Juggling Scissors

by Marisa Crane

The bar is dark with a comforting gold lighting. Everyone is wearing suits that are a size too big. The bartenders have eclipsed moons under their eyes. Two men sit down on stools facing the bar. They don’t need menus but they ask for them anyway.

“I can’t sleep at night,” says one of the men. His name is Aki and his face is smooth with the exception of two lines between his eyes.

“What do you mean?” Asks the other. His name is Kim and he has no defining qualities.

“I just can’t sleep at night.”

“Ever?”

“Not in years,” says Aki.

“That’s impossible. What do you do instead?’

“I draw duck-billed platypuses.”

“What.”

“I draw duck-billed platypuses,” says Aki.

“How do you know you aren’t asleep right now?”

“I don’t know.”

“You should get that checked out,” says Kim.

“I have. They always point to my head and whisper in small congregations.”

“What else do you do besides draw platypuses?”

“Duck-billed. I Youtube videos on how to draw them.”

“I’m going to order some sake.”

“Okay, I’ll get a Sapporo.”

A bartender hears them from across the bar and nods and begins to pour the drinks. Sound waves travel quickly here.

“Alcohol doesn’t make you sleep?”

“No, nothing does.”

“Wouldn’t you be dead right now without sleep?”

“Maybe I am.”

“What else do you do?”

“Sometimes I call a sex hotline.”

Kim nods. A faceless patron spins a rainbow wheel behind the bar. The gold lights flicker. Kim looks around then faces his friend.

“Do they help?”

“Help what?”

“Anything.”

“I don’t understand the question,” says Aki.

“Neither do I. What do you say when you call?”

The bartender brings them two sakes and two Sapporos. Kim sips his beer thoughtfully. Aki shoots both sakes and frowns.

“I mostly just tell them how long it’s been since I’ve slept and how many duck-billed platypuses I’ve drawn.”

“That’s it?”

“Sometimes I explain how the bill can be difficult to perfect but I’m getting better.”

“You don’t have them talk dirty to you?”

“I haven’t been able to get it up in at least a year. I like the women because they really listen. There is something gentle and angelic about them.”

“I’ve never spoken to a sex worker.”

“I don’t know if they want to be called that anymore. Oh, sometimes I take my dog’s Xanax but it does no good.”

“Where is your dog?”

“At home watching infomercials.”

“Can we have two more sakes, please?” Asks Kim.

The bartender delivers their drinks. When he smiles, the two men observe that he has no teeth. Aki offers to bite his nails for him but he politely declines.

****

The bar is dark with a comforting gold lighting. Everyone is wearing suits that are a size too big. The bartenders have eclipsed moons under their eyes. Two men sit down on stools facing the bar. They don’t need menus but Aki asks for them anyway. He likes the yellowing parchment they are printed on.

“I can’t ever sleep,” says Aki. His face looks as if it has been soaked and wrung out by strong hands.

“Why not?” Kim asks. There are cobwebs in his hair.

“I’m not sure.”

“You don’t ever sleep?”

“Not in years,” says Aki.

“That’s impossible.”

“I’m living proof that it’s not.”

“Are you sure that you’re alive?”

“I suppose not. Life doesn’t make much sense. Why should death?”

“You’re right. Have you been taking your calcium pills?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t remember?”

“Everything’s a blur.”

“What do you do with all your extra time?” Kim asks, holding his hand up to get the bartender’s attention.

“I am learning to juggle scissors,” says the bartender. “Oh, you weren’t talking to me. Sorry.”

He pours two shots of whiskey and hands them to the gentlemen.

“Apologies,” he says, half-bowing.

“I draw duck-billed platypuses,” says Aki. He holds his shot up to eye-level and squints.

“Can I see one?”

“I don’t have any with me.”

****

The bar is dark with a sympathetic gold lighting. Everyone is wearing suits that are two sizes too big. The bartenders have eclipsed moons under their eyes. Two men sit down on stools facing the bar. They don’t need menus but Kim asks for them anyway. He thinks there’s something beautiful about the paper.

“I’m exhausted,” says Kim, smiling sadly. His skin looks like it’s the wrong size too.

“Do they serve coffee here?” asks Aki. He blows his cheeks up then slowly lets the air out through his small mouth. He’s the only balloon in the bar.

“I don’t think so. Let’s order drinks.”

“When was the last time you slept, Kim?”

“Why, just last night.”

“I haven’t slept in years.”

“Why not?” Kim asks.

The bartender slides two Sapporos down the bar in their direction. One tips and spills all over Aki’s lap. It isn’t like in the movies.

“Because,” says Aki, standing up to take off his pants.

“You’d die without sleep.”

Kim takes a sip of his beer and offers it to Aki. Aki shakes him off.

“That’s what they say.”

“Who?”

“The duck-billed platypuses.”

“What,” says Kim.

“I knew you wouldn’t understand,” says Aki. His boxers are baggy. They look like an extra pair of skin. He sits back down on his bar stool.

“Let’s just drink.”

“I called a sex hotline last night, Kim.”

“How was it?”

“The woman told me that I have a terrifying voice,” grumbles Aki.

“Well, you kind of do.”

“She said that I need to go back to school and learn taxidermy.”

“Are you sure you didn’t call a psychic instead?”

“No, I’m not sure.”

The bartender drops some scissors on the floor. They appear to be children’s safety scissors. The two men stare at him until he brings them a replacement beer. They clink glasses and drink deeply.

“Shouldn’t alcohol help me sleep?” asks Aki.

“Maybe you’re doing it wrong. Drink faster.”

Kim laughs and Aki becomes a balloon again.

“Do you ever feel like someone has stolen your identity, Kim?”

“No. I haven’t the slightest clue as to what you’re talking about.”

“You never understand,” Aki sighs.

****

The bar is cloudy with a gentle gold lighting. Everyone is wearing suits that suffocate them. The bartenders take too many diet pills; their cheeks are sunken in. Two men sit down on stools facing the bar. They have never been to this bar but they don’t ask for menus.

“Do you have sake?” Asks Aki. His hands grip each other like long lost lovers.

“Yes, sir. Two?” Asks the bartender. Cuts of various sizes decorate his weathered hands.

“Yes,” nods Kim. “Have you read the paper lately?” He asks, turning to his friend.

“No, I haven’t been sleeping.”

“That means you have more time to read the paper.”

“I draw duck-billed platypuses.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that I use my time to draw them.”

“How long has it been since you’ve slept?”

“I’ve lost track. Last time I checked, it had been three years.”

“Hogwash.”

“Which part?”

The bartender hands them two pitchers of sake and two short glasses and the two men are happy to know that they’ll be drunk soon. Kim pours the sake into each man’s glass then takes a drink.

“You’d be dead by now.”

“Aren’t I, Kim?”

“The paper says that our population is going to decrease by 50% soon.”

“Why?”

“A new plague is scheduled for September.”

“How do they decide who lives and who dies?”

“Why does it matter? You just said that you’re dead.”

“There are 217 tutorial videos on Youtube that teach you how to draw a duck-billed platypus,” says Aki, sipping his drink.

Someone spins a rainbow wheel behind the bar. It lands on “shots for everyone but the spinner” and no one groans.

The bartender pours two shots of whiskey and hands them to the men.

“You guys are in luck,” he smiles a toothless smile.

“Sometimes I take my dog’s Xanax but it never helps,” says Aki.

“Where is your dog now?” Asks Kim.

“At home watching Youtube videos.”

“This whiskey tastes like an old cigar.”

Neither man speaks for about an hour. They watch the bartender bandage his hands after practicing juggling scissors. Blood seeps through the dressings.

“My dog isn’t stuffed, in case you were wondering,” says Aki.

Kim nods as if he’s been waiting for Aki to say that. The bartender attempts to clear all of the glasses at once and drops a shot glass on the floor. He bends down to sweep up the shards and when he stands back up, Aki is drawing a picture of Kim on the bartop and his bill looks like a map of a world neither knew existed.


Marisa Crane is a writer living in San Diego, CA. Her work has appeared in Dissonance Magazine, Apeiron Review, Better Than Starbucks, The Radvocate, Blue Bonnet Review, among others. She is the author of the poetry chapbook The Devil is a Skilled Ventriloquist (Promenade Press).

Artwork by: Emily Wiethorn

Emily Wiethorn (b.1991) is a photographic artist currently based in Lincoln, NE where she will graduate with her MFA in Studio Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is an Instructor of Record and holds a Graduate Teaching Assistantship. She received her BFA in Photography from Northern Kentucky University. She has most recently been awarded the 2017 SPE Student Award for Innovations in Imaging, was a Critical Mass finalist in 2017, a finalist for The Texas Photographic Society’s National Photography Award, and is a featured artist in the spring 2018 issue of PDNedu. Her work has been published online with Musee Magazine, Lenstratch, Loosen Art, among others. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally in China and Italy. She works primarily in self-portraiture where she explores notions of feminine identity, societal constructs of femininity, and self-discovery.

Links
Website: www.emilywiethorn.com
Instagram: @emily.wiethorn