A bar, five friends, and a very special jukebox that lets you time travel back to a memory for the length of the song. What could go wrong with giving such a special trip and the gift of a second chance to each of your closest friends?
Published by WMG Publishing.
Dean Wesley Smith
Copyright 2010 by Dean Wesley Smith
The stereo behind the bar was playing soft Christmas songs as I clicked the lock to the front entrance of the Garden Lounge and flicked off the outside light. I could feel the cold of the night through the wood door and the heat of the room surrounding me. I took a deep breath. Christmas Eve was finally here.
I could see the entire lounge and the backs of my four best friends sitting at the bar. I had never been much into decorating with Christmas stuff and this year was no different. My only nod to the season was small Christmas candles for each table and booth. Some customer had tied a red ribbon on one of the plants over the middle booth and the Coors driver had put up a Christmas poster declaring Coors to be the official beer of Christmas. The candles still flickered on the empty tables, but the rest of the bar looked normal. Dark brown wood walls, dark brown carpet, an old oak bar and friends. The most important part was the friends. My four best friends’ lives were as empty as mine. Tonight, on the first Christmas Eve since I bought the bar, I was going to give them a chance to change that. That was my present to them. It was going to be an interesting night.
“All right, Stout,” Carl said, twisting his huge frame around on his bar stool so that he could face me as I wound my way back across the room between the empty tables and chairs. “Just what’s such a big secret that you kick out that young couple and lock the door at seven o’clock on Christmas Eve?”
I laughed. Carl always got right to the point. With big Carl you always knew exactly where you stood.
“Yeah,” Jess said from his usual place at the oak bar beside the waitress station, “What’s so damned important you don’t want the four of us to even get off our stools?” Jess was the short one of the crowd. When he stood next to Carl the top of Jess’s head barely reached Carl’s neck. Jess loved to play practical jokes on Carl. Carl hated it.
“This,” I said as I pulled the custom-made felt cover off the old Wurlitzer jukebox and, with a flourish, dropped the cloth over the planter and into the empty front booth. My stomach did a tap dance from nerves as all four of my best customers whistled and applauded, the sound echoing in the furniture and plant-filled room.
David, my closest friend in the entire world, downed the last of his scotch-rocks and swirled the ice around in the glass with a tinkling sound. Then, with his paralyzed right hand, he pushed the glass, napkin and all, to the inside edge of the bar. “So after hiding that jukebox in the storage room for the last ten months, we’re finally going to get to hear it play?”
“You guessed it.” I ran my shaking fingers over the cold smoothness of the chrome and polished glass. I had carefully typed onto labels the names of over sixty Christmas songs, then taped them next to the red buttons. Somewhere in this jukebox I hoped there would be a special song for each man. A song that would trigger a memory and a ride into the past. My Christmas present to each of them.
(Continued on Dean’s Stories)