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Bar Room Wisdom
       by Dylan S. Benton

There is a little known bar up in northern Washington State. The sign out front reads "Pap's Tavern". There is no Paps to be found. The bar is owned and run by a man named Harland Dorchester. Its insides are dark and dusty. The wood chips on the floor are soaked through with stale beer and blood from many a rough and rowdy night back god knows when. It's frequented by the local logging community. Haggard characters. They do a hard days work and look forward to a hard nights drinking.

It was a rare occasion when this bar saw a new face. The newest face they had seen showed up on a cold winter's night going on a month ago. He brought the blustering wind in with him when he opened the double oak doors, along with some suspicious stares. He was short dark and ugly. He sat at the bar night after night, keeping to himself, face down in a mug, only sharing a few scarce words with the bartender when he ordered another drink. He fit right in. Normally a new body comes in that isn't familiar with the locals he's shown the quickest way to a broken nose. But something about this man kept off these unwanted advances. You could say there was an air about him. Someone you knew you shouldn't cross. And then one night, out of the blue, just when he was becoming familiar enough to notice, he didn't show. That was three weeks ago.

Those double doors swung open again, blew against the walls with loud bangs and there he was, snow beating hard against his back. The thick fur coat he wore dusted white. Everyone stopped and stared. The questions were thick in the air, almost tangible. No one had the courage to ask them of him, and after a few moments silence the loud ruckus returned and everyone went back to the nightly routine. The stranger took up his old place at the bar. "You got a cigar bub?" He asked the bartender. "A good one?" His voice was gruff and low. He growled his words more than spoke them.

"Matter of fact we do." Harland dorchester reach down behind the counter with fat fingers for a beaten old box he kept usually for himself. "These right here are cubans my friend. Part of my own personal collection." He displayed the cigar proudly as he spoke. "And I'll give it to ya for free on one condition."

"Let's hear it." Said the stranger.

"Tell me where you been. You seem to me like a man with alot to tell but no good reason to tell it. So here it is." With that he handed the cuban over to the stranger.

"Well, that sure is a hell of a good reason. And it just so happens I do have a story to tell."

The stranger brought a hairy hand up to the bar. He took a quick look around to make sure no one was looking, and then very slowly something strange happened. The skin on the back of his hand cut open. Small drops of blood ran down as the cut grew. There was the sound of metal sliding against metal as a single silver blade began to protrude from the wound. Harland stared in amazment but remained silent. The silver blade came out only about an inch or two. Just far enough for him to cut through the tip of the cuban cigar. It slid through the thick brown blunt like a knife through butter. And then slid back inside the wound from which it came. As quickly as this had all happened, the wound closed itself and dissapeared, leaving only the dried drops of blood as reminders of it's once being there. "Still think you can keep a secret?" The hairy stranger asked.

Harland nodded. His mouth was still hanging wide open.

"Good." The man struck a match, set it to the tip of his cigar and puffed twice before tossing it to the ground of spongey wooden chips. "The name's Logan, by the way."

Another slack jawed nod from the bartender.

"And I guess I should start by tellin' you about a man by the name of Charley......."

And so the story began....."And the city of Portland, Oregon. I was sittin' right here drinkin' a tall cold one when I felt an itchin' in the back of my brain. The kind ya can't scratch. That was good old Charley. He was sendin' an urgent message from all the way back east in Salem Center New York. It's an odd thing when someone reaches out and grabs hold a yer brain like that. I didn't so much hear him as I felt what he was feelin. "There's a boy I want you to go see Logan." He tells me. This boy is in Portland Oregon. He's a mutant. He's in trouble, I think he could do with some of your help. And then I smelled the kids smell. I heard the kid's voice. And I up and left. After finishing my beer of course. I took my old heap motorcycle and headed off down the snowy pass. Not stoppin' for nothing. When I get a smell o someone in me It's damn near impossible for me to break until I've found em. As I rode through the night that kid's name kept echoin' through my skull. Daniel Turner. Another day and another night's ride and there I was. Portland, "The city of roses." Or so the sign says. I smelled nothin but exhaust and cold wet rain. It's a dismal city this time of year. Always dark as an Alaskan winter. And soakin wet. And I smelled the kid.

I made my way downtown and found a spot to park my bike. Charley must have felt I was gettin close cause as soon as I stepped off the Harley there was the itch again. No words or nothin', just a little jolt of encouragement. I followed the kids scent, nose in the air, down a few blocks to a little basement bar. "The Hauf Brau". Not a bad place to meet the kid, a dark german lager always hits the spot. I stepped inside that place and gave it the old once over. No kids in here as far as I could see. All the smoke hanging in the air made it damn near impossible to smell anything. I had no idea what the kid was supposed to look like either. That was one of the odd things Charley had mentioned. "I can't see his face Logan. It's as if it's always changing."

The first thing that did stick out in that place was a fella at the bar. He was screamin' loud as all hell and he had a frail on each arm. I saw he was throwin' around money like there was no tomorrow. Buyin' the whole place rounds. Might as well start somewhere, I thought to myself, so I grabbed the stool next to him. He eyed me as soon as I sat down. "What're you drinkin' buddy? I'm buying!"

"A pitcher of your finest lager." I told the bartender. "But I'm buyin'." I figured I didn't want to contribute to the fella's empty pockets when he wakes up the next day barely rememberin' his own name.

"Fair enough." He says to me. "What's the name man?"

"The name's Logan. And you?"

"Danny."

Bingo. A shot in the dark can sometimes turn out to be the best shot of em all.

The barkeep handed me the pitcher and I raised it to toast. "Here's to livers and lungs. Who needs em anyway?"

"I'll drink to that!" The kid resounded.

Only problem was he wasn't a kid. He had the smell and he had the name, but he didn't have the face. The man sittin' next to me was 35 if he was a day. I ordered a pack of cigarettes from the man behind the bar, lit one up and puffed at it. All the while staring at the "kid". He was entertaining those ladies to no end, more with his wallet than his wit. I let him have his fun and sat there waiting for a chance to talk to him one on one. He was throwin' back drink after drink. Any time I see a man drinkin' that hard, unless the man is me, I know what's going to come next. He finally reached his limit. The "kid's" face went a pale green and he shot up from his stool, tossing the girls aside. He made a loud gurgling noise. The universal language for "clear the way to the toilets". I followed his stumbling path to a dirty bathroom stall. I stood outside the open door as he threw all his drinks straight down into the murky porcelain bowl. When he stopped I figured it was time for me to talk. "How old are you kid?"

His eyes were wet with strained tears. "Whuzzitmatter?"

"You look old enough, that's fer sure. But yer tossin' yer guts out like a man ain't lived long enough to know his own limit's. So how old are ya?"

He stared at me for a long while through his blurred swirling vision, and much to my suprise answered my question more straightforward than I would've expected. "Uhm 17."

"That's what I thought. Get yerself up kid. Let's take a walk." I bent over and offered him my hand. I helped him up, leaned him on my shoulder, and walked him out into the cool night air.

"Whattabout my friend's?" He asked, reffering to the two giggly girls that had been keeping close company with him earlier.

"I'm not so sure those are yer friends."

We walked aimlessly in the night, not saying a word to each other until finally the kids legs gave out. He fell in a heap against a brick wall. Damn. I didn't even get a chance to find out where he lived. I decided to take him somewhere warm so he could sleep off the drink. I positioned him carefully onto the back of my bike and drove to a nearby hotel. We would talk in the morning.

I was in the shower the next morning when my ears pricked up. I heard the bedsheets rustling in the other room. The kid was gettin up finally. I towelled off, got dressed, and walked to the other room. "Where am I?" He asked, still groggy.

"You're in a warm bed instead of out in the streets. My treat."

"Who are you?"

"The name's Logan. As I said last night but I'm sure ya don't remember."

The kid looked around the room nervously. Then he looked again at me more than a little bit scared. "A short hairy beast like myself ain't exactly the best sight to wake up to, I know. Especially with the monster headache you probably got goin. But I was sent here to find you. By a man named Charles Xavier. I'm one of the X-Men."

"Like the super heroes? You don't look like a superhero. Aren't you supposed to be wearing tights or something?"

"Y'know, I don't really go along with that whole spandex thing some of those guys got going."

"Well say I choose to believe your story. Why in the hell would somebody send you after me? What's so special about me?"

"I think you've already got some idea. You're a mutant, according to Charley at least. I'm just here to check you out. It's this little child outreach thing Chuck's got goin. He likes to help those who might need helpin. Judgin by last nights performance I think you might be in need of some helpin. And I'm beginning to understand a little bit what your power is."

"I know I'm a mutant. I've known for quite a while now. Except it seems like I'm not one of the lucky ones. Don't have beams to shoot from my eyes. Can't lift a car over my head. I can't do much of anything. I just get old real fast. I look like I'm fucking over the hill already but I'm not even old enough to buy cigarettes. Some power huh?" The kid hung his head.

"Well, I guess you know more about yourself than I could try and tell you. But why the hell are you out there at night trying to kill yourself?"

Danny knew this question was coming and he already had his answer before it was even asked. "I want to have as much fun as I can before I die. And I don't think I have much time left."

Logan could feel the pain the kid was in. He saw the sadness in his eyes, the hoplessness. He didn't need superhuman powers to sense that. The two of them sat in silence. Logan racked his brain, trying to find some words of comfort. Finally some came. "Can I tell you a little bit about myself kid?" Danny nodded. "I've seen and been through a hell of alot in my life kid. In a way we've both got alot in common. I'm just on the other side of the fence. You wouldn't know it to look at me but I've been walking this earth for a little more than a century now. I've been through two wars in my lifetime. I've been all over the damn globe and I've had to stand by and watch as good friends passed on for no good reason at all. I've held the woman I loved in my arms and watched the wonderful light fade from her eyes. More than once. You got the right idea in your head kid. Life is precious, every damned minute of it. I've got so many minutes that sometimes I tend to lose sight of that fact myself. God knows a life wasted ain't no life at all. But you're goin' about it all the wrong way kid. Livin' life to it's fullest doesn't mean passing out stupid on a cold street at three in the morning after some wide eyed frails just emptied your wallet without a thought to your well being. You understand what I mean?"

"Yeah," the kid said, "but you don't really take your own advice too much to heart do you? You were throwing back drinks last night harder than I was. Only you could still manage to get me all the way back here somehow."

Logan smiled inside, "That comes back to my particular mutant ability. I can handle it like that."

"I guess so."

"What about your parents kid? What do they think on your whole party hearty lifestyle?"

"Exactly. What about 'em? I've never met them before in my life. I grew up with a bunch of other lost little kids in an orphanage. They called it a youth outreach center. I bounced around from foster home to foster home. None of them ever really took to me I guess. I was a little bit of a handful. Finally, last year, I bounced myself right out onto the street. The state gives me money to pay for a shitty little apartment, one bedroom place. That's about it."

Wolverine tried futily to think back on his own parents. He had never known them either, not that he could remember. "There's just more we got in common kid. I can't remember a thing about my parents either. Hell, I don't even know my own last name. The first real people to ever take me in were a couple up in Canada. They found me roamin' the woods stark naked during what I would call a bit of a crazy spell I was having. They took me in and finally showed me what a home really was. You never know what a good thing that is to you feel it for yerself. There's a place over in new york for people like you and me. If you want, I'm sure you could find a home there. There's people your age there."

Danny laughed at the thought. "My age, huh. Not for long. Before you know it you'll be calling me gramps. I don't have time left to get people to start loving me and get settled in. Believe me, I don't have time."

"You got time to take a little trip?"

"A trip where?"

"You ever been to Japan?"



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