It was late in November, a few years back. I had been going through a rough time lately- my divorce became final a few days ago, I hadn't been able to book a good gig in weeks, and my guitar was on it's last leg anyways. I was sitting at my usual haunt for the past two weeks or so, a small dive bar on the edge of town. It was shady, dimly lit, and full of the dead, yellow stench of stale cigarette smoke. The walls looked like they used to be semi taken care of- now they were filled with holes from the various fights that occurred almost daily. A tall, shady looking male wandered in the door and took the seat next to me at the bar. He shot a glance my way as he leaned over the bar, calling for a draft beer and lighting a cigarette.
Fuck, that reminds me. I only have 2 left in the pack. I sighed and quickly downed my latest shot of whiskey. I had lost count of them about 7 shots deep. I stood and began heading to the bathroom, hoping for a bit of privacy in the john. Really, I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts as I smoked. I shuffled through the door and laughed at my reflection in the mirror; I was a train wreck. An old washed up musician with nothing to show for his troubles.
I lit my cigarette and inhaled deeply, letting the smoke sit in my lungs for a few seconds while I watched the ceiling. The door opened suddenly, and a man came in with a guitar case slung over his shoulder. He nodded to me and sat the case down, leaning against the wall opposite of me. He revealed his own cigarette and asked for a light, so I tossed him mine.
"Privacy, huh?" The man said, his voice gravelly and rough. He seemed nice enough, but this is the kind of place where the "nice enough" would shoot you dead in an alley over ten dollars. I glanced him over as I shrugged and drew from my cig again. He was a skinny guy, clad in a leather jacket and blue jeans. He looked as though he was playing Jailhouse Rock Elvis, and I laughed inwardly at that thought. He looked greasy and out of style, just as washed up as me. I gestured to his case and asked what he played.
"I'm a bass man, actually. I play whatever brings the money in. Here lately, it seems like nothing does." I laughed politely and continued the conversation. We talked for about 30 minutes, just smoking up the bathroom and discussing everything from music to women. He told me he had just come in from Texas, but had been traveling since he left his home in California. Hell of a way from home here in Tennessee.
I lit another cigarette and shook his hand, heading out of the door and towards the bar to pay my tab. The bartender, a long time friend of mine, waved me off and told me to get it next time. I nodded and thanked him, but left five dollars for the Jailhouse Elvis's next drink. When I told him who it was for, he looked shocked and shook his head.
"Kris, I think you're mistaken. Tell me you didn't see that man." He said, his eyes wide. I laughed and asked what his problem was, stunning out my cigarette in the nearby ashtray. "They call him the Drifter, Kris. It's said he died here years ago, sometime around the late 60s. He's an omen. A musician's LAST omen." I just laughed and started for the door, getting in my old truck and starting the engine. A last omen? I've heard a lot of crap, but that certainly is high on the list for best one yet. I noticed the "Drifter" come out of the bathroom and sit on a stool, his case in hand. He turned to me and nodded, a slight grin on his face. The smile gave me the chills, but I shook it off and started home.
About halfway back to the house, a bluesy-rock tune came on the radio and I turned it up. As I rounded a curve about a mile from the house, I saw something step out into the road ahead. I swerved to avoid it, and lost control. The last thing I remember is the sound of a bass guitar, and a greasy Jailhouse Elvis standing in the road.