03/25/2013 - 10:06pm
Owl Tree
by Ian Tuttle

Darren had proved himself capable, though he’d only been hired as bar-back two weeks prior.  He had a grace and speed about him.  He had a knack for quick-cut conversations, and for queuing the music that needed to be played.  Jessica trusted him.

When Jessica arrived a half hour after Darren opened, she was surprised to find none of the mixers restocked, and dirty glasses still stacked, unwashed.  The Home Shopping Network blared from the TVs instead of the ballgame or a retro movie.

“Jessica,” said Darren.  Not his usual grin and bow.  “Look at this.”

Her eyes adjusted to the dark.  She was wearing her eyeglasses, because she’d had a bad night last night.  The eyeglasses were non-prescription; they just masked her puffy eyes.  She was obsessed with smooth skin and kept a pump-bottle of lotion behind the bar.

Darren had his hands on the sides of a typewriter as if he was about to slowdance with it.  Lovingly, respectfully.

“Quaint,” said Jessica.  “Now let’s get ship shape.”

“Remember the guy in the sweater with the patches?”

“The Norwegian guy?”


“What about him?  Honestly, we only have twenty minutes to open.”

“This is his,” Darren said.

“So stick it in the stock closet.  Let’s get going.”

“He got hit by a bus last night.  Died.  Sally told me this morning.  Apparently he had a grant, some exchange student thing.”  Darren looked down at the typewriter.  “They were hooking up, and she was expecting him last night.”

“Well look,” Jessica ran through her checklist in her head.  Pourer caps, ice, mixers, tunes, trash, money for the bouncer, money for the till, keg lines, etc etc.  Nowhere was there a typewriter on her list.  “Just, maybe we can give it to Sally tomorrow.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Darren hefted the typewriter up like an infant, hands on its hips.  “Hey,” he said.  “There’s a page in here.”


“Something he wrote, still in the typewriter.”

Still she had to check volumes, write tonight’s order, call next door’s landlord and tell him to submit a formal complaint about the cigarettes instead of harassing patrons.

“Jessica.”  Darren’s voice had an edge she’d never heard.  “These are his last words.”

“So?  Listen, I don’t mean to be a bitch or anything, but we need to get moving.  Put it in the stock closet.  We’ll deal with it later.”

Darren nodded.  He drew the page from the typewriter’s drum then took his time to read it.  He folded it up and slid it into his back pocket.

Jessica waited to hear the words.  Darren didn’t speak.  Jessica said, “so?”

“You’re right.  Let’s get ship shape.”


Ian Tuttle is a photographer and writer living in San Francisco. His book StretchyHead was published in 2011 by PAC Books.  He has also been published in Sparkle & Blink, Full of Crow, and Internet Poetry. His photographs have been exhibited and collected internationally. He is a mere month from finishing his MBA at Babson College.


This piece was read as part of a production of “Action Fiction!”, sponsored by Fiction365 and Omnibucket.  

Read more stories from Action Fiction! productions.