The penultimate chapter of my 5-part story, “Flux,” just landed! The Classy Alcoholic leads his team to a craft beer bar inside of a video rental store in Tucson and runs into a familiar face from his past.
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Casa Film Bar – Tucson, AZ
Located at 2906 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85716
Open Mon-Sun 10:00a-1:00a
Some of my younger readers may not know what a “video rental store” is. It’s like Netflix but if you had to go into a Best Buy to find the movies you want to watch. And then you have to give them back after a few days unless you want to pay them more money. And if you don’t know what a “Best Buy” is, it’s like Amazon but you have to get into a car and drive there to buy things. I know, sounds like some bullshit, right?
Video stores began closing in huge numbers when VOD services became prominent in the mid-2000s and Redbox made it possible to get movies without having to interact with any surly humans. But through it all Casa Video in Tucson survived. It’s the last video rental store in town…and maybe the world. I imagine it’s patronized by people who have good memories of heading to the local video store with the family and enjoying a film together on the couch on Friday nights as a reward for a good report card.
As opposed to my own memories of renting a movie and watching it over and over again, alone in my bedroom, turning it up as loud as I could to drown out the sounds of my parents yelling at each other in the next room. I found solace in the warm glow of the TV screen in my dark room. At that moment Ernest P. Worrell was my only friend. And only he could understand what I was going through. I imagined the two of us going to jail, camp, school, saving Christmas and being scared stupid together. And it was glorious. Save me, Ernest. Please save me…
Anyhoozle, in December of 2015 Casa added a craft beer bar to their video store, which is the main thing that finally convinced me to go in. There was always a movie playing on the three TV screens in the taproom and they had twenty beers on tap, two of which were nitro. Not only that, they also had fridges with hundreds of bottles that you can drink onsite or take home.
I arrived at Casa Film Bar with my team. Mallozzi drove, bleeding heavily from the ninja star wound from just a few minutes ago. I put some newspaper down before he got in the car so he wouldn’t ruin the upholstery. Andy and Mike from Flux brewing were in the back along with Fran from Girls’ Pint Out. She was still drunk as shit and yelling at us to please stop at Taco Bell on the way.
“Andy, I need you to stay in the car with Mallozzi and make sure he doesn’t die. Also make sure Fran doesn’t puke and choke to death in the backseat, Hendrix style. Mike, you sneak behind the bar and detach the device from the kegs. I’m gonna distract Rosario while you do that.”
I walked into Casa Film Bar with my heart racing. I looked at the women sitting at the bar with their backs to me to see if any of them had a lower back tattoo of an arrow pointing downwards and the words, “If you lived here you’d be home by now” written just above it in Old English. That’s how I always recognized Rosario from behind. But she wasn’t there.
An old guy with a gross beard and a grimy tuxedo turned around to face me. I knew this man. His white dress shirt was covered in mustard stains and his jacket had bird shit running down the sleeve. A couple of the buttons on the lower half of the shirt had clearly popped off a while ago because they couldn’t contain his fat belly.
He was The Most Interesting Man In The World.
No, literally, he was the guy who played The Most Interesting Man In The World in those stupid Dos Equis commercials. Or, well, used to. In early 2016 Dos Equis retired the 77 year old actor and replaced him with a much younger version. The poor bastard had clearly fallen on hard times since.
“Well if it isn’t The Classy Alcoholic,” The Man said, clearly hammered drunk. “Rosario told me you’d probably show up.”
“Jesus, dude, you look like shit.”
“No thanks to you, dick! How’s life as a beer mascot been treating you? Obviously better than me. You know I woke up this morning under my favorite bridge and found a possum taking a piss in my dress shoes? I tried to shoo him away and the little fucker bit my left pinky off!”
He held up his hand to show me that he was, indeed, missing a pinky. I could see Mike Figueira out of the corner of my eye sneaking across the room and behind the bar. I had to keep The Man distracted while he did his thing.
“I told you plenty of times now, I’m not a beer mascot, Man! I’m supporting local businesses and promoting the beer I love. You’re the one selling corporate beer that tastes like shit!”
“Pffft! You’re just riding the coattails of a failing industry. Light beer has been around for centuries. Nobody’s gonna be drinking those shitty raspberry goses you love so much a decade from now. Besides, I made a shit ton of money during my time promoting Dos Equis.”
“Yeah, then you lost all that cash compulsively betting on pig races at county fairs. How are you so bad at picking the winning pigs? You lost millions of dollars you idiot!”
“Those pig races were rigged! I never lose. I won an Oscar for a movie that I wasn’t even in. I invented the internet but then told Al Gore to say he did because I didn’t want to be held responsible for 2 Girls 1 Cup. I once beat the Venus de Milo at fucking arm wrestling!”
“Seriously, dude, shut the fuuuuuuck up. You never did any of those things. Do you even know the difference between who you are and the character you play?”
“Do you, Mr. Classy?”
Selena from Girls’ Pint Out walked into the bar and interrupted us before I could answer, thankfully.
“Hello, Classy. Fran drunk texted me and told me everything that’s going on. She also kept asking me to bring her some Jack In The Box.”
“Did you bring any?” The Man said. “I haven’t eaten real food in two weeks.”
“No, I didn’t bring any Jack In The Box! I came here to stop Rosario. Who are you, you slovenly homeless man?”
“How dare you! I’m The Most Interesting Man In The World, my friend. I come from a time when women weren’t allowed to sass men like this. And a time when Mexicans like Classy were legally prohibited from owning property. I hang out here at Casa Video all the time because it reminds me of the good old days, way back in 2006 when my first commercial aired and I became a national sensation. Now I have to tap dance for change outside that Circle K down the street just to be able to afford a beer at this joint. But not for long. When I’m done with this place there won’t be any more craft beer here. Or anywhere in this little town of yours.”
The Man ran at me and tried to punch me in the face. I dodged and tackled him to the ground. I held him down and twisted his arm behind his back as a rat scurried out of his suit jacket pocket and ran out the door.
“Aw, fuck!” he yelled. “That was my dinner!”
“Why are you helping Rosario destroy all of Tucson’s craft beer?”
“Because I need my job with Dos Equis back! If I get rid of their competition they’ll have no choice but to hire me again. And plus, if I get rid of Arizona’s craft beer I’ll get rid of you. Then I won’t have to worry about you stealing my car and driving it across the border like you did a month ago. That’s where I live, you asshole!”
“You can’t trust Rosario, Man. You don’t know who she really is.”
“No, YOU don’t know who she is! You really thought you could make a woman like her happy? You were just a toy that she could pass the time with. You’re a sad, self-loathing drunk with no real goals other than wasting time on a dumb blog with stupid dick joke stories. Well it’s time to put you out of your misery.”
The Most Interesting Man In The World pulled a small remote out of his suit jacket pocket that was covered in hamster poop pellets and he pushed the single button on it. Nothing happened, though. He pushed the button over and over again.
“Sonofabitch! This is supposed to set off the chemical compound and ruin the beer kegs in here!”
“Are you looking for this?” Mike Figueira said, standing behind the bar holding the black, metal device that was supposed to inject the chemical into the kegs. He crushed it into a small cube with one hand, like it was just a piece of paper.
The Man started crying. I let him up ‘cause he looked way too pathetic and I kinda felt bad.
“Well, looks like my plan was foiled. So I guess I’ll have to just settle for killing all of you.”
He pulled a capped syringe out of his pocket. It was exactly like the three syringes that Andy gave me at Tap & Bottle in the last chapter. They had a concentrated version of the chemical compound inside of them. The Most Interesting Man In The World jabbed the syringe into his arm and injected the entire bright green liquid into himself. His biceps immediately grew large enough to burst through his shirt and suit jacket. He grew from a tiny 5’5” to over seven feet tall. His left pinky even grew back right before my eyes. The chemical turned him into a terrifying hulk monster.
Selena whipped out her steel batons and attacked The Monster but he easily grabbed her with his giant fist and threw her out the door and into the parking lot. Mike Figueira jumped onto his back but got flipped outside as well. I ran away and barely missed The Monster’s fist as it slammed into the ground, breaking the concrete behind me. I hid in Mallozzi’s car as Selena and Mike kept fighting the giant creature. He roared and salivated as he picked up a car in the lot over his head and threw it at them. Selena was fast enough to dodge the flying sedan while Mike punched through the metal frame and broke it in two.
My heart was racing. I froze and watched Selena and Mike try their best to fight the creature but they couldn’t take him. Mike punched him as hard as he could and Selena pelted him with her batons…but he didn’t seem to feel any of it. I knew I had to do something but I couldn’t bring myself to move.
I felt Mallozzi’s hand squeezing my shoulder. His sexy tan had faded, his skin was extremely pale and there was blood streaming down the side of his mouth.
“Classy…you have to do something. You can’t hide here like a coward.”
“I don’t know what to do, Mallozzi! How could the chemical compound do that to a man? I thought it was a virus that only watered down and weakened beer. Why didn’t it weaken him?”
“I analyzed the chemical back at Borderlands. I told you it was a virus because I know you’re too dumb to understand advanced microbiology. But in reality it doesn’t weaken anything. It just compensates for the weaker elements in a host and balances out the whole thing. Arizona’s craft beer has a lot of flavor and it’s made with a lot of really good, local ingredients. So the chemical makes the shitty light beer flavor more prominent and kills the complex taste. But the liquid in the syringe is more concentrated so it’s stronger.”
“So whatever was injected into the beer would have an exponential effect on-”
“Oh em GEEEEE, you guys wanna go Taco Bell right now?!?”
“NOT NOW, FRAN! Anyway, The Most Interesting Man In The World is a weak, sad, miserable old guy. So the concentrated chemical must’ve balanced that out and made him this crazed hulking monster. I have an idea. Andy, I need your superpower.”
“You got it, Buddy.”
I told Andy the plan. He shot his weaponized sonic laugh at The Creature and threw him off balance. The Creature fell on his knees and covered his ears. I grabbed two of the three syringes in my pocket and ran toward him.
“Mike, give me a boost!”
Mike Figueira locked his hands together and caught my foot. He threw me ten feet in the air. I landed on The Creature’s back and stabbed the two needles right into his neck. I squeezed the plunger and delivered two full doses of the compound inside the syringe. The Most Interesting Creature In The World knocked me off his back and roared loud enough to break the windows on a few of the cars in the parking lot.
His biceps got even bigger with muscles growing on top of muscles. He started growing taller and taller. He went from seven feet to ten feet instantly.
“I think you just made him stronger, dude,” Andy said.
“No. Everybody has a limit to their vices. If you overdo it, they’ll ruin you.”
The Creature didn’t stop growing. He got taller and popped out more and more muscles until he was taller than the Casa Video building and exploded. Like, straight up burst open. He popped like a balloon and spilled like a piñata. Blood and guts spread all across the parking lot and all over my team. I dodged the bloody waterfall in time to keep my suit clean but everyone else got completed soaked. An entire intestine the size of a small airplane landed on top of Andy.
“Dude, that is FUCKED!” he said.
I asked Selena to sift through the huge mountain of guts – because she was already soaked in fountains of blood so why not? – to look for The Man’s cell phone. She eventually found a shitty flip phone under a giant spleen the size of a Kia Rio. I looked through it and saw a text from an unknown number that said, “Meet me at THS when you’re done.” And also there was a picture of a lady’s genitals. I took the phone over to Mallozzi who had lost so much blood he was about to pass out.
“Mallozzi, you’re a genius, can you trace where this text from Rosario was sent?”
“I can but how do you know this is her?”
“Because of the picture of her lady parts. I’d recognize that Backstreet Boys tattoo anywhere.”
“We have to get Mallozzi to a hospital right away,” Selena said.
“We can’t leave him! He’s the only one of us sober enough to drive.”
“Bloody hell, just take a fucking Uber, will you?” she said…except she pronounced it ooh-bah because Selena was British. I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that.
By the time the ambulance arrived Mallozzi was barely conscious but he was still trying to trace the origin of the text.
“I found it,” he said while getting wheeled away on the gurney. “I know what THS stands for. It’s Tucson Hop Shop.”
I watched Mallozzi get hauled into the back of the ambulance while paramedics rushed to save his life. The man was my hero and I was his best friend. I told Fran to assemble the rest of her Girls’ Pint Out crew at Tucson Hop Shop. I didn’t know if Mallozzi would survive. But I knew that Rosario Vargas would have to pay for what happened to him.
To be concluded…