Chapter 3 of my 5-part story, “Flux” is here! The Classy Alcoholic catches up to the villains behind the attack on Tucson’s craft beer scene. But he quickly discovers that there may be more nefarious forces at work. Click the “Short Stories” tab on the menu above to check out the latest entry or just click the “Continue Reading” link below!
Tap & Bottle – Tucson, AZ
Located at 403 N 6th Ave, #135, Tucson, AZ 85705
Open Mon-Wed 2p-11p; Thu 2p-12a; Fri & Sat 12p-12a; Sun 12p-10p
Pretty much all of the beer-related entries on this blog have taken place at breweries. But I also spend a lot of my personal time at craft beer bars. Tap & Bottle sits just down the street from Borderlands and, since opening in 2013, they’ve earned plenty of well-deserved acclaim. It’s the kind of place where longterm craft beer fans and newbies alike can always find something good to drink.
The place has twenty beers on tap, six wines served by the glass and hundreds of bottles available to drink onsite or take home. They’ve even been highlighted in a couple of national publications like Men’s Journal – which named them one of the 50 Best Beer Stores in America – and Draft Magazine – which included them in their list of the 100 top beer bars in the U.S. They partner up with as many local and out-of-state breweries as they can for weekly events and they’re a regular haunt of the Tucson Girls’ Pint Out crew.
I walked in with my new sidekick, Mallozzi, looking for Andy and Mike of Flux Brewing. The bar was quieter than usual. A bunch of customers must have stayed away, worried about a second attack on the large quantity of beers on tap here. Mallozzi grabbed a bottle of baby oil from his vest pocket and rubbed a handful of it onto his prominent, bare pecks and six pack abs. He always did that when he was nervous. I looked at my reflection on his greasy ab sheen and made sure my hair still looked fabulous. It did.
“What am I looking for, Mallozzi? I’ve never met these Flux dudes.”
“I don’t see them. You can’t miss Mike, though. He’s a huge guy that could bench press you without breaking a sweat. But you’ll always miss Andy. He’s tricky and you probably won’t see him until it’s too late. He’s a master of disguise.”
“Let’s not wait for them to get the drop on us, then.”
Mallozzi and I went to look at the keg lines searching for the black device that injected a beer-killing virus into everything that was on tap. We looked through every single one of the twenty keg hoses but didn’t see a thing. Tap & Bottle had three Flux kegs on tap; the two collaborations I already saw at 1912 and Borderlands and a third saison that was made in collaboration with Public Brewhouse, another Tucson brewery that I loved.
“Dammit, Mallozzi, there’s nothing here. Why wouldn’t Flux try to destroy Tap & Bottle’s beers like they did over at the breweries?”
“Who’s to say we’re not, Classy?” I turned around and saw Andy Schlicker staring right at us. His evil, Joker-like smile paired perfectly with his glowing red eyes.
“Okay, ummm…I thought you were a master of disguise?”
“You should know better than anyone that you can be in disguise in plain sight, bro. Flux has been working on this extensive operation right under everyone’s noses. And now our plan will finally come to pass and we’ll ruin every single craft beer in Tucson. Even the ones that aren’t made in town that come in to beer bars like this.”
“Don’t do this Andy. You’re not yourself. I’ve seen that red glow in other people’s eyes. You’re being mind-controlled by my ex-girlfriend Rosario Vargas. Trust me, she doesn’t really care about you. She’s just using you to do her bidding. Let me help you.”
“NO! You’re just jealous that Rosario wants me more than she wants you! She’s sick of your dumb dick joke blog stories; sick of the fact that you don’t know how to come up with a decent alibi for her whenever you get questioned by INTERPOL and sick of the fact that you just wanna cuddle and cry during all of her conjugal visits.”
“Because she always wants me to smuggle in way too many cigarettes and cocaine-filled condoms for her! And I don’t have enough space up there yet you fucking asshole!”
I knew that Andy wasn’t in control of what he was saying. I knew he probably didn’t mean a word that came out of his mouth. But I couldn’t help losing my shit. I swung my fist at his evil, smirking face. I passed right through him and ended up falling on the floor. I got up and tried to punch him again. My entire arm went through his stomach, hitting only air.
“Holy shit, Mallozzi! Andy is some kind of 3D hologram!”
“Oh. Ohhhh noooo,” Mallozzi said, rubbing even more baby oil on his monstrous biceps and sexy abs. “I forgot, I developed a hologram device at the university about six months ago. Andy asked me to borrow it ‘cause he wanted to watch ten of himself doing The Electric Slide naked at his last birthday party. And it’s so hard for me to say no to people, you know that.”
“So you’re the owner of a successful small business, you have a Ph.D. in microbiology AND you created mobile holographic technology? Jesus, save a mountain of panties for the rest of us, will ya? Wait…how many naked Andys were dancing at the party again?”
Another Andy hologram appeared behind me. A third popped up behind the bar. Another one showed up at the front door. All of a sudden Mallozzi and I were surrounded by nearly a dozen Andys. There was no way to tell which one was real.
“I told you, Classy! I’m a master of disguise in plain sight!”
Every hologram threw its head back and let out a thundering laugh at once that shook the walls and felt like a knife in my eardrum. Mallozzi and I covered our ears as our brains rattled inside of our skulls.
“That’s the Schlicker laugh!” he yelled. “He must’ve learned how to weaponize it! We have to get out of range before our heads explode, Scanners style!”
Mallozzi pointed to a set of stairs heading down into the basement where Tap & Bottle stored kegs and other supplies. We were about to head in there when a giant man leapt out and landed in front of us. Mike Figueira, a massive Samoan dude with a chin beard and earplugs, stood over us with his glowing red eyes about to burst into flames. He was Andy’s partner in the Flux Brewing operation and he was none too happy. He swung his boulder-like fist straight at my face.
Mallozzi dove in front of me and used his killer abs as a shield. Mike’s fist slid right off the baby oil slick on the abs without doing any damage, thankfully. Mallozzi heroically jumped in front of every punch with his slippery chest as Mike’s fist continued to slide off with a high-pitched squeak. It was kind of like when you tried to squeeze a bar of soap in your hands in the shower.
The Andy holograms let out another screeching HAHAHAHAHA! that cracked a bunch of pint glasses with it’s sonic frequency. My vision started to blur and I felt like I was about to pass out. I couldn’t reach every hologram in time to find the real Andy before I lost consciousness. Mallozzi was holding his own against Mike but his baby oil flak jacket was gonna dry up soon and he was out of bottles.
I grabbed my headphones out of my pocket and stuck them into my cell phone. I quickly pulled up the first Coldplay album I could find and played it. The soothing sounds of Chris Martin’s whiny voice offset Andy’s sonic laughing scream long enough to let me grab a bomber of beer from one of Tap & Bottle’s fully stocked beer fridges. I shook the bottle as hard as I could and popped it open, shooting the stream of delicious beer across every single Andy hologram in the bar. The beer went right through all of the fake, 3D images but actually soaked the real Andy’s clothes and face.
“Shit,” the real Andy said as I ran toward him and tackled his ass to the ground. He was about to let out another sonic laugh when I took my tie off and stuffed it into his mouth, shutting him up. I sat on his chest and watched Mallozzi lock Mike’s arms from behind. He took off his belt and used it to tie up Mike’s wrists together. The two of them ended up on the floor looking like a greasy, sexy man sandwich.
“Hey guys?” I said. “My birthday isn’t till February.”
“How do we stop these guys from being mind controlled, Classy?”
“We have to get them back to their natural state. Before Rosario dug her claws into them.” I reached into Tap & Bottle’s fridge and grabbed a can of the Husstler milk stout from Huss Brewing in Tempe. “Which means we have to get them super drunk.”
I popped open the beer, pulled my tie out of Andy’s mouth and shoved the can right into his face. Mallozzi grabbed a can of the black IPA from Mother Road brewing in Flagstaff and made Mike guzzle it. They kept struggling so Mallozzi and I kept grabbing more beers and forcing them down their throats. Mike was stretching out the belt on his wrists with his superhuman strength so hard that it was about to rip.
“These beers aren’t strong enough, Mallozzi! Get me a barrel-aged imperial stout with the highest ABV you can find!”
“Okay, Classy, but these beers are gonna end up being super expensive!”
“Don’t worry, I gave the guy behind the bar your credit card when we got here. They’ll just put this all on your tab.”
“What? Wait, when did you steal my credit card?”
“There’s no time to talk, Mallozzi! We have to keep feeding these guys beers so we can save them!”
“Actually, there’s plenty of time now. I mean, I can pour beer into Mike’s face and talk so you can just tell me how you got your hands on my credit card.”
“Don’t you get it?!? We have to get Rosario’s hold off of these guys as fast as we can so we can figure out her evil plan and stop her!”
“Yeah, um, I know that. But we’re not doing anything else right now so you might as well just answer my question. I mean…did you steal my credit card when you stole my car four months ago and also again two months ago and drove it across the border?”
“OH NO, MALLOZZI! Andy’s sonic laugh must’ve ruined my ability to pick up any sexy frequencies because I can’t hear a word you’re saying right now!!!!”
The Flux guys stopped struggling. The red glow of their eyes faded and returned to normal. I gave them a minute to regain their composure as Mallozzi paid his big-ass tab.
“What the hell is going on, Classy?” Mike Figueira asked. “Why are we tied up?”
I told both the guys the entire story that led me to Tap & Bottle. They were shocked. They had no memory of anything they had done and no idea that they tried to destroy the beer they worked so hard to make as well as the beer they loved to drink at other local breweries.
Andy reached into his pocket and found three capped syringes.
“That’s the chemical compound that’s been ruining all the beer,” Mallozzi said, spreading his tab across two credit cards because he didn’t have enough balance on the first one. “You guys didn’t try to destroy the kegs here yet because you were using this place as a base of operations. Where else where you when you injected the compound into that device?”
Mike was racking his brain trying to recover some memory of the last twenty-four hours.
“All I can see is flashes of my childhood. I’m in a video store. It can’t be a Blockbuster or a Hollywood Video because I can see myself in the porn section and those places never rented out that kinda stuff. I can also see beer for some reason. A flight of beer.”
“That’s not your childhood, Mike,” I said. “That’s the craft beer bar over at Casa Video. It’s the last video store in Tucson…and maybe the world. Rosario is probably there right now. I have to go stop her.”
“Wait, Classy,” Andy said. “There’s no way we’re letting you go by yourself. We may have been mind controlled but it was still us who tried to destroy all these local beer businesses. And we’re not gonna just sit by and let you clean up our mess for us.”
“Besides,” Mike cut in. “We know how powerful Rosario is. We know you couldn’t stop her before when she decided to put that embarrassing video online of you drunkenly karaoke-ing Coldplay and then crying at that dive bar…and you can’t stop her now without our help.”
“Aw, goddammit, you saw that video?”
“Yeah, everybody did. We go back and watch it every few weeks or so and-”
A silver pellet slid through the floor of the bar from the side entrance, toward us. A huge cloud of smoke erupted from the pellet and covered the whole place. I couldn’t see a damn thing.
“Oh em GEEEEE, you guys!” a woman’s voice said through the smoke. “Y’all need to surrender now or Imma kick your asses into next Tuesday. No…wait, next Wednesday! ‘Cause I have my child support hearing on Tuesday!”
It was Fran from Girls’ Pint Out, still hammered drunk. A silver ninja star flew right past my ear and lodged itself into the wall behind me. I yelled at my team to get down but Mallozzi wasn’t fast enough. A throwing star jabbed him in the shoulder. Fran was throwing her weapons blindly through the smoke.
“I got this,” Andy said. “Cover your ears!”
We did as we were told as Andy let out another sonic laugh across the room. The smoke dissipated from the sound and Fran was knocked off her feet into the beer fridge behind her. I used my handkerchief to put pressure on Mallozzi’s arm wound. I could barely stop the bleeding.
“Classy,” he said. “I don’t think I’m gonna make it. You have to leave me behind.”
“Fuck that, man! I couldn’t possibly leave you here…’cause, you know…you’re the only one of us sober enough to drive.”
I carried Mallozzi in my arms, The Bodyguard style, as Mike carried Fran. We ran over to Mallozzi’s truck at the Borderlands parking lot. If Fran’s drunk ass could find us then the rest of the Girls’ Pint Out crew wasn’t far behind. I used my necktie as a tourniquet on Mallozzi and got him right enough to drive us to Casa Video. Luckily it was less than ten minutes east of Tap & Bottle.
We left downtown Tucson and headed toward midtown, unsure of what we would face next. But at least we knew that we would face it together.
As long as Mallozzi didn’t bleed the fuck out on us.
To be continued…