It was a run-down joint where time stood still and probably slid backward. Wood-paneled walls. Cracked leather studded with brass. Deep booths that were once red, now the color of a bruise. It was the kind of place where you might have sealed a business deal in a different decade, but now it was where you came when you had no more business to conduct. Paper lanterns and a plastic palm tree. Tangled Christmas lights on the ceiling and a Rock-Ola jukebox that sang listen to the rhythm of the falling rain. A flatscreen above the bar showed a celebrity laughing in a prison yard, and I could not tell if it was a movie or a news report.

A woman mumbled into her drink. “Everything’s a mystery and I’m just a tiny part of it. Maybe that’s all I need to know.” The wall of liquor shimmered like stained glass. The Christmas lights flickered and the TV glitched. Another brownout.

This is the sixth episode of Interstate Scenes, a fictional collection of homeless paragraphs, remixed and upcycled bits from the past, and bloopers from the stories I’m writing.