The Revenant Tender

The hiss of summer lawns is gone.

Heartbeats stumble among the missing.

The Tulsa streets dry as bone and marbles.

And Mother Mary the Vicious is drinking alone.

On a stool of torn red vinyl in a yellow brick bar with one glass and silver door smudged with human residue.

She’s tipping back buckets of wine and regretting the stings of a new world religion. She turns her partially veiled head toward a cacophony of dart playing and loud, boastful inebriation. Mother Mary the Vicious looks up to the Tender and nods her head and asks in a whisper, “Do they always make so much damn noise?”

The Tender is mopping the guts of a glass with a white towel. “What’s it to you, God chick?”

“I’m trying to commune with the heavens and they’re disturbing me.” Mother Mary the Vicious turns back to look at the rowdy rebels. “I would think they would have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon.”

The Tender, that being the tender of the bar, looked at her and snorted a scoff. “Who the hell are you to talk. You’re in here drinking buckets of wine. Big buckets, too. So big you gotta use two holy hands. Just let ’em be. They’re just having a little fun on their one day of rest.”

“They should be at the church… Volunteering and such. The lawn could use a good mowing. Christ on the cross needs his nailed feet polished as well.”

“Piss off!” the Tender snapped. “You’re nothing but a hypocritical revenant come haunting my bar again.”

Mother Mary the Vicious took offense. “I’m very much alive.”

“Are ya now?”

“Absolutely… Bring me another bucket to celebrate my own breathing days.”

The Tender turned in a huff and went off to find another gallon of wine down in the hidden back and out and around of a stuffy stone cellar.

Mother Mary the Vicious got off her stool and went to where the hooligans were. They quieted down when they saw her coming their way. Their eyes followed her.

“I’m surprised you could walk all that way in a straight line,” the big one with the dark green shirt said as he clutched a handful of darts. He had a large head, shaved by stone, and a once broken nose on his street-tough looking face. “Ya didn’t fall down a bit, sister.” They all laughed out loud at her.

She made a motion with her hands. “Give me them darts. I want to play.”

They all laughed at her again.

“Jesus, sister,” the same one said. “I don’t think you could hit the side of a house in your condition.” They roared with laughter again.

Mother Mary the Vicious grew impatient. “Stop mouthing off and just give me the darts.”

The rough one shrugged, stepped forward and handed her the darts. “Here ya go, sister. Don’t poke your eyes out.”

She smiled and grimaced at the same time. “Just clear me a path to the dart board.”

The hooligans stepped aside as she stepped up to the line. She squinted at the board. She raised one dart and moved it back and forth in the air as she set up her shot. She threw it and it stuck in the hole-strewn wall inches away from the board. They clapped, whistled and laughed. “Good one, sister!” a short skinny one who looked far too young to be in a bar shouted. Then he pointed. “The board’s over there!” More rowdy laughter.

“I’m just warming up,” Mother Mary the Vicious sneered in the smoky, dense beer-scented air. Then she lined up another dart, threw it, and once again, it pierced the plaster inches to the side of the board.

“I don’t think you’re warm enough yet!” the young one said, and as he hoisted a mug of ale to his mouth, another dart whizzed through the air and hit him directly in the eye. The mug fell to the floor in a splash and a crash. The young one wailed, clutched his aching, bloodied socket, and fell to his knees.

“Ya blinded him, ya fucking bitch!” the rough one yelled out, and he came at her as the others surrounded their wounded companion. He grabbed her by the throat and walked her back with force until she was pinned against a far wall. Framed photos of olden days rattled. His hands clamped down on her neck. Mother Mary the Vicious was about to drop down into blackness when a gun shot went off.

The Tender stood in the room holding a smoking Spanish pistola aimed at the ceiling. “The next one’s going straight in your thick head Bruno boy if you don’t let the sister go right now.”

Bruno looked at him, his face wet with sweat and anger. Then he turned back to Mother Mary the Vicious. “You’re lucky this time, sister,” he sneered. He released his hands and stepped away from her.

The Tender nodded at Bruno with his head. “Now gather your injured boy and get him out of here. You tell them doctors it was all an accident. There was no vicious intent here by the sister, or anyone. You got that?”

Bruno looked at his companions as they got the whimpering young one to his feet. “Let’s go,” he said. And they all made their way to the door and out to the street and disappeared into the Sunday golden mist.

The Tender went to Mother Mary the Vicious. He studied her. “Are ya all right?” he asked with a strange degree of concern.

“Yes. I think so. Thank you for helping me. I thought you found me distasteful.”

“Not really.” The Tender leaned back and watched her swirling eyes watch him. “But this has nothing to do with love, sister. I was merely protecting my property. Don’t get any funny ideas now.”

She laughed softly and with a sense of slight disappointment. “I didn’t say a word about love.”

“You didn’t have to. I saw it in your eyes. I can taste it in the room.”

Mother Mary the Vicious snickered with embarrassment. “You don’t have to worry about me loving you like that… I prefer the company of women.”

The Tender raised his eyebrows in blown away wonder. “You enjoy going down under with the ladies, do ya?”

She nodded her head in an absolute. “That’s why I like wine so much. It pairs well with the taste.”

“Don’t the gods in the heavens have a problem with that?” the Tender asked, looking up through the ceiling of the bar.

“Not my gods,” she answered, and then a shadowy figure appeared in the doorway, and the woman was partially backlit by the Sunday sun. “I have to go now,” Mother Mary the Vicious announced. “It’s time for our Sunday drive to the edge of town. To the edge of good and bad and everything else in between.” She looked around at the memories she forever scarred the bar with. “I trust you will clean up the blood I spilled and put any charges on my tab. The church’s tab?”

The Tender traced everything she had just looked at with his own eyes. “No charge today, sister. And I’ve got plenty of towels for the blood. You just go and love like thunder and then some. It’s all this world’s got left.”

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