Day 1: Absinthe

Charlii’s eyes fixed on the swirls of cloud and light and green playing in the glass. She felt her body leaning over the bar as all green enveloped her. The front door opened.

“Balder!” shouted a man in jeans and black t-shirt. “I’m done. That son-of-a-bitch at the gallery refused to show my work – again.”

The loud man’s tall, skinny form plopped down on a bar stool near the front. His elbows landed on top of the bar as his head drooped into his hands. “Absinthe. I must have my absinthe.”

“I have it ready for you,” said Balder, taking a glass from under the water reservoir and placing it in front of the man. 

“What am I going to do, Balder? My land-lady won’t take another painting for rent.” The artist snorted as he picked up his glass and swirled it in front of his face. “Maybe the green fairy in the glass will inspire me.” The artist gulped his drink and plopped the empty glass on the bar.

“Perhaps,” replied Balder. “But you should be careful what you ask of the green fairy. You know how temperamental she is.”

“Bah!” began the artist when the front door opened and two women and a man walked in laughing. 

The woman leading the group, wearing a tight, black sweater and long blond braid, gleamed when she was the artist at the bar. “Phillip!” she squealed in a high-pitched voice and skipped down the steps.

The artist leapt from his bar stool and met her at the bottom of the steps. “Lilla!” he exclaimed. “That smile can only mean one thing. You got the job!.”

“I got the job!” Lilla repeated as Phillip twirled her around.

“Balder,” shouted Phillip over the excitement of the crowd. “Drinks for all!”

The group gathered at the bar’s edge, Phillip’s head stood above them all. He smiled at Lilla, casting as much love on her as a man could for a woman. Lilla, on her bar stool, looked up at him. Her cheeks flushed with excitement and affection.

Balder placed glasses of absinthe in front of them and they each took a glass as Phillipe picked up his glass and held it high over their heads. “Here’s to Lilla. The first of us to get a real job. May her students appreciate the sacrifice she makes to teach them how to stay in the lines with their paints.” 

Phillip and the others laughed. Lilla grinned but turned her face down. 

The other man in the group lifted his glass. “Picasso, van Gough, Toulouse-Lautrec all gave their souls to the green fairy to give them art. Here we are giving ours. All except Lilla, who must be sober to teach her classes.”

The group laughed louder. Soon, Balder placed more glasses in front of them. Soon, their laughter roar through the room. Their words followed no order. Lilla and Phillip took their glasses to a table near the bar. The other couple slid into the shadows of a corner table.

Phillipe’s head slumped onto the table and tears rolled down his face. Lilla put an arm around across his back and leaned her head close to his. “Shh,” she whispered. “It’s a good thing, really. At the school, I’ll have all the supplies I need and can paint whenever I want. And I’ll be helping students who want to paint.”

“It’s all my fault,” said Phillip. “If I could just sell a painting, you wouldn’t have to teach instead of paint.”

Lilla pulled herself upright. “Do you think I’m selling out?” Her face reddened in the soft light of candles. The candle flaming on their table roared as her voice rose. “Is that what you think I’m doing?”

Phillip lifted his tear-stained face. His mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out.

Lilla eased her chair back and stood. Walking to the bar, she opened her purse and pulled cash out of her wallet.

“Thank you, Balder,” she said, paying for their drinks. She turned to leave, but stopped as she reached the steps leading to the door. Turning to look at Phillip, then back to Balder.  “Will you see he gets home?”

Balder nodded, and Lilla left. 

Phillip stood, his torso swaying left and right from either confusion, too much to drink, or perhaps both.

“Balder,” began Phillip moving to the bar. “I’ll have another, please.”

Balder pulled a glass from under the counter, polished it. “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m sure. It’s good enough for the masters, it’s good enough for me.”

Balder poured the liquid spring-time into the bulb of the glass. He placed the filigreed fork over the glass and placed sugar cube on it. Turning the tap on the water reservoir, the green liquid danced with light and cloud. “The green fairy inspires and makes us bold.”

“She can also make us stupid,” replied Phillip, staring into the glass.

“Will you let Phthomus win?” asked Balder, leaning close to Phillip from across the bar.

Phillip said nothing as he stared at the dancing glass of green. At last, his voice rose in a whisper from deep inside his throat. “She’d never lead me astray?” 

“The green fairy will dance until the dawn. It’s up to you to say good night.”

Phillip straightened, banging his hand on the bar. “I have to go.” With that, he left the bar, all but running through the door.

Balder took the glass from beneath the reservoir and placed in front of Charlii. “What do you think of the green fairy?”

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