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The Lonely Hearts Bar – Konni Granma

With high hopes of conquering Hollywood, Connie goes to Los Angeles to study directing and screenwriting. On the way, she ends up at a roadside bar that uncannily links the destinies of the main characters, who had given up everything to follow their dreams.

What’s in store for the young rebels in Los Angeles?

Does your dream have another side, one that’s just as enigmatic and invisible as the far side of the Moon?

“I was surprised how much I enjoyed this story!” – Amy Burrows

Translated to American-English by Harrison Grady from the original Russian

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From the Author

“My name is Konni Granma. I am the author of the book The Lonely Hearts Bar published on Amazon and student of the First Medical University of Sechenov. From the age of 11 I have been writing books and at 16 I wrote my first serious novel, but it was not possible to publish it. I needed time, since that period in my life was not easy.

From a small abandoned city, I moved to Moscow, where I had to exchange the dream of “becoming a director” for the profession “doctor”. My characters, unlike me, abandoned everything in pursuit of a dream and found themselves in Los Angeles in the courses of filmmaking and screenwriting. They are brave and kind guys who deserve to be known. They have gone the hard way.

So now I’m 21 years old and I am working on my next novel and still believe in my dream.”

Excerpt

I remember that day, sitting endlessly on the hood of my car with a map of the States, I thought about all sorts of things. About what’s out there on the mysterious, invisible far side of the moon, about how often our planet is swallowed by black holes, about why there are such empty and lonely places like this one and… where I’m supposed to go next to get out of this godforsaken place.

Tumbleweeds, wind and sand, the bright blazing sun… and, just like in a Western movie, that traditional saloon. It looked like one of those haunted houses from a scary movie. But the empty water bottle in my backpack overcame my fear of going in.

An old man in a cap swept up bits of broken bottles. Beyond him, an empty dance floor, a tall Indian vase and a broken piece of wood that resembled a pole. A man sleeping at the bar. The barman was serving beer and an assortment of crap to the rest. Suddenly I felt the acute sensation that my turn had come, that now I too had experienced déjà-vu. Some people drink to blur their minds, others to fall over and not get up again. Everyone’s dealing with something that no one else can understand, I thought, and sat down at the cleanest-looking place, right next to the sleeping guy.

“What’ll it be?” the barman asked.

“Ice water.”

“You better look fеr fancy stuff like that somewhere else, little lady. There’s only beer, whiskey, rum, gin…” he listed in a bass voice, rubbing glasses with an orange rag.

“Shit in a glass,” abruptly grumbled the guy, who turned out not to be passed out all, and cracked his knuckles without raising his head.

“Um… what about… lemonade?” I inquired.

“Fer someone like you, who can’t stand a good honest drink, I’ll make an exception this time and git you yer lemonade.” With a slightly crazy look in his eyes, he left.

If you’d seen it, you’d also feel the spiritual emptiness, the pain of all these people. Strangely, at the time I sensed that I knew every single person in the room. God, is that it? The far side of the moon?

As I mused, the barman reappeared with a tall glass of sparkling liquid.

“Thanks,” I said, taking a closer look at my new friend. He was a stout, short man with a tattooed, beefy neck that read “Sofia”. He had a tired gaze, but his mind must’ve been in fine form, bringing me warm lemonade in that heat.

The barman walked over to Sleeping Beauty. “Hey! You need to git goin’, son.”

“Heard’dat, kiddo?” A man sitting on the other side shoved his neighbor, who promptly rolled over onto the squeaky wood floor.

I shuddered and slowly turned around. Sleeping Beauty turned out to be a young guy who looked only slightly older than me. But his eyes… they were like some poor old man’s: surly and resentful.

With a resigned expression, as if this were a daily ritual, the barman splashed murky tap water in his face. “Son, you gotta go on home now.”

Ugh…” The young guy pushed away the barmen’s extended hand. He finally lifted his head and sized up everyone around him, his brows furrowed. When his gaze fell on me, I slowly resumed my original pose and continued to sip my lemonade. He dusted himself off and left, the batwing doors swinging wildly behind him. It seemed I’d somehow ended up in old-school America, in the Wild West. For a second I almost looked around for John Wayne!

“Who knows what brings these young punks in here…” muttered the barman and resumed his work behind the bar, rubbing glasses.

“Sorry…sir.” I looked up at him. “Who was that?”

“David Ogden. Poor kid!” The barman sighed heavily. “His mother left him on his birthday. When he turned sixteen, again rat on his birthday, he ran away from his foster family with a friend. No idea where ‘r how he’s livin’ now. Comes in here at nat, as he says, to give’is liver sum’m to do.” He chuckled. “He’s not a bad kid, just always got the shit end of the stick.” He put away the glasses, leaned heavily on the bar, and said sardonically, “They all got hearts a’ gold, don’t they?”

“How old is he?” I pressed on.

“No clue. But you can believe me: he’s one helluva lot wiser than he seems, no matter how much he likes a good drink or whatever drugs they’re doin’ nowadays. Who knows what he’s up to; could be anything these days. If you ask me, he looks like he’s hittin’ sixty-five.”

I drank a little lemonade, paid the bill, thanked him and headed to my car, which clearly had decided to take a time-out.

“Come on! Go!”

Just at that moment, the barmen came out with several trash bags. “What’s the matter?” he shouted from a distance. “Did the old clanker finally kick the bucket?”

“Sorry?”

“Yer car.” He shuffled slowly, limping, over to me.

“It won’t start.”

“Let’s have a look at ‘er.” The barman peered under the hood, tightened and tapped a few things and finally said, “That’s it.”

“Wow, thank you!” I exclaimed.

“— it’s dead,” he finished.

“What do you mean, dead?”

“Dead as a doornail. Kaput. Fi-neeto.”

“Is the city far?”

“’Bout 700 miles.”

“What about the nearest hotel?”

“Yer lookin’ at it.”

“I’m looking at you, sir.”

“Not at me, honey, at mah bar. There’s rooms upstairs.”

“And how much do you charge per night?”

“Dependin’ on how long you stay. Meantime I’ll git our handyman over to have a look.”

I returned to the bar and asked for the key to a room from a youngish woman in a blindingly scarlet dress. She had beautiful hands, her fingernails painted purple. “Room 14’s fray,” she said in a gravelly, unhealthy voice, smoking continuously and staring at a little, soundless black-and-white TV.

I was apparently the first human to have set foot in this room, and the mattress appeared to be home to a family of mice. Well, it wasn’t going to be lonely!

I stepped into the bathroom and immediately lurched backwards, slamming the door and jumping up and down uncontrollably. My greatest fear — spiders — hung in the corners. It looked like the easy chair was my best bet…until morning.

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