The big round clock above the bar, a spectacular example of the golden age of advertising art, was a mosaic made of blue and silver mirror. Letters arrayed around the face between concentric rings of white neon, read,
"At the Modern Lounge ... It's Always Sapphire Time."
It was ten minutes until midnight. The bartender raised his hands above his head and tapped his imaginary wrist watch. The waitresses cycled through their sections announcing "last call for alcohol."
Charlie Parker finished up with 'Ornithology'. A double gin and tonic waited at his private table.
Standing alone in the cold blue spotlight, Mr. Lounge began to play a one two punch called 'Powerhouse'.
He spun a hologram of notes designed to make your nose bleed. Three minutes in, he pulled up on the throttle, teeing up Harleigh Holmes for a death defying seven minute drum solo.
Choire, the talking dog jumped up on to a bar stool and began to run down 'The rules for a safe return to the land of the living'. He was very specific.
" You need to leave before midnight... that gives you about four minutes ... Take nothing, leave nothing ... you must leave exactly the way you arrived ... Are you both clear on that. " We nodded.
" Now take hold of Ginger's hand. This is critical ... don't, under any circumstances, look back at her until you arrive safely upstairs. Don't speak to her or anyone you may see on the way out ... and leave the building immediately."
Ginger bent over Choire and gave the brindle pup a sloppy kiss. She scratched him behind the ears and said "Catch you later kiddo."
The Dog read the the question that hung in a bubble over my head. "You'll know you've made it ... the sun will be shining. Take her home ... love her... treat her right .... have kids ... get old. This will all fade away in no time." Ginger slipped her icy hand into mine and moved behind me.
Sharon the coat check girl refunded two silver dollars ... they flipped through the air and landed in Ric's outstretched hand. Randy held the exit doors open allowing the Stygian black to pour in. It was even darker than I remembered.
Ric and I shook. Both our hands were cold this time. " Are you going to stay for good? " I asked Ric.
" I have a special arrangement with the management " Ric answered, " I pretty much come and go as I'm needed ... Something like a tour guide." Your going to need this " he said pressing the Zippo into my hand.
I looked at Choire for the referee's call.
" How the hell did you think you were going to find your way out ? " the dog said rolling his orange eyes
" Leave the Zippo with the desk clerk upstairs. "