Posts Tagged ‘Gay’

It’s been very, very hot here lately which is great for beer-sales and so I called the brewery today to order more beer. I waited through their usual on-hold mix of bad 80’s pop music, as I went to open every window I could find and turn the air-con down so low, it started shivering in anticipation. Still waiting, I returned to my desk quietly humming “Together we can take it to the end of the line, Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (ALL OF THE TI-I-IME)”, when the music abruptly clicked off and a nasal voice cut in with “Order and Shipping, this is Bonnie, how can I help you?”.

I gave my name, the name of the business and our customer number and started to list the order I wanted to place when she interrupted me “I’m sorry, we don’t seem to have you on file. Would you like a sales-rep to come out and discuss a contract with the brewery?”.

I politely tried to explain that we in fact had been with the brewery for about 5 years, already had a sales-rep I spoke with quite frequently and that I knew they had us on file since I ordered from them only two weeks prior.

Bonnie would have none of it.

I like to imagine Bonnie as a thoroughly middle-class, middle-aged kinda gal. Actually, just the kind of woman who would use the word “gal” to describe herself. I picture her in a summer dress with large, colourful flowers, her breasts big and heavy as they nearly spill out when she leans forward. Her belly beautiful and round, perfectly matching her wide hips and thick thighs.

I see her as just what a woman is to me, round and warm and full of laughter. But right now she had no time for smiles, she could only spare the moment it took to tell me I was in no way in her system. And that was the end of it as far as she was concerned!

I tried to explain again, but her screen told no lies and I was merely a faint voice in her ear.In the end I hung up and called our sales-rep, Matt.

Matt’s what anyone would call a “great guy”. And he is just that, a great guy! He’s the kind of person who’ll strike a deal and make you feel like you really got the biggest possible outcome, and maybe you did. He’s the guy you call and everything is just possible. You want 5 girls in tiny elf costumes for a Christmas-themed party in July? You call Matt, he delivers! You want 50 kegs delivered Sunday night to a small cabin in the middle-of-nowhere? Give Matt a holler, sure enough the kegs show up! He’s a great guy all right.

So I called Matt and I asked what the hell was up, he promised to check it out and call me back within half an hour. Not five minutes later he was back in my ear. “Uuuuh I dunno man, something’s gone FUBAR in Order and Shipping. They can’t find you anywhere in their systems. It’s like you’ve never even been entered.”

We shuffled some ideas and a few “Computers man, they’ll be the death of us all” comments back and forth before I managed to convince him to take my order until we sorted this out.

With the promise of beer safely on the way, I leaned back in my chair and mentally prepared to tackle the books. I was only just opening the safe and taking out the boxed money when my phone rang. Just like that, Bonnie was back with me. Her nasal pronunciation crackled through the speaker “Hi, yeah can I get your customer number again?”. I repeated and she asked for my name and the name of the bar and then went straight on to “So what’d you want to order?”. I stopped her to ask if she had managed to find me in the system and her only answer was “Yeah it seemed like you’d ended on the “no-sale” list”. I could get nothing more out of her and so I just placed the order and thanked her for finding the file.

After hanging up I immediately called Matt, I wanted to make sure we wouldn’t get a double order and this “no-sale” list was intriguing. Matt told me list was where they put the bars who didn’t pay their bills on time or with which they’d had other problems. I was astounded. How’d we end up there? We always paid our bills on time and we weren’t a drug den or a gang hangout.

Well it turned out the brewery had recently fired an employee for racist and homophobic slurs and Matt suspected him of putting the only gay bar among their customers, us, on the list to try and force us away from the brewery. He apologized profusely and made it very clear that homophobia was very far from the brewery’s policies. I told him there was absolutely no need, the fact that they sponsor 10k to our participation in Pride every year (and their selection of on-hold music) was more than enough proof of their good intentions.

In the end, all was well (except for the employee who got fired I suppose) and my beer was on the way. Moral of the story: Don’t be a fuckin’ dick, okay?

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I think it’s time to talk a little of the house-drinks we serve at The Gay Bar. All bars have their own specials and we are no different. Only ours usually have extremely sexually charged names. The Pink Pussy is no different. What it is though, is nasty! (And I mean nasty the way only someone with an attitude can say it “NAAAASTY!”)

Here are the ingredients:

4 centiliters of Bacardi Razz
4 centiliters of Grenadine
A bunch of whipped cream
Sprite

And now in picture form:

 

20140606-181614-65774307.jpg

You pour the Bacardi and Grenadine in a shaker with ice. Like so:

photo 1

Then you schlop a fist-size dollop of whipped cream on top.

photo 2

Shake it vigorously. Really pour your hatred into it! Now you strain this hellish concoction into a high-ball glass.

photo 3 - Copy

And then top it of with sprite. Be careful, the reaction when combining the two liquids is pretty aggressive. The result is quite un-appetizing:

photo 4

Voila, The Pink Pussy. You now have an utterly disgusting drink, enjoyed mostly by flamboyant men in their early 40’s. I congratulate and also pity you!

There are so many words in the English language that cannot properly be translated into Danish. Mainly because English has so many more words, but also because some words have a very precise meaning or are only used in a very specific context and thus when translating, you run the risk of having to use a much broader and general term. This way you tend to lose some of the original finesse and meaning the word bears with it.

I deal with this on an almost daily basis, but what really throws me, is when it happens inversely. Every once in a while I will stumble upon a Danish word that cannot easily be translated to English. This especially happens when describing bodies of water. We have a lot of terms for those. This country doesn’t consist of 443 islands for nothing.

The reason behind all this rambling about words and translations is, that it happened today. I sat down to write an anthropological piece, because I know you guys like those, but I floundered when trying to translate the name of the LGBT subtype I wanted to portray. I thought long and hard, I Googled, I searched Urban Dictionary, but I came up empty-handed.

The word that gave me so much trouble was Kamplebbe. A literal translation would be Fight Dyke, the closest I could get to what she is like, is Bull Dyke, but she is oh so much more than just that. What is she? Well let’s once again (muff)dive into the mysterious world of The Gay Bar and learn about the strange creatures that frequent it.

The Kamplebbe is usually a short, broad (but not fat) butch. “How butch?” you might ask, my reply: “The butchiest!”. Let’s take a peek at her.

Fauxhawk on top. Always styled with enough hairgel to allow one to commit Seppuku with it. When she’s too lazy to shovel on the hairgel there is her extensive cap selection to chose from, all still with the stickers on, naturally. Sidenote: If you get in a fight with a Kamplebbe and you want to make sure she hits you first, just flip the cap from her head. Insta-fight!

T-shirts. Always T-shirts. They can be woman’s style or men’s oversize, but she never wears anything more feminine than that. Often they will have some kind of design, the more misogynistic or “gangsta” the better. We’re talking slogans with “bitches”, “hoes” or “pussy”, dollar-signs, silhouetted guns, gang signs or strippers. Real classy stuff! These things apparently make our Kamplebbe feel pretty badass. I know I’d feel real badass too if I had “Big Booty Bitches” plastered across my chest.

The Kamplebbe’s pants are always baggy, probably hang down below her ass. How else would the world know she wears boxer briefs? Sidenote: I wholly endorse wearing boxer briefs, they are so friggin’ comfortable compared to panties, and I can’t even think about thongs without shuddering. It’s the “everyone must know the brand and pattern of my underwear”-mindset I don’t understand.

Around her thigh and ass will at times hang the international sign for “I will punch you without a second thought”‘; The wallet Chain. Known to instantly boost your coolness-factor by at least 20%, this item is a must have for a Kamplebbe. I swear I’ve seen dykes carrying a credit card holder and still wear a wallet-chain, that’s commitment!

On her feet we find the obligatory sneakers. Preferably the clunky skater-type and the more tattered the better. As with the wallet-chain this sends a signal that the Kamplebbe is just badass. She is literally too cool  to care.

Her girlfriends are always incredibly femme. You know how the worst question you can ask a lesbian couple is “so, like, who’s the guy and who’s the girl?”. Well here the question is both valid and superfluous at the same time. Valid because they will actually take on these roles and will most likely give you a straight answer. Superfluous because you can tell from 100 meters (109.4 yards for the inventors of anal bleaching (we all look upon your in terror) and 0.54 international cable for the merry men of the sea) away exactly who’s the dude (hint: it’s the Kamplebbe).

Not only are her girlfriends femme, but they are a special brand of femme; the low self-esteem kind. The Kamplebbe treats them like crap and they put up with it because they sadly don’t think they deserve any better. Don’t think domestic abuse doesn’t happen simply because both partners are women (or men for that matter), it does. It is a big problem that it’s so invisible because the victims often feel they have nowhere to go, no one to turn to.

Sometimes being a sexual minority makes seeking help for things, medical, mental or other, very difficult. Simply because you are always afraid, that that your divergence will in some way be used against you or as a means of rejecting your experiences. A lot of people in that situation feel the only viable option, is drunkenly blurting out their burdens to their friendly neighbourhood gay bartender. It breaks my heart every time.

But back to the Kamplebbe. Now I know I have written on the subject of drugs in relation to the Powder Puffs, but I feel that if I do not mention it, it becomes a silent issue much like domestic abuse, the over-sexualization of young guys and the heterophobia that are all thriving in the community, simply because no one will address the issues.

Drug and alcohol abuse is not just common among the Kamplebbe-demographic, it’s the norm. I mostly bust them with coke, MDMA and speed (not counting the copious amount of cannabis I find), but heavy drinking is also a crowd pleaser. Simply put they’ll try anything that will enhance and prolong their nights out. And nights out are not kept strictly to the weekend either, any reason to party, they will use and abuse it.

Being a bartender I’m all for the party-crowd, but after a while you start to see these guys breaking down. The drugs and alcohol take over and they no longer party for fun, but because it’s a necessity. They fall apart and waste away in front of your eyes and there’s really not much you can do about it.

Now someone with a bit of knowledge about the LGBT community might rightfully state, that many of the above statements fit very well with the description of a standard butch. What then makes the Kamplebbe so unique? Well the name sort of explains it; Kamp means fight or battle and that is the final defining feature of the Kamplebbe. She is incredibly short-tempered and will never back down from a fight. Actually she will often be the instigator. She feels the most badass when she gets to intimidate or even hurt someone, both physically and psychologically. She gets off on it. It makes her feel large and in charge.

After reading this description of the fascinating Kamplebbe, you can imagine the trouble a couple of them can cause in a nice little gay bar such as mine. Luckily they mainly frequent the parties and there I have my bouncers to keep an eye on them. Still 90% of the ‘incidents’ we have at the parties involve one or more of them. We catch them with drugs, they start fights or just misbehave in some way and I’ll tell you one can get pretty fucking tired of chucking out the same cunts every month. I ban them for as long as I can, but they sneak in and when I catch them and chuck ’em out again, the trouble starts up anew.

There’s one silver lining though: I’d say you’ve never really lived until you’ve seen three barrel-chested bouncers struggling with a tiny little lesbian. Her face distorted in a scream of expletives that hold no truth or meaning to anyone but herself and her limbs flailing like a shipwrecked sailor’s when vainly attempting to attract the attention of a passing ship. It is indeed a show-stopping routine and even with a replay every month it never ceases to amaze and astound me.

Everything the Kamplebbe is and wants to be, is based on attitude and perceived image. This is my main issue with this sub-group. Why is it so important to look cool, that you would give up any individuality for it? Why act like someone else when you could simply be you? Aren’t the coolest people you know the ones who don’t try to be cool at all?

I guess I’m just not cool enough to understand.

Return of the Neo

Posted: June 1, 2014 in Life-thingies
Tags: , , , ,

I wanted to wait until everything was in order before I posted about this, but it all seems to be falling into place and so I thought what better way to kick off this month long challenge, than to tell you some good news.

I am going back to The Gay Bar!

Not as a manager like I was before, but I will be working a lot on the parties. Seems they managed to fuck everything up since I left so there’s plenty to do and lots’a money to be made. I love it!

I am almost done with my education. Just one final exam to pass and I am graduating. I’m considering working several part-time jobs to get a peek into some different kinds of companies, but for now I have my part-time job and The Gay Bar to deal with.

I gotta say, I thought working at The Gay Bar was my past, but all the new exiting stuff I get to plan and develop sounds very cool and the whoops, hollers and applause I got from my old employees when I announced “Neo’s back y’all” were just the greatest thing I could imagine.

So as John says whenever I show up to fix something: “Have no fear, Neo’s here!”

Some years ago I saw something wonderful happen, possibly the most wonderful thing you can witness; I saw two people fall in love. Two women met at my bar one night, they flirted, bought each other drinks and exchanged phone numbers. During the following months they dated and soon they were in a committed relationship. They would often come to the bar on weekends with friends and they quickly became semi-regulars.(1)

They hung out with a crowd of women, mostly lesbians, but there were a bi or two in the mix as well. We, the bartenders, quickly dubbed the bunch “The Dykers” because a few of them rode motorcycles. They were a nice crowd and always behaved themselves well at the bar. They tipped, didn’t get too rowdy and mostly drank beer so they were well-liked by guests and staff alike.

The couple grew to be a central part of this group of friends and they were to be found at the bar no less than once a week. Aubrey and Katie quickly became AubreyandKatie and no one could imagine them apart. Neither could they and so they decided to use the rights given to us on the 7th of June 2012 and tie the proverbial knot.(2)

The Hen night they naturally spent together and at the Gay Bar. It was a great night and there were so many lesbians we actually managed to run out of beer which has only happened to me once before or since.(3) We quickly remedied the situation with cheap champagne and Jägerbombs (a terrible combination btw(4)) and all was well.

AubreyandKatie were married in the cathedral and went to Greece on their honeymoon. When they returned home they resumed their place among The Dykers. They seemed happy and after a while they started talking about kids. Soon there was a great big belly and talk of sore feet and morning sickness at The Dykers table.

When the baby arrived all the women were so excited, but the novelty quickly passed. AubreyandKatie slowly stopped hanging out with The Dykers and the group dissolved.

From my vantage point behind the bar, watching the gay community pass before me, seeing the trends, relationships, friendships, group-dynamics and rivalries as they repeat themselves ad infinitum, this was nothing new or unexpected.

These things flow naturally like the seasons change and I am sure others see them like I do. I recognize the patterns, always changing, always identical. The loom stuck spinning the same tapestry over and over again.

Poetry aside The Dykers were no more, but AubreyandKatie quickly found new friends. Other lesbian mommies or soon-to-be mommies. They formed a clique and would meet up at the bar frequently. Sometimes they would all go for a night out  together, but mostly they came in the afternoon, kids in tow and sat around gossiping and drinking coffee. The kids would play and the mommies would talk.

All the kids were very well-behaved and I had no issue with them hanging out there, but soon, like the rumble of distant avalanches in the mountains, the murmur of unrest reached my ears. And just like an avalanche it stated slow, but quickly escalated to something much more dangerous.

Aubrey (of AubreyandKatie) had managed to establish herself as the leader of The Mommies and she took me aside one day.(5)

Aubrey: It would be really great if the bar would buy some high-chairs for the toddlers. It’s really inconvenient having them on our laps the whole time.
Neo: Sorry, but it would hardly be financially responsible for me to invest in high-chairs.
Aubrey: But we are loyal customers, we come here with our kids at least once a week!
Neo: Yes, and we are very happy to have you, but I cannot possibly justify buying high-chairs for a bar because you bring your kids here for a few hours every week. Sorry.

And with a “Hrmpf!” she left.(6)

End of story right? Wrong! This was only the first of many a conversation with Aubrey. She would return to the high-chair issue, but she would also make other suggestions like buying some toys for the kids or “touch and feel” books for the toddlers. She also suggested we install a changing station in our miniscule bathrooms. I politely, yet firmly, turned all of these ideas down and she “Hrmpf’ed” her displeasure at me.

I understand where she was coming from. She and her fellow lesbian mommies had only one gay place in town to go, our bar, and they had the urge to make it their own and sculpt it to their needs. The problem was that this was not a kindergarten, this was a bar. Not even a café, but a bar. And a bar has a set of very specific missions and goals.

Missions and goals for a bar:

  1. Get people to buy alcohol.
  2. Be a fun place so people will want go here.
  3. Get people to buy more alcohol.

None of the above are “cater to kids” mainly because kids are not allowed to buy alcohol. So while it was perfectly all right for The Mommies to hang out and bring their kids, I was not prepared to spend money on them because they didn’t bring any profit.

A few weeks went by without any incident or helpful suggestions from The Mommies, and then this beautiful conversation took place:

Aubrey: Do you have any of those colourful plastic cups?
Neo: Sorry, nope. I have regular glasses or the plastic to-go cups for beer.
Aubrey: Hrmpf! I guess some normal drinking glasses will do.
Neo: May I ask what you need them for?
Aubrey: Oh I brought some lemonade for the kids.
Neo: Uhm, you can’t serve them that. This is a bar, if the kids are thirsty we have soda and a variety of juices.
Aubrey: But it’s much too expensive to buy them juice every time we’re here.
Neo: I can get you a pitcher of water for free?
Aubrey: They don’t want water, that’s why I bring the lemonade. I can’t see what the big problem is, I’ve been doing it forever.
Neo: Sorry, but like any other bar we don’t allow you to bring your own beverages. You’ll have to stop making them lemonade.
Aubrey: Hrmpf! This is ridiculous!

And cue the righteous stomp-away and the hushed-yet-aggravated conversation at The Mommies tables.

The following week would mark the last time we saw The Mommies. Some of the women who had been part of the group would resurface, but AubreyandKatie never came back and from what I heard the gang broke apart in quite a nasty way.(7)

Let me set the scene for The Mommies last stand:

A quiet Thursday afternoon. The early spring sun splashed through the windows and revealed the dust playing tag among the liquor bottles. Behind the bar I was lazily flipping through the sticky pages of a  drinks book for inspiration and in the backroom a plumber was sprawled out beneath the kitchen sink. His gentle swearing assured me that he was working hard on replacing the leaking pipe.(8) We had two groups of guests, one was The Mommies, busy drinking their coffee and chatting about the latest development in baby-alarms. The other was four gay guys out to get drunk.(9) They were hammering back shots like there was no tomorrow and their speech was quickly turning racy, seedy even.

Blowjobs and glory holes, anal sex and rimming, butt plugs and orgies are all natural points of conversation in a gay bar, but Aubrey and The Mommies weren’t having it. They had been sending the guys looks, trying to convey that they thought the talk was inappropriate, but the guys just ignored them. So Aubrey approached the bar.

Aubrey: Will you please tell those guys to tone it down? I hardly think it’s appropriate around kids.
Neo: I don…..

I was cut off by one of the guys yelling out “I swear there was just jizz EVERYWHERE! My hair was completely crusted! It was like sperm conditioner!”

Aubrey just blew her top: “HOW DARE YOU SPEAK LIKE THAT INFORNT OF OUR CHILDREN!”

The gay guy was completely unaffected “Honey, if you can’t stand the cock, get out of the sauna!”

The Mommies huffed and puffed and rushed their kids out of the door only stopping to send me dirty looks as I, crying from laughter, shouted out “FREE COSMOS BITCHES!”.

I made cosmos till my arms were tired and even convinced the very gruff and super macho plumber to have one after he emerged from under the sink. It was a great afternoon.

This is one of many examples of why being part of the LGBT community is tricky. It seems whatever you do you are bound to exclude and offend someone. The LGBT community is so diverse and fragmented that there is no way to please everyone and when you’re the only gay bar in a 70 km radius (That would be 43.5 miles for Mexico’s noisy upstairs neighbours(10) and 50 sheppeys for the traditional oil-painters of farm-life) you walk a fine line between all these groups and sub-groups.

It is a constant battle to appeal to as much of the community as possible while still remaining interesting and relevant. There is a lot of “But this is the only gay bar nearby so you should be inclusive” going around and we try, we really do, but mostly what people are saying when they state the above is “By being inclusive I mean you should pay special attention to my specific sub-group”.

Navigating these treacherous waters AND making money is like rocking a rhyme that’s right on time; tricky.


1 There is a scale on which a bartender puts his or her guests. Your rating depends on a few things but most important are your behaviour and how often you come to the bar. The higher on the scale you are, the more likely you are to receive free drinks and above-and-beyond service. Semi-regular is in the higher end of the scale and is indicated by the fact that the bartender manages to learn and remember your name and your regular drink. I could elaborate further, but studying history and generally reading a lot has taught me something very important; the longer a footnote drags on, the less interesting it becomes, unless it is written by Terry Pratchett.

2 My internet just kicked it. I was gonna look up where that expression came from, but I guess it’ll have to wait. It’s weird though; tying the knot. Maybe it’s because you’re bound to one another? Also why are you reading my silly ramblings and not the story? Get back up there!

3 See the previous instalment “But I’m the chosen one!”.

4 Even worse: Forgetting all about the Red Bull and dropping the Jäger-shots into champagne instead. Insta-Puke-fest! (This shot was dubbed The Jägerbubble.)

5 Every group has a leader, mostly an unofficial one, but there is always one. If you are in a group and you don’t think there is a leader, that just means it’s not you. Someone else is leading and you have no idea. *Cough*Sheep*Cough*.

6 I don’t know how well this translates. Hrmpf is an onomatopoeic word that basically means “I am dissatisfied” or “I am better than you”. Get familiar with it, you will see it again in this Tale.

7 The Blink 182 song “Stay together for the kids” just popped into my head.

8 I used to always feel uncomfortable when I had men around fixing things. Was I supposed to hang around or leave them alone? But once I figured out that as long as I could hear them swearing they were hard at work, I was much more comfortable going about my business. Oh and I never feel uncomfortable when it’s women. I just swoon, which probably makes them uncomfortable, but damnit there is hardly anything sexier than a woman who knows her tools!

9 In Denmark Thursday is also known as Little-Friday and so getting shit-faced on a Thursday night is pretty common.

10 I couldn’t remember if I had used Mexico before so I just opened all my old Tales, Ctrl+f’ed and typed “mex” on them all just to check. That’s how dedicated I am to this stuff you guys!

Casual 3 AM update.

Posted: January 6, 2014 in Life-thingies
Tags: , , , , , ,

Hi guys,

It is 3:09 AM here in Scandinavia and I just proofread and formatted my behemoth of an exam paper. I finished it and it is pretty crappy, but luckily I get to defend it in an oral exam and if there is one thing I rock at, it’s oral exams. Talking for 30 minutes nonstop about a specific topic I know a shit-ton about? Son you just activated my trap card!

I just thought, that before I crash face first on to my bed I’d take the time to thank you all. Thank you for commenting and sending me emails to cheer me on, you guys are the best!

I apologize for my sadface post and I promise to get back to my cheerful old self. Hell with this exam out of the way, I am pretty much there already. (It also helps that my mum called to say she’d bought me a brand new saute pan yesterday!)

What other news do I have? 

Oh yes, I have managed to get a part-time job while I finish my studies. I am going to be a tour-guide extraordinaire. It was actually pretty cool, I got an email from one of my teachers who was like “It’s to bad I don’t see you in class to often, you are one of the best students. Anyway I’m heading this new project with guided tours around town, want a job?” Obviously I insta-yessed.

Also I will try to post more of these “life-thingies”. I know what you really want are the delicious rants and bordering-on-homophobic-I-certainly-only-get-away-with-this-because-I-am-gay-myself stereotyping of the Tales from the Gay Bar, but this is my way of getting back in the habit of writing here. (that bordering-on- and so on was a bitch to type out!) 

This post is probably pretty messy and slightly unhinged, but I blame 3 days of staring at this screen, too much soda and too little sleep.

Lastly I just want to give a shout-out to Paul who commented on my last post. He is probably the best thing to ever come out of ‘Straya. And to Kathy who saw my pouty post and straight up sent me a cake recipe to cheer me up. (It was friggin’ tasty btw)

It’s 3:30 now, time to go beddy-bye-bye!

They said the first big autumn storm would hit us sometime that afternoon. It was cold and windy and a miserably icy rain was falling in heavy drops. I walked to work in the rain, watching the river trundle and tumble along. I, in turn, was being watched by all the smiling faces with Photoshop-white teeth staring down from every lamppost. It’s that crazy time again. The time where young men in their nicest shirts, ruin their first pair of dress shoes by trotting through puddles to fling flyers at innocent people passing by. The time where men in their fifties try (and fail miserably) to reach out to the younger generation by rapping and using slang that was “hip” 3 years ago. #YOLO! The time where perfectly happy families are torn apart by a tiny little X on a piece of paper. The time where people of questionable intelligence, make YouTube videos with racist and hateful propaganda simply to stand out. The time where people of even MORE questionable intelligence proclaim “I’m not even going, I mean what’s the point anyway?” The time to make a stand, do your duty for queen and country and defy the weather to claim the rights you hold as a citizen of a democratic country. Election time!

I have no idea why I went on a long tirade about that, it’s not even the election for the government; it’s just the local and regional elections. Anyway I walked to work, it was raining, that’s all I meant to say.

Because of the storm warning it had been a very quiet afternoon, only a few people having a beer of cup of coffee on their way home from work. Once the wind really started howling they all hurried home. I had a little paperwork to do and it didn’t seem like there would be a lot of guests, so I sent Laura home early and brought the laptop into the bar.

It was really coming down outside, I had the news up on the TV in the barroom and they were warning people to stay indoors. I was hoping it would blow over soon, not really fancying the prospect of having to sleep in the backroom. News coverage showed trees toppling over, roofing tiles smashing against the streets below, blocked trains, motorways where people got out and walked, scaffolding collapsing, it was a bit scary and I didn’t want to risk going out. Instead I got back to work, for about five minutes, then the TV went black, in fact everything went black.

The power had gone out.

The entire street was covered by a veil of deep darkness and from upstairs came a scream of terror. I ran to the backdoor, tore it open and sprang up the stairs. On the landing of the second floor stood our upstairs neighbor, she was shaking like a leaf, huddled over and clutching her head in her hands. She gave a small yelp of fright as I touched her shoulder. “Veena what’s wrong?” She mumbled something indistinctly in reply. I pulled her up straight and tried to get her to look at me, but she avoided my eyes. I asked her again and this time she said “That voice…It just…That voice…” “What voice, what did it say?” She stopped shaking, her eyes met mine and she, with an almost chilling calmness, said “Come to me”.

She began shaking again and I left her on the landing to go look for whoever had scared her so badly. Her apartment was completely empty. No one was there and I tried to explain that to Veena, but she refused to go back. She was sure whoever had spoken was still there somewhere. I could hardly leave her out on the cold staircase so I brought her down into the bar and gave her something to calm her nerves.

We talked for a while in the now candlelit bar and she seemed to calm down a bit. In the end she convinced herself it was just a silly prank someone had pulled on her and she decided to go back upstairs. I may have helped her with the decision by referring to the mountains of paperwork I had to do. She would just, she said, pop out to use the loo, drink up and be out of my way. “Good” I thought “now if the power would just come back so I don’t have to do the math myself once the laptop battery runs low, that would be perf” and my thoughts were cut off by another of Veena’s screams.

She came running out of the bathroom, eyes wild, soap on her hands, screeching “I heard it again, in the bathroom!” By now I was sure she was the one pulling my leg so I asked “Oh? What’d it say this time then?” She told me that in a strange accent it had said the words “Join me”. It all sounded a bit too much like “we all float down here” to me and I didn’t believe a word she said, I was just about to tell her that when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A movement in the empty barroom.

I turned around and there was Table, standing in the middle of the floor.

How had it got from the backroom and out here? Ever heard the phrase “Don’t ask if you don’t want to know”? I shouldn’t have asked. Table started sliding around the floor in a slow circle. The other tables soon joined him, then the chairs as well. The glasses on the bar lifted themselves into the air and slowly floated towards us. The chairs and tables now closed in on us as well. The paintings tore themselves from the walls, magazines came off the racks. A bottle opener pushed it’s way through the mass to the front of The Army of Inventory. It hung in the air, glittering silently, everything was quiet, every thing seemed calm.

Then the bottle opener launched itself and only an uncoordinated and slightly embarrassing scurry to the right saved us from the hurtling piece of metal that came at our heads. The rest of the army followed, glass splintered against the walls, chairs were falling over each other to get to us and all we could do was jump and duck and vault ourselves through the battlefield. As we were nearing the door Table jumped out from the fray and blocked it. His tabletop was shaking and the screws holding the legs in place were oozing a dark red liquid. Blood?

I didn’t even think, I just put my shoulder down and ran. I went straight for Table’s bad leg. The sound of wood splitting told me what had happened. I didn’t take the time to look back. I merely yanked the door open and pulled Veena outside with me. We ran up the street. Nothing seemed to be following us out of the bar as we rushed towards the police station.

The storm was at it’s worst. With rain pelting our heads and winds that would sweep you off your feet, we struggled on. A row of roofing tiles slid down and crashed to the ground to our right as garden furniture rushed past us on the left. An old bicycle, wheels bent and broken by the storm came rushing towards us and we fell to the ground.

As we got back up, soaked and shivering, an election poster, hanging on for dear life, screamed at us from a lamppost. Blood came rushing out of it’s eyes as it, with an accent I couldn’t quite place boomed “WE WILL BE ONE!”Posters on every lamppost joined in “JOIN US, COME TO US, YOU WILL BECOME ONE OF US” they screamed with blood spurting from their mouths.

Veena could take no more. She ran. I cried out to her, but the storm took my voice. A mighty gust of wind lifted her off her feet and slammed her against a wall. As she was flying she screamed, at the moment of impact she became silent. I ran to her. Blood was trickling from her right ear as I lifted her head into my lap. I shook her shoulder gently, afraid to hurt her further. She came too and slowly opened her eyes. She spoke, it was no longer her voice, it had taken on that strange accent and as a single bloody tear ran down her face she said “Join us Neo, become one of us”.

“NOOOOO VEENA!”

I backed away, scurrying on my hands and feet as she rose, slowly. “You know you want to, it’s so easy, just give in, be one of us.” A quivering orange glow surrounded her whole body. She flowed towards me, her feet no longer touching the ground. The orange glow seemingly suspending her in mid air.

“Wh-who are you? What have you done to Veena?”

She came ever closer; her hands reaching out to grab me and as she spoke I finally recognized the accent. “Veena is no more, instead say Hallo to Ween!”

The orange glow leaped at me, lifted me up and filled my mind with pumpkins and monsters. I closed my eyes and my sense of nationality slipped away. Bald eagles flew, star-spangled banners waved, I saw Wal-marts and Wendy’s, Soccer moms in gas guzzling SUVs and fat CEOs waving cash from limousines, I saw the statue of liberty high-fiving Donald Trump and Oprah riding a rollercoaster at Disneyworld. In God I trusted and everything was American.

I awoke with a start.

I was sitting at the bar, my head resting on the laptop keyboard and the rising sun was shining through the windows. The tempest had passed and the Americanization of my nation had merely been a horrible nightmare.

And then I saw it, in the window across the street, a carved pumpkin grinning at me!