Portal - By Brian Law

Jesse liked to start drinking early at the little bar next to the bus station. He knew the buses from Amarillo and from across the border in Oklahoma started arriving about eight and that’s when the bar got crowded. And Jesse liked to drink alone, so six o’clock in the morning was when he would usually push a twenty across the bar to the bartender and say, “Let’s go, Jimmy.” 


Today was no exception, except after his second shot of tequila Jesse noticed something new among the array of liquor bottles against the back wall of the bar. He asked the bartender about the new bottle, “What’s that? Por Tal? Is that it? That’s ‘For Such’ in Spanish, I think. Am I right, Jimmy?”


Jimmy moved closer and rested on the bar so that he could see Jesse and that Jesse could still see the new bottle. “That’s what I thought when the salesman came in late yesterday. But he told me that it’s not Spanish. It’s just what it looks like. It’s called ‘Portal’. You know, it’s English,” Jimmy replied. “Seems I got the last available bottle hereabouts.”


Jesse noticed that it was unopened. “Anybody asked about it last night before closing, Jimmy?” he wondered.


“Yeah, lots of folks. But at $125 a shot, no takers.”  Then Jimmy admitted,  “I may have made a little mistake when I paid $900 for that bottle of tequila, Jesse.”


“Yeah, you may have. That’s not like you to do something like that, Jimmy,” Jesse replied frankly. “Nobody who drinks here’s got that kinda dough.”


Jimmy reached over and grabbed the bottle and placed it on the bar in front of them. “Well, see, this salesman says this stuff isn’t just regular tequila. It’s got other stuff in it, stuff they got from the shamans down in Mexico when they blended it,” Jimmy explained. “Guy told me you take a shot of this stuff, and it opens up doors to whole new experiences, Jesse. Whole new experiences.”


A child of the 60’s, Jesse was no stranger to hallucinogenic concoctions. He’d tried a lot of them. A few too many. Some were still with him.


Jimmy continued, “And the guy went on to tell me the reason this stuff is so rare is that the government is using it to treat vets with PTSD and shit like that. Claims it works miracles, Jesse! Miracles!”


Jesse could use a miracle. His life had spiraled down to near rock bottom. Everybody knew it. The next stop for Jesse was oblivion.


“Miracles, huh?” Jesse mused to himself. “Sounds pretty good to me, Jimmy.”


Jimmy leaned in and said in a low voice, “Listen, my friend, you’re a good customer. I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you a shot of this stuff on credit.” As Jimmy patted the bottle of Portal, he added, “Whatta ya say? You can pay me back a little at a time? Say two bucks a week?”


Jesse stared at the bottle. Did it contain his redemption? he wondered. Did he really have anything to lose?


He looked back at Jimmy and countered, “Listen, if this stuff works for me, you can use me as living proof. I’ll be a walking, talking advertisement. You’ll have people lining up for this stuff. You can get $150, no, $200 a shot or more when they see how it’s helped me, Jimmy! But I can’t pay $125. It’s gotta be on the arm, Jimmy.”


Jimmy was startled a bit. Jesse’s brain, soaked in alcohol for decades, shouldn’t have been able to come up with what he’d just proposed. But, there it was. And it made sense to Jimmy.


“Okay, one shot. That’s it. On the arm. But you gotta come back in here when there are people around, Jesse. Won’t do me any good if you still keep showing up at six in the morning,” Jimmy said pointedly as he reached over and opened the bottle of Portal. “We got a deal, Jesse? One drink, and you show up when I got a crowd?”


Jesse nodded and waited as Jimmy poured out a shot of Portal and moved it to Jesse’s waiting hand.


“Go ahead,” Jimmy said, urging Jesse on. “What’s the worst that can happen?”


The tequila went down smoothly, and as Jesse placed the shot glass back down on the bar, both he and Jimmy waited for what would happen next.


Someone else was waiting, too. The Portal salesman, still dressed in black, lurked in one of the bar's dark corners. He'd been waiting there since he'd sold Jimmy the bottle. He'd been waiting for the first customer to drink from the bottle.


Just like he'd waited, one soul at a time, for millenia.




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