as they bit into the wooden rods. He kicked aside the newly created scrap wood as it fell to the dirt floor.
The stool lined up perfectly in relation to the height of the bar top. Steve sat and took a swig of Keystone Light. He put the can down and tapped his hands on the flakeboard top. He looked across the bar at the wall. A knot hole stared back at him.
Steve knew he’d find it in the loft. He remembered seeing a couple of them last time he rummaged through all the junk. Tucked behind a stack of boxes, he found one.The cardboard seemed a little bent but not torn anywhere noticeable. Her smile still radiated even after being exposed to the elements. With curly hair and a tank top selling Budweiser, she’d be perfect. No need to look for any of the others.
Steve crawled down from the loft and slid the cardboard cutout between the bar and the wall. He sat, drank up and looked in her beautiful green eyes.
“I was watching this show on Bigfoot last night. Did you see it? They were showing that old film of him walking in the woods where he looks back at the camera. Do you know which one I’m talking about? When you get a chance, can you get me another Keystone Light?” Steve asked while pulling out his wallet.
Kevin Reigle has previously been published in The Dillydoun Review and The Pensworth Review. He works at the University of the Cumberlands.