Minneapolis tried to drink the whole glass of moonshine in one go but choked. As she lowered the half-full tumbler to the counter, Bartender Willy chuckled, her eye concerned.

“You look like shit, Minnie.”

Minneapolis stifled herself and finished her drink, staring Willy right in the eye. She went to slam it down and yell “Another!” like they did in the old stories, but a slight twitch of Willy’s eyebrow reminded Minneapolis how well that went the last time. No matter how tough Minnie talked, the hulking Willy was tougher: her good eye was fearsome and the other, infected by a slowly writhing plant, was horrible.

“…May I have another?” Minneapolis asked but there was already one in front of her.

A man thunked onto the next stool, his arm landing between Minneapolis and her drink. She flinched.

“Weren’t you in here a couple weeks ago talking baloney about the pirates?”

image Minneapolis quietly reached over the man’s arm, picked up her glass and took a drink, staring into the mirror behind the bar. Her eye swollen, her hair jagged, her clothing torn and bruises everywhere.

“I coulda sworn you were saying you were gonna stop ‘em or bring ‘em down or something like that. Weren’t they just here this morning? And you in here now looking like hell drug you down and spit you out. Makes me think.”

“What’s it make you think about, Grant?” Willy asked, toweling down pint glasses by the mirror.

Minneapolis took another sip.

“Makes me think the pirates beat the shit out of you, flygirl.”

“Who’d the pirates beat the shit out of, Grant?” piped up a voice from a rear booth.

“That mouthy flygirl who was in here weeks ago!”

“Oh, yeah, I never thought that harpy had a chance.”

“Hey, Karen, that’s not cool.” Bartender Willy turned around and leaned against the mirror. “Apologize to Minneapolis.” Her bad eye wiggled.

“I’m sorry, Minneapolis. I shouldn’t have called you a harpy.”

Minneapolis wanted to leave. She turned to get off the stool and swiveled straight into someone else’s face. “What do you have against the pirates anyway?”

Minneapolis’s heart pounded and her ears rang. She couldn’t find the explanation she wanted, frozen on the stool and surrounded, her eye aching and her bones throbbing.

“Hi-yo! May I please have a tomoonto juice?” A piercing, familiar voice came from the end of the bar.

Minneapolis, overwhelmed, put her head down on the sticky counter. She wanted to cry. Or punch everyone. She felt something against the top of her head – a cigarette and a lighter – and looked up to Willy winking. Minneapolis shoved the cigarette into her mouth and pushed past the people surrounding her.

“Aieee Minneapolis??! It’s Elytra! Hi hi hi-yo!”

A tug on a tattered piece of Minnie’s flightsuit and she was looking at Elytra’s beaming face. The flykid had taken a bath or something since the dusty gates, and sie glowed to have found hir new friend.

“Can I buy you a tomoonto juice? Or something else? I don’t know what to order in bars? You gotta tell me how you learned to fly like that!”

“What, like flying into trees?” Karen heckled from the back.

“No, she flew into the ground!” Elytra said, to increasing drunken titters. “From space! It was so cool!”

“Yeah? Like how far up?” Grant smirked.

“400 miles or so.” Minneapolis said, inching towards the door.

Elytra gaped at her.

“The heck did you get up there?” Grant slowly rose from his stool.

“The pirates threw me off their ship. And then I came back.”

Elytra gasped and put hir hand over hir mouth, like the horrified children in some of Minneapolis’s favorite stories. Small murmurs swept the bar. Minneapolis turned and went outside. She lit up Willy’s cigarette and slumped against the wall, breathing heavily. It had been too crowded and too animous in there, and Elytra bringing attention back to her was not what she had wanted.

The door beside her opened. Bartender Willy stepped out and lit a cigarette for herself.

“That’s a hell of a fall.” Willy said. “Never heard of someone living from half that height.”

Minnie took a drag, then a stuttering exhale. Her wing muscles throbbed, her skin was raw, and her jaw ached from gritting her teeth. She was as close to sobbing as she’d let herself get in a long time.

Willy stood quietly next to Minneapolis and they finished their cigarettes. When they walked back in, Elytra glommed onto Minneapolis immediately, but everyone else was listening in to the story. And soon, it became clear Minneapolis wouldn’t have to buy another drink that night.