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  • The Eclectic Charm

    Brandon Valosa

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    August 16th, 2020


    The Eclectic


    Brandon sat with the heels of his leather shoes propped up on the metal rod that ran the distance of the bar and and glanced around at the relatively empty establishment known as The Eclectic. It was small Bar in Middletown that had caught his attention. Just as the name indicated the establishment was put together from the remains of several pubs and breweries scavenged after the events of the last ten years. Pictures lined the wall of happier times taken from the ruins of watering holes that had fallen victim to the calamities that had stricken the city and it’s burbs as well as the world. 


    On one of the wall was even a dart board used to hold up a few frameless photos of patrons pinned in place by the darts acting as tacks. The chairs and tables were a mix and match variety all made to fit together with a little paint and care to bring the community back from the clutches of disaster. Painted on the Marque under it’s unusual name were the words, “Spirits Lifted and Hearts Fed Here.” Even the bar stools were a mix of designs and colors as they lined up around the smooth counter. The light fixtures were just as eclectic as the rest of the place and somehow it all looked as if it belonged just the way it was.


    “Here you go Brandon,” the man behind the raised counter said with a cheerful tone, “one Lager of the Lakes off tap.” He chuckled, “you order something different every time you go somewhere don’t you?”  


    The Yale graduate chuckled and nodded his assent, “my taste is as eclectic as your bar.”


    He shifted slightly as he checked to make sure his black backpack was still right where he left in, on the floor in front of the stool. Brandon’s hazel eyes danced as he looked at the light amber offering as it sat atop a simple white paper napkin with the word Eclectic printed in large bold letters. The man looked back at the the bar tender and raised an eyebrow, “you chill your lager in storage don’t you?”


    For a moment the man looked puzzled as his eyes widened, “and how did you know that.”  He shook his head still leaving what remained of his blonde hair that had not fallen prey to his male pattern baldness, “we stored it in the ice box freezer because we didn’t have enough room in the cellar for it. 

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       Through the streets, Phoebe noticed the name of the establishment she was walking into... with that kind of name it surely must have been a bar. While not a heavy drinker by any means, more due to her frugal lifestyle than by choice, she was far from too prude to indulge in some good old drinking. It seemed a fairly laid-back place anyhow, and that was the way she preferred things. Plenty of chaos as soon as she stepped out of the city if she wanted that...


       Slowly emerging from the entrance, Phoebe looked around the room with a fair bit of caution, having been far from civilization for quite some time. Newly introduced to the city, she didn't quite know what to think; whether it was a little lawless, or more ordered. Too late now; she reasoned. Still looking around, she shrugged her nervousness off and approached the bar.. She brushed her hair from her face, her vision no longer obscured. She viewed the surroundings; it seemed that there was a jovial atmosphere, even if it was rather lacking in patrons. Maybe she would find herself able to finally relax and find some sort of common ground with some strangers... 


    Silently she made her way to sit down, lowering her things to the ground gently and pointing to her fellow bar-goer.


    "I'll have whatever he's having,


    She managed to convey. a smile to the man behind the counter.  Sure, going out for drinks may have been a rash decision, and she might regret it, but she could sure use a breath after the recent events. Naturally, the best way to forget one's problems was simply to get some alcohol, right? 

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    Brandon lifted his glass of amber liquid as he looked on Phoebe and offered genuine smiled to the woman, “Lager of the Lakes is one of my favorites.” He looked over at the baling man then toon a sip of his adult beverage before setting it back down.


    Coming right up,” the bar tender said placing a pint under the tap and letting the brew slosh around inside the crystal cylinder until the head was deep and foamy. He picked up an napkin as he headed over towards the woman to place the drink down before her, “I’m Jack by the way, the regular crowd gets here in a bit.”


    The man on the stool drew in a deep breath as he waited for the bark tender to finish, “looks like your carrying your home with you too,” he offered motioning towards his own black pack, apparently he had far less belongings than the new arrival.

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    Her hand slipping onto the glass and gripping it, she took a quick sip; reveling in the drink; definitely not her taste, but quite wonderful nonetheless, especially in comparison to the rainwater she'd been used to.. Setting it down, she turned and acknowledged the man who'd given her the drink. 


    "That's quite lovely, thank you."


    Then, her focus turned to the man on her right; indeed, his assertion was correct. She didn't really have any form of a permanent home. 


    "I sure do. Not very many places to set your home down for that long..."


    She glanced at her pack, her first thought being a little worry of thievery, but she shrugged the thought quickly. It wasn't a crowded place yet, and her eyes weren't all too tired anyways. She could really use some drink to quell her jittery nerves.



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    There was a smile on Jack’s face as he gave her a nod and turned to go about some of the other duties of a man in his position. He started to say something but stopped looking over at the door as the evening entertainment came strolling through the entrance. It was a woman, probably an off worlders based on the rams horns that grew from her head just above her ears. Other than that the the fact she only had four fingers on each hand rather than two one might be forgiven for thinking she was human. Se was carrying a harp of some sort. It was only about a foot and a half tall and about a foot wide with seven strings on each side, obviously not a common instrument for earth.


    Brandon glanced over as Phoebe as he listened to her only slightly noticing the musician, “Well I can’t argue with that.” He chuckled and took a sip of his beverage and glanced back over to her, "I suppose for some they have found a permanent home but I'm still looking for steady work so that makes it a little more dificult." There was a pause as he grinned and picked up his glass again, "Haven’t been back to New Your in a while, it’s better but to be honest I don’t know what it was like before 2010.”


    He shifted slightly in his seat and drew in a breath setting the glass of amber liquid down, “so how long have you been in New York?”

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    Phoebe's fingers drummed on the glass, finally able to relax a little; it had been a hectic couple of days after all. Her eyes drifted to the musician; it still amazed her that people so mythical were in their midst; probably one of the things she'd never really get used to.  Well hey, some excellent background sound was nothing to gawk over.  Phoebe snapped back to reality, turning to Brandon with a nod, focusing her attention more. 

    "Steady work, huh? I haven't seen any opportunity like that in a long while...."


    She paused, thinking about how nice it could be to settle down a little... but that was wishful thinking.


    "I'm the same way. Got to the city a day ago. Only saw pictures before I came on in."


    She took another sip, reveling in the rare and exquisite taste; for her, at least, setting the glass down and focusing more on conversation.

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    Picking up his glass to take another drink Brandon listened to the woman and nodded his understanding, “grew up in this city, on the streets basically,” Brandon admitted as he took in a deep breath thinking of his days as an orphan in the big apple, “a lot has changed, mostly for the better.“


    The musician was playing on the harp and singing a song from the sixties called, “the sound of silence.” It was a tune Branden had heard before and thought it was rather ironic as the melancholy lyrics were sung.


    “So which direction did you come in from,” Brandon asked taking another sip before setting the glass down again, “I arrived a few months ago for the New Haven to look for a job. Not much there after things. It looks much like a ghost town.”

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    "Better than when everything... all the machines and all worked?" Phoebe asked in disbelief. "It seems a little lawless... some shady looking folks  hanging around when I entered."  Indeed, she was under the impression that the city was doing rather poorly; compared to previously, that is. Otherwise, it was probably her favorite stop so far.


    "I'm from the west, far as it gets in the opposite direction. I've been sort of wandering in New York's direction.... I"ve heard good things, and I'm glad they were true." She continued, listening to the pleasant if melancholic background music. 


    "Any luck with a job search?" She asked curiously, lowering the drink, opting to keep her full senses for at least a while longer.. "Scavenging and selling junk hasn't been the same as it was in the years past. I might end up being your competition in the career market..."

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    “So far just some odd day jobs,” Brandon admitted. 


    He let out a sigh as he pondered how to explain his experience. If Branden had graduated before 2010 and the world entered into this collision of times and worlds he would have had a prestigious, rather high paying job waiting for him upon completion of his Yale degree. But now Yale was an upstart in eduction and a Ph.D from anywhere was not nearly as sought after as those before. Resources were still scarce and the curriculum, even at Yale was not up to the standards held before the general collapse of society. 


     “I would think scavenging would be profitable, probably more than what I’m doing.”  He drew in a breath and smiled, “most of the time my pay isn’t in money anyway.” They just give me something for it and I trade it to get something else, like beer.” The man lifted his glass and grinned at the bar tender, “got some sort of water filter as part of my pay for what I did yesterday, evidently it works in the system they have here so I traded it for drinks and food.”  


    As the graduate spoke he could hear the song played change to something more upbeat, a version of the James Taylor song, “You’ve Got a Friend.”  A few more patrons entered and Brandon looked around at the growing crowd. Coming in to forget their worries.


    Brandon took another sip of the amber liquid, “I grew up here, in New York City.” 


    Although it was true from eleven on he really didn’t know where he was before that. His recent visit to a book shop had set him in the right direction but there were still so many unanswered questions. Brandon shifted again and took another drink before replying again, “things were really bad after the Nevus event. Everything was disrupted, police, social services, hospitals, I don’t remember much before it but the devastation from that, the zombie attacks, the Nevus wave and the Blood Moon last year have all taken a toll on things.”  The man smiled thinking for how things had changed, "it’s been a little slow to recover but still it’s better then it was.”

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    "I've been a trinket peddler, so not much better myself.


       Well, Phoebe wasn't exactly a skilled worker; most of her talents revolved around the whole 'not-being-shot' and surviving in the unknown branch, and she didn't reckon that there'd be shortage of people like her. A part of her thought about looking for a super dangerous job, given her ability... but she really didn't want it to become common knowledge. After all, if the people in the city were anything like the people out of it, she would have a lot to worry about. So far though, it seemed that they were quite nice...


    "And if you think its profitable, it is. Also unreliable as it gets, and I've been shot to death doing it. Figuratively, of course." She added nodding along with her words; she meant it all.


    Yeah, she wasn't exactly satisfied with the way she lived, but she reckoned she could live long and happy on whatever she made from her haul to this city. If she didn't... well, she would have to struggle with finding employment. The last thing Phoebe thought she'd be doing was searching for a job; after all, she wasn't going to get anywhere for her musical talent. She glanced at the musician, exhaling in awe. Maybe a secretary position is open somewhere? She took a hefty sip at the very thought, listening to his words intently.


    "I was in a jewelry store when it all went down.  I guess I had it a lot better than most people..."




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    As Phoebe spoke the musician changed to a songs with a little more upbeat tempo. The words were more in the background to her harp and was a tune Brandon couldn’t recall hearing before. Still, her voice was sweet and melodious. Not knowing the female musician the man thought that if the entertainment business was booming as he heard it was before he could remember she probably would have her own album. As an outworlder that wasn’t much of a option for her. Still, he was pleased she was able to find employment providing enjoyment to those who happened into the unique establishment.


    Valosa ignored both the musician and his glass of spirits for a while as he listened intently to his new acquaintance talk about her career.  There really wasn’t much left of the amber liquid though he hadn’t quite finished it. He swiveled a bit in his stool and leaned a bit forward hoping to hear Pheobe that much better as she spoke intrigued by her stated career. Branden was no expert but he did know something about bartering and it sounded as if Phoebe was far more an expert. His thoughts went to his brooch as he heard her mention she had been in a jewelry store when the Resonance rocked their world.


    He looked towards Jack behind the bar who had busied himself with arranging some of the bottles in an attempt to look busy as he eavesdropped on the conversation. Branden tugged on his sleeves absently as he prepared to make a request of the woman next to him.


    “Would you like to share a table with me,” he offered pointing towards the grouping of tables closer to the musician. He gave her a broad smile, “I’ll buy your dinner and we can hear the music a little better?”

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       By contrast, Phoebe was much more easily distracted, and found herself listening to the music; it wasn't something she'd seen often on the road. It was still a little surreal to her how jovial people could be sometimes; she really ought to smile more, to fit in if nothing else.  She blinked, snapping away from her thoughts and returning her gaze to her counterpart, taking another drink before listening to his inquiry with great interest. After all, conversations had become more and more appealing to her as of late, and she wasn't going to botch it by tuning out.

    "A table, dinner, and some music? Oh, I'd love to," 


       Her eyes lit up at the offer, quite interested.In fact, the idea was very appealing to her. Certainly another rarity for her, and an opportunity such as a good bite to eat and some conversation with a stranger? She definitely wasn't going to pass it up. 


    "Just lead the way."



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    “Gladly,” Brandon’s eyes sparkled as he responded to the words he heard. The grin on his face was about as big as it could get without actually hurting the man.


    His eyes stayed locked on the hazel eyed woman as he addressed the bar tender, “hay Jack, we’re going to move to a table, "could you send a waitress by?”


    “You got it,” the bartender replied picking up two paper menus and placing them on the counter in easy reach of either of them.


    “Thanks Jack,” the man said not letting his eyes leave his new female acquaintance.


    Brandon’s eyes were a little more brown than usual, something that happened when he was feeling happy and there was no doubt he was enjoying himself. He stood retrieving the backpack he had been guarding and offered a hand to Phoebe as if he had an idea of what it was like to be a gentlemen. 


    “Make sure her drinks are on my tab,” Brandon said hoping Jack heard as he turned and began walking to a table.


    Over near the wall was a small round table draped in an off white table flanked by two chairs with cushioned seat not far from where the entertainer sat, more leaned actually, on her own high backed stool. The outworlder smiled as she saw the pair coming over but never missed a beat as she continued her melody. 


    “This one alright,” he asked as he let go of her hand long enough to pull out the chair that faced the woman for Phoebe to have a seat.  

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    Her eyes turned to the table; perfectly adequate for the two of them, she decided. She looked over her clothes and could only regret that she'd yet to gain a change, having just dropped into the city; but it was no matter for her anymore; there were more pressing things to think about.


    She glanced momentarily at his hand, taking her a moment to remember all of the polite things people did when they had four walls and a roof, beaming when the realization finally hit her. Things were just so different than what she was used to...


    "Thank you..." She mumbled as a response to the gesture. She also brought her bag and slung it under the chair. Sure, some enjoyment for herself was wonderful, but she wasn't going to lose her vigilance for her belongings... yet.


    She went over to the table, lowering herself into the chair and pulling it in behind her with a grateful nod.


    "Yes, I believe this one will do just fine."


    Her eyes drifted to the musician, although distracted by her own situation.

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    Brandon nodded as he took in her words He was trying to remember the last time he had the opportunity to really treat a woman like a lady and realized it had been some time, too long in his opinion, and now he was able to do something about it. Classes at Yale and working to keep his bills paid had squelched out any social life like pouring a whole bucket of water on the embers of a fire. Now, with tests and exams behind him, he wasn’t going to let things happen the same way in this budding relationship.


    He glanced at the woman singing for a moment admiring her talent. It seemed odd to him that in spite of her unusual appearance he still found her attractive and he didn’t notice the differences as much. In his mind Brandon imagined she had been morphed into the creature she now was and based on her grasp of so many songs written before the Resonance he was pretty sure that she had not just appeared from another plane of existence. He knew from his own personal experience of seeing someone become something they previously were not that such metamorphoses had taken place. He thought that this was what happened to him though not in as visible a manor. Either way she obviously had a great deal of talent and Brandon was grateful to hear it.


    He walked over to the opposite side of the table pulling out the chair and slid into it. He slid his backpack under the table and drew in a deep breath returning his gaze back to the attractive reddish haired Phoebe.


    “She’s great isn’t she,” Branden taking in a deep breath.


    Behind him the dark haired waitress made her way towards their table. There was a broad smile on her face as she approached clutching the two menus Brandon had left behind at the bar. Her deep chestnut brown hair was parted down the middle and brought to the side in tight braids tough she was probably in her late twenties with bangs trimmed straight across her forehead. She grinned broadly at Phoebe as he came closer, “how is everything tonight?”  She looked over at Brandon and offered him the same expression, “Jack said you left these and I should find out what you wanted to order.”


    Placing the once menus in front of each of them she continued, “I’m Sarah and I’ll be your waitress this evening.” 


    The woman looked over at Phoebe again, “can I get you anything to drink before I take your meal order?”

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