Jeff is a bartender slash beekeeper slash volunteer fireman. The slashes are what got me. Plus, he looks great behind a bar, serving drinks to college girls. It’s the two of us in his truck one night after he gets off work. He’s wearing tight faded jeans, a cigarette between blue-stained fingers. High on something and speaking in non sequiturs. He drives me to his house in the country and I picture myself in a dark corner of his basement pissing myself to stay warm. The image doesn’t bother me all that much.
There’s no basement is the first thing I notice. There are loose cats everywhere is the second.
“What’re you on?” I ask.
“Yeah, I know, but what kind?”
“Not sure, pills,” he says, so this is bad: the kind of person who takes things without knowing what they are.
“So you just take whatever people give you?”
“Yeah, don’t you?”
“No. I don’t.”
“That’s how you get the best shit,” he says. Then he asks if I want to see his colony and we walk behind his house to a shed that’s spilling its contents: tires, car parts, a canoe, what looks like a deep fryer.
“The queen is the only sexually developed female,” he says. “The males don’t do anything but screw her.”
“I need a drink,” I say.
“You don’t want to hear about bees? Bees are great,” he says, and I scrunch up my nose. I pull a curl from his head and he grabs my hand and holds it for a second before letting go.
I follow him up a couple of stairs and onto the porch. He waves his hands as if to introduce me to a rocking chair and a stack of bricks.
A large white dog sits in the middle of the kitchen floor.
“That’s Killer,” he says. “Killer’s blind, so he likes to stay in one spot.”
“Oh. That’s smart.”
“Glaucoma. Help yourself,” he says, pointing to a row of bottles. “I got cranberry juice if you want it.”
I’m thinking about what kind of person lives alone in the middle of nowhere with a blind dog named Killer and a colony of bees. Aislynn warned me. She said he wouldn’t transfer. She said some people don’t transfer and usually she can tell which ones. He sits on the counter and crosses his legs. He looks old, small. I want to put him back behind the bar at The Parrot, Aislynn beside me with her blond hair that smells like the ocean.
“You ever hook up with a girl?” he asks.
“I don’t do anything but drink too much and go off with strange men,” I say.
“That girl you’re always with. What’s her name?”
“Yeah. My friend Dave’s in love with her.”
“I’m not surprised. Everyone’s in love with her.”
“I’m a fan of the penis,” I say, making myself cringe, and Jeff reveals a row of yellow teeth.
Aislynn and I go up to The Parrot at least twice a week. We drink the same drinks and tell each other the same stories because there’s something satisfying in knowing the way a story ends. Then we go home with strange men or familiar ones or else we call our roommate, Summer—who never goes anywhere—to come get us. Summer has bad acne so mostly she sits around the apartment picking her face and slathering herself with ointments. Besides this, something is wrong with her, but we don’t know what exactly. Her fingers get stiff when she’s mad; she laughs the canned laughter of television sitcoms at inappropriate times; she holds her legs to her chest and rocks. Summer is a friend of a friend we’re not friends with anymore and we’d like to get rid of her but we don’t know how.
I sit on the floor and pet Killer. Jeff’s eyelids flutter, make me think of hummingbirds.
“So you think Aislynn would go out with Dave?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t know Dave.”
“Yeah, but you know Aislynn.”
“She’s easy. Is that what you want to hear?”
“I suppose,” he says.
We sit there, me on the floor petting his dog, him on the counter watching me. He picks up a piece of sausage from a plate on the stove and takes a bite.
“What’re you doing here?” he asks, as he chews.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“A Blind Dog Named Killer and a Colony of Bees” subsequently appeared as a graphic story in Nashville Review, April 1, 2015.