“Uhh…,” Faith pondered the question as she sat on the barstool. The question was unexpected from the tall, gaunt bartender. Normally, she didn’t get questions about what she wanted until after she had a moment to look at the menu or ask questions. He was dressed in crisp white apron with rolled-up flannel sleeves; his forest green hair and beard only added to his hipster look. His white nametag said “Mundo”. “I guess it’s going to be one of those places,” she chuckled mentally. “Can I get a menu?”
“I’m sorry, Miss,” the bartender said. “This is something of a specialized bar. We don’t serve food here.”
“Not surprised…,” Faith grumbled to herself. Then, she shrugged and gave him a friendly smile. “A drink menu still counts as a menu. I’ll look at that,” she said. She walked in looking for food, but being the only patron in a business was one of Faith’s simple pleasures. There was something calming about not having that rushed feeling caused solely by other customers. An afternoon drink wouldn’t hurt. The bartender looked at her for a silent moment, then nodded. He turned around to fiddle with something behind him. When Mundo turned around again, he placed a scrap of paper with “Menu” scribbled at the top and two items listed. ‘Desire’ and ‘Necessity’.
Faith couldn’t help but laugh at his cheekiness. Maybe he was being a smart ass, but she would never know for sure. She preferred to err on the positive side. Faith noticed he relaxed slightly when she giggled. He appeared to be tense and stiff as soon as she walked in the door.
“Alright, smart guy,” she grinned. “What’s in them, then?” Mundo relaxed enough to rest both hands on the bartop and lean forward.
“How did you find this place?” he asked. As soon as the question left his mouth, Mundo shook his head. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to dodge the question. I’m a little bit confused, you shouldn’t have been able to walk in here without a reason.
“I’ve heard positive opinions about this place. I was hungry and in the area; granted I didn’t know you don’t serve food,” she said. “Do I need more of a reason than that?”
“Usually…,” Mundo said, though he trailed off unsure. “This is something of a magical establishment,” he said. “Most people have an idea of what they’re going to get by the time they find us.”
“With only two options, it’s kind of already 50/50 isn’t it?” Faith asked. Mundo nodded.
“It’s not so much the choices, it’s what they represent; they’re surprisingly literal. Desire helps you focus on your one, true desire in life. It motivates you, and keeps you motivated until you get it. Though, how you get it is entirely up to the individual.. and they usually choose an illegal route.” Mundo paused, but Faith showed no signs of wanting to interrupt. She listened intently with her lips curled up at the corners in a resting smile.
“Necessity does kind of the same thing, in a different way. It helps you realize what you really need in life;” Mundo gave a half-shrug. “When you realize how little you need, it makes you appreciate the things you don’t a little bit more. Without all that worry you can focus on what you really want to do, and you tend to be more conscious about how you get it. Usually less illegal things.”
“Well that’s interesting,” Faith said. “You’ve told me what they do… but what’s in them? Also, new question. Why doesn’t everyone choose necessity? Hearing that explanation makes it pretty obvious to me which is the better route.” Mundo cracked a smile for the first time since Faith walked in; she had no way of knowing it was the first time he smiled in years.
Day after day, hour after hour, someone new walked in drowning in despair and ready for a change one way or another. They never smiled until after they drank, and even then it was completely random. Desire might blank out one person while giving another an uncontrollable smile for a day or two. The same went for necessity, no two people were alike.
Mundo hadn’t realized that “grumpy” had become his default mood over the years as patron after patron walked in with a dark cloud. It didn’t help that they were usually so distracted with the effects, they always forgot to tip. Not that Mundo needed the money to run a magical establishment, but he appreciated the gesture. In theory at least. Mundo turned his back to her again, and Faith heard ice clinking in glass, but he spoke over his shoulder to her.
“That’s the first time I explain it, no one’s ever asked my opinion,” he said. He turned around and placed two glasses of ice water on the bar. He set them a distance apart, then pointed at the one on Faith’s left.
“Desire,” he pointed at the other one. “Necessity.”
“So, it’s just ice-water?”
“Icewater with magic, yeah.” Faith laughed.
“So, can I get one without magic?” Mundo tilted his head.
“You don’t want Necessity? You said that was the best one?”
“Sure,” Faith nodded. “If I wanted one, that’s the one I’d get. But, I’m pretty good. I feel like adding magic would complicate things that aren’t complicated.” Mundo filled another glass of ice water and placed it in front of her, then he pulled the other two away.
“On the house,” Mundo gave her a full-on, ear to ear grin, and he had to admit to himself that smiling felt good. He vowed to try and do it more often in the future.
“Thank you!” Faith smiled. She took a sip, then set the glass down. “So, magic is real?” she asked suddenly. Mundo nodded.
“Well, Mr. Mundo,” she said. “I have a problem. I have a solution too, but I want your input. When I came in here I was already starving to death. Finding out you don’t serve food only made me hungrier somehow. At the same time, I’m sitting here and I just learned magic is real. So, that makes me wonder.. what else is real? Because, there’s more, right? There has to be.” Mundo’s eyes went wide and he nodded vigorously.
“Magic is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
“Right, that’s about what I figured,” Faith placed her small purse on the counter and began digging through it. “So this can go a couple of ways. Either you give me your phone number right now and we’ll get together for coffee or something. OR…,” she pulled out two twenty dollar bills and put them on the bar. “…you order me some pizza and so I can sit here and listen to everything else.” Mundo pushed the pair of twenties back at her. “Pizza coming up, on the house,” he said, still smiling. Pizza from an alternate universe, at that,” he winked.