Scene Title Donor
Synopsis August Yeats is in a world of pain, and desperate times call for desperate measures.
Date February 26, 2014

“You know you can smoke in here, sweetheart. There’s no real government to tell you not to.”

The voice belongs to the bartender and owner of the Keg Stand, a brassy blond named Marnie. She’s opened the door just wide enough to peer out at the man standing on the stoop smoking in the snow. Despite the name of the bar, like most things in St. Johnsbury, the interior of the bar is quaint and charming — it’s hardly a mecca for frat guys. For one, there’s not a college in town for there to be any of those. St. J’s far too small for that.

The Keg Stand does garner a more rough and tumble crowd than some of the nicer bars in the town left almost untouched by the war. Being small and remote has its privileges - St. J’s got through the war all but unscathed.

The same can’t be said for the clientele. The man on the stoop shakes his head in response as he takes another long, deep drag from the cigarette —the pull is strong enough to burn down the paper to where it rests between two shaky fingers, and he hisses as he drops it into the snow.

“Suit yourself, sweetie,” Marnie says, disappearing back to the warm interior of the bar.

The man remains, watching the snow drift down in slow, lazy eddies. After several minutes, a pair of war veterans exit. One hobbles with a cane as the other helps him.

“Sorry, Yeats,” the man with the cane says. “The place is all yours, kid.” They know why he’s outside. It’s because of them.

August Yeats winces as they pass him, gritting his teeth into a forced smile and waving off the apology. Once they’re past, he turns to go back inside.

The Keg Stand
St. Johnsbury, Vermont

February 26, 2014
8:30 pm

“Another, when you can,” August says, with a wave toward his empty glass. He’s a couple drinks in, and with the alcohol, he’s a changed man. His cheeks are aglow with the heat of the liquor, and he’s just hitting that place where everything is a warm and comfortable sort of numb.

Better yet, everyone in the bar has hit that place as well.

There are still some aches and pains, dull and muted, that he can feel, but the clientele tonight is mostly civilians, now that the other two war veterans have left. He can deal with the low throb of an arthritic knee or some heartburn. He pats down his coat and comes up with a roll of Tums, popping one in his mouth. For him, it’s nothing more than a placebo effect, and he knows it, but it seems to help.

“Hey brother, can you spare a dime?” says the proper owner of the heartburn a couple of barstools away. August rolls him the tube. “Keep it,” he offers, reaching for his refilled whiskey.

The twinge of pain August gets in his right shoulder is new. It’s a subtle, stabbing pain like a pinched nerve. It takes him a moment to pinpoint where it’s coming from, but the middle-aged man sitting at the corner of the bar diagonal from August is making awkward eye contact when he looks his way, shoulder tweaked to the side and rolled just so. It’s a slow gesture, one that feels like it’s working out a kink but taking his sweet fucking time about it.

“You got any more of that rye whiskey?” The stranger says, motioning to a bottle Marnie had served him from earlier, wobbling his empty glass from side to side as he does. “I could use a little more. Top off for the tank.” He says with a hint of a smile.

As the stranger sets his glass down it’s beside the green and red trucker cap he’d been wearing earlier in the night. Now, with the hat off, August can see the close-cropped crew cut he wears more clearly. The line of a scar on the back of his head going to behind his ear looks deep, but old. He angles dark eyes back to August again, but says nothing.

Alone, the new pain isn’t unbearable, but uncomfortable. But it’s hardly the only pain in the room. August could point to each person in the bar and name a malady — no one here is entirely pain free, but the degrees differ. The stranger’s pain on top of the mix sits a little higher than that almost-numbness he’d been enjoying — like an un-ignorable grating or scratching on top of a comfortable blanket of white noise.

August’s eyes tighten a little in the corners; the younger man can’t help but rotate his shoulder a moment after the stranger does the same, then wipes his too-warm brow with the back of his sleeve. With a glance toward the door, August considers calling it an evening. But Marnie’s pouring him his refill, before she reaches for the bottle of rye for the man with the pinched nerve.

August remains — at least to finish his drink.

Then he does it again, more purposeful than last time. He really winds back his shoulder, grinds that pinched nerve in a way only someone who has lived with that pain would know how to aggravate. It’s like a knife, but one he’s planted in August’s shoulder. Marnie’s in the middle of pouring him his drink when he says out of the corner of his mouth. “It’s a bitch, isn’t it?” Then, with one more jerk of his shoulder looks over to August. “A hurt like that.”

This time, the pain is strong enough to draw August’s brows together, and he turns to look at the stranger even before he speaks — like he might someone speaking too loudly on a cell phone at a diner, or the parent of a child kicking his seat on a train.

But when the man speaks to him, his brows lift then draw together again. Asshole isn’t spoken, but it’s clearly what August is thinking. Questions begin to slowly blossom in his mind beneath the warm, sweet haze of the whiskey. He’s quiet for a moment, and it seems that August’s plan might just be to ignore the man and hope he goes away. But after another swallow of the whiskey, he reaches into his coat pocket; a couple of pill bottles come out, and he squints at one, then the other, then tucks the extra away again.

Rattling the slim amber bottle, he squints at the contents — only two pills remain within. “I’m out of most things,” he says in a low voice. “A couple of norcos, vicodin, is all I got on me that’ll do that any good.” August shrugs, and the pain is such that even that seems to exacerbate the empathic pain in his shoulder. “Twenty bucks’n they’re yours.”

The stranger waves a hand, dismissing the notion of pills entirely. “Not here for pain killers,” he explains in a low tone, moving his drink closer to himself with his free hand. Now that he’s stopped purposefully tweaking his bad shoulder the sympathetic pain in August’s begins to fade with a dull throb. “I’m here about killing the pain.”

For a moment it feels like the stranger is going to leave it at that. He lifts his glass and takes a swig from it, but then motions toward August with the brim and continues.

“Word got around about who you are.” The stranger says. “What you are.” Now he sets the drink down, not once looking away from August. “I came out here to see if it was true. I work for a group of people who help folks like you, ones with things way out of your control that fuck you up like war fucked up these people.”

Killing the pain. August assumes the stranger means something heavier, oxy or meth or heroin. He’s about to reply when the other man continues, and August’s jaw tenses. When the other man doesn’t look away, he does, lifting his own drink to take a hasty swallow, giving himself a reprieve from that unrelenting gaze.

What I am,” he repeats, a soft scoff made rough from whiskey punctuating his words. “That’s a bit objectifying, pal. I’m more than a genetic marker.”

Even as he says the words, August doubts them. His ability — one he can’t control — has directed his life down a particular path, then obstructed his journey along that same path. He rattles the ice in his glass and sets it down, before turning back toward the stranger.

“No offense, but this sounds like either a cult or a ploy by Humanis First. Or a cult serving as a front for Humanis First,” August says with a small smirk. “How can you help me? I’ve tried the whole Jedi training thing, didn’t take.”

The stranger laughs, a bit surprised by his own reaction judging from his expression. Rather than immediately answer he takes a sip of his drink and sets it back down on the bar. “Wrong end of the spectrum, kid,” is how he chooses to frame things.

“I work for a group of people invested in making sure genetic markers like yours are with people who want them.” The stranger says. “We have a medical procedure that can permanently remove what ails you, at no long-term discomfort to yourself. I won’t lie, it’s not a painless process, but it’s fast and efficient. You’re in and out in an hour.”

The Stranger turns on his stool to fully face August. “But this ain’t FDA approved shit we’re talking about here. So, keep that in mind. But for guys like you? Ones with powers that hurt more than help? We’re a blessing in disguise.”

The laughter draws both brows up in August’s face; he doesn’t smile in response, like some might do, even not getting what’s suddenly funny. He looks up at the man under a furrowed brow, and it’s not unlike a child looking sullen for being laughed at.

But when the Stranger speaks again, a new emotion lights August’s gray eyes, one that hasn’t been there for a long time.


He turns to face the other man, mirroring the stranger unconsciously. “But how is that possible? How does it work? And why would anyone want this?” he asks, a hand touching his chest lightly, as if that’s where his ability lives in his body.

The scientific part of him wants to understand the process, and a hundred questions wash up against his lips begging to be asked, but August leaves it at those three, plus one more:

“What does it cost me?”

“I don’t know the science of it, I’m just an old vet.” The stranger says with a slow rise and fall of his shoulders. “I’ve seen it work with my own two eyes, though. As for what it costs?” He takes a large swallow of his drink, finishing it. “You’d be amazed what some people would pay to be even a fraction of what you are.” Based on his tone and the smugness in his expression, he doesn’t seem to think too highly of those kinds of people.

“There’s a sucker born every day, Mr. Yeats,” the stranger says as he slides off of his stool. “But I figure you’re already worried you’d be one of them if you agree.” He reaches into the breast pocket of his button-down shirt and hands August a business card. “Sleep on it. Give me a call when you have an answer.”

August’s eyes are drawn to the winged sword on the card, on the name DURANDAL International printed across it. A private security company? On the back side, the stranger is given a name.

Jakob Tafero.


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