• Aaron Gudmunson


Dive Bar

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

The sign says ID REQUIRED. I wonder if that means "identification" or Freud's portion of personality encompassing primitive urges like hunger, anger, and sex. Either way, I've got mine.

The door girl looks my card over. "This isn't you."

I blink, bewildered.

"Yeah, this definitely isn't you." Confidence commands her. She speaks like a professional. I've never seen her here before, though to be fair I haven't been back in years.

"Well," I say.

She squints, hard, like a handshake. Her hair is a limp blonde waterfall. Does she know I lost weight? Is she aware I changed my name? Removed the wedding band? Cut a man's throat in Tallahassee?

A bouncer ambles over, all towering muscle and black five o'clock shadow. "This picture look like him?" the door girl asks.

The bouncer eyes the ID, then me, then the ID. "What's your name, guy?"

"It's not him," the door girl insists before I can even hope to answer the question. The waterfall sprays as she shakes her head. She takes her job seriously.

"Well, maybe," the bouncer says. "The mole's the same." He taps the license with his finger, then points at my chin where I've tried to cover the blemish with a beard.

"What mole?" the girl asks, squinting. Her jaws unlock and I can smell Juicy Fruit and Miller Lite.

"Right there," the bouncer says, flexing the barrel of his arm. For a moment I think he's actually going to finger my chin. At the last second, though, he withdraws as if deciding something in my beard may bite.

"What's your birthday?" the girl demands.

I tell her, but that's not what she wants to hear.

"Wrong," she says. Then: "How tall are you?"

And: "How much do you weigh?"

And: "What's your license number?"

And: "What's your address?"

And: "What's your blood type?"

I mutter something and reach for the ID. I have made a mistake.

"We're keeping this," the girl says, eyes calcifying, before ordering the bouncer to call the cops. He trots off like a dog dismissed.

My back leaks. My tongue sticks. I watch the girl slide my driver's license into the back pocket of her blue jeans, then cross her arms beneath her breasts. I glance around for help, but find none. People drink and laugh. A band wheels amps onstage. Billiard balls click off ramrod cue sticks. A heavyset guy with a cocked Cubs cap throws darts and swears. The bouncer speaks into the phone. I back away from the girl with the onyx eyes. The only thing that flashes in my mind like red neon is ID ID ID and I can't make it stop.

Before I can escape, I am surrounded by walls of muscle and stubble. The driver's license is a forgotten item on a grocery list. No one speaks. Between heavy arms, I see the blonde waterfall splashing everywhere.

"Fake ID," I hear her say. She's wrong, though. The ID is real.

It's me who's not.

Aaron Gudmunson is the author of the novels Snow Globe and Emma Tremendous (as A.D. Goodman) and the collection From the Dusklands. His short fiction and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous publications, including Apex, Spectacle, and Dead Harvest: 50 Terrifying Tales. He is an assistant editor for Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores Magazine. Aaron lives in the Chicagoland area but can more easily be found online at www.aarongudmunson.com.

Twitter: @AaronGudmunson

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