The Professional

Sam’s beer had arrived and as he was putting lips to it, Barry said, “Sam, I don’t believe you. You’re an old fart lying to look good.” Neon advert bots danced around them and Barry shooed a hand-sized one away from his face and looked at Vern for his reaction.

“Well, now,” Sam said, unholstering his plasma pistol under the table. He thumbed the dial to narrow beam, and while taking a swig from his mug, raised his pistol and shot a hole through one side of Barry’s glass mug.

Barry didn’t notice. He took a sip and spilled beer down the front of his shirt. “What the — Sam you SOB!”

“Not smart calling a man with a gun a lying old fart. I’d a let you drink your beer if you’d a called me a lying SOB. No sense in messing with a man’s hobby if I don’t have to.”

Vern hooted and slapped his knee. “I bet I can do better. I can hit it from farther away.”

“Can’t do better ‘n me,” Sam said finishing off his beer as another arrived.

“Can too. If I miss I drink. Then it’s your turn.”

“Deal,” Sam said standing. There were no security bots in the armpit-of-a-bar at the butt-end of a colony on the curly hairs of a system no one cared about. Men like Sam had cleaned them out and the owners had found it was cheaper, and safer, to let the rowdies have their fun.

“Stand over there, Barry. Sara, get Barry another mug.”

“Like hell!” Sara said as she ran for the kitchen and safety.

“Why do I hafta hold the mug?” Barry whined.

“You’re the one called him an old fart,” Vern said.

Vern shot and melted the mug and Barry screamed and cursed over his burned hand. “I’m comin’ for you in your sleep Vern!”

Sam laughed and made Barry get another mug. He made another clean shot, but through both sides this time.

“See the finesse?” Sam said.

“You have to drink now,” Vern said.

“I never say no to a drink, but the rules were…”

“He’s outta the game,” Barry said, “’cause I won’t hold a mug for him.”

“Yeah, so now it’s about how many drinks it takes before you can’t hit the mug.”

“Hey,” Barry said.

“Line ’em up, Walter,” Sam said to the barkeep.

Walter frowned, but lined up shot glasses and filled them.

By the second drink, Sam felt the calmness of the alcohol settle in and the noise of the bar drop away. It was just him and his pistol and the ever-lovin’ mug. Three shots, three holes; four shots four holes.

“I quit now,” Barry said. “He can’t keep his aim much longer.”

Sam took aim at the mug on the table. Five shots, five holes. Six shots. He was looking up at the ceiling.

“You okay buddy?” Vern said as Sam stared up into his face.

“Just need a nap,” Sam said.

“Sam,” Barry said. “I don’t care what you say. Drinkin’ ain’t no hobby.”


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