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One Last Night
by Fox Cutter
Fox Cutter -- all rights reserved
 

I hummed lightly to myself as I read back over some of my work of the past few days. I had put out an amazing amount of work on half a dozen different stories, and I wanted to make sure I didn't screw up any of my spelling too badly.

Flipping a sheet over on my note-pad, I noticed someone I had never seen before walk into the bar. Clearly a SCAB, he was some kind of feline, looked to be a cougar, or maybe a mountain lion, I wasn't too sure.

He stumbled a bit as he walked over the threshold. It was almost as if he was drunk, but he really wasn't. I could see that his eyes as he cast around the room, they were far to clear to be drunk. In fact, they seamed to speak of a purpose of their own.

This guy was here for a reason.

After pausing at the door for a few seconds, he slowly walked over to the bar, and order a drink. He keep casting around the room, almost as if he was unsure that we weren't about to jump him for some reason.

Setting my pad down, I watched him. I didn't know what it was about this guy, but something spoke to me in a way that I haven't felt in over twenty years.

After receiving his drink, he sat down on one of the bar stools, facing into the room. His eyes slowly traced over the crowd, then settled on Jack, who was at his usual seat, in front of the piano.

The man cleared his throat. "Excuse me, do you take requests?" He asked with a clear, crisp voice.

Jack's response was to nod a bit, then rest his fingers on the eighty-eight keys.

The feline smiles. "How about 'Objects in the Rearview Mirror may Appear Closer then they are'?"

Jack closed his eyes, thinking for a second, then started to play the slow, and heavy opening of the song.

As he played, I lightly mouth the words to the song under my breath. It was old, from when I was teenager, and also one of my favorite songs. Its words, and feelings helped me though some of the worst times of my late teens and early twenty, before SCABS came into my life.

Suddenly, in a flash of inspiration that felt like a hammer smashing into the side of my head, I knew why this man was here.

Looking right at him, I raised one of my hands, and motioned for him to come and sit at my table.

The man looked at me for a few seconds, then picked up his drink, and walked over. Sitting down across from me, he gently set his drink on the table, then folded his hands together. "Hello."

I nodded. "Hello to you to sir."

"I am Raven Castle, who might you be?"

"Fox Cutter." I stuck my hand over the table. "Nice to meet you."

He shook it, giving me a firm grip. "I can say the same. Now, you wished to talk to me?"

I nodded again, leaning back a bit. "Yes, yes I did. Why are you about to kill yourself?"

He stopped, his glass half way to his lips. Sighing slight, he set it back down on the table. "You noticed."

I didn't answer.

He frowned, his ears drooping. "How did you know?"

I just tapped the inside of my left wrist. "Old scars, they tell many things to those who will listen."

He cleared his throat, looking down at the table. "In truth, this." He waved his hand accost his body. "This is not me, I'm not supposed to be a mountain lion, or anything else. I didn't want this, I just wanted to live my life they way I felt it should be. Getting sick like this was not part of the plan."

I raised my eyebrows. "Look around. No one here planned for this, or for what it led to. Yet everyone in this room has learned to live with it, and some have even gained from it. It may be a pain, but you can live with it."

He shook his head. "I have lived with it." He whispered. "I've lived with it for five years. Lived with the pain, the hatred, the bigotry. Hell, I was black before I got The Flu, and nothing I got then was anything like this. No one wants to hire me, no one wants to see me, no one cares if I live or die. My family hates me, I have no friends left, I have nothing to live for."

I leaned forward a bit. "That may be the one truly pure thing you have to live for. Pain begets pain, yes, but even pain can be used as a tool for something good. There are jobs for SCABS out there, maybe not well paying, or seen, but they are there. Find one, and use that pain, channel it into doing something great with that job. Even if it's just sweeping floors in a back room some place, you can still make your job great."

He frowned. "You don't understand." He said, starting to stand.

I grabbed his wrist. "Wrong, I do understand. Far, far too well. But death is not a way out, it never is. All it does is cause more pain. If you do it right, you will hurt everyone who is close to you, you do it wrong, and you suffer even more then you are right now. It's a lose-lose situation, 'a permanent solution to a temporary problem' as they always say."

He sighed. "Look, I can't see any other way out."

I held his wrist tighter. "Neither could I. It took me lying in a hospital bed to see that I was wrong. I had hurt more people that I thought I would help, especially myself. Giving up is just that, giving up. No one wins except who put you into this position in the first place. Yes, people hate us for what we are, but that is how the system works. We're different, and all throughout history anyone who was different was shunned. It's something we're all taught when we are young, when we were throwing stones at the kid with glasses during recess, or making fun of the kid who got perfect grades, or the fat girl in the corner. Part of growing up is getting past doing that, as well as getting past being the kid with glasses, or the smart one, or the girl in the corner. Yes, life is not fair, but that doesn't give you permission to quit!"

By this time about half the bar was silently watching both of us, all of them trying not to look like they were.

Slowly, I let go of Raven's arm, and he pulled it back, rubbing it. "You may be right."

I leaned back a bit. "Yes, I may be."

He nodded, forcing himself to his feet. "I... I think I had better go."

"I expect to see you here again." I said.

He smiled some, and dropping a tip onto the table, walked out of the bar.

I leaned back a bit, and spoke to anyone who was listening. "You know, I think he's going to make it through this."

There was a few nods, and Jack started to play a happy tune on the piano.

Then the gun shot rang out, just outside the door of the bar.

There was sudden silence, then a few people stood, and quickly ran to the door. I just slowly slumped in my seat, feeling the start of tears in the corner of my eyes.

After a few seconds, I heard a light grunt from in front of me. Raising my eyes, I saw Donnie standing on the far side of the table from me.

Digging into my pockets, I pulled out two quarters and slid them over the table to him. "Rum and Coke please." I whispered.

He nodded, slowly taking the money.

"And Donnie," I said, stopping him as he turned to walk to the bar. "This time, instead of no Rum, no Coke."

He nodded again, and headed back to the bar.

I'm not a drunkard by trade, or by nature. Alcohol never agreed with my system, but sometimes, sometimes life is just too unfair to take without something to help you with it.

The drink stayed on my table as I spent the rest of the night quietly weeping into my arms.

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