Published: Jun 3, 2016 12:00:00 PM

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On a hot day flushing down into a cold night's quickening coil, a seahorse, a praying mantis, and a penguin walked into a bar.

They did not arrive together. They had never met one another before. Upon meeting though, they discovered they have something very particular in common.

The seahorse arrived first. His body was heavy with a million sizzling baby seahorses tearing ass all around his innards. The bartender took in an eyeful of the the seahorses's thin skin and cracking ribs. Baby seahorses thumped their soft skulls against the insides, taking the chance to lock eyes with the bartender through the stomach wall before moving on.

The seahorse shifted on the barstool a few times. Then he settled into the creaking leather cushion. He farted some bubbles out of his snout.

The bartender said, "You can't bring kids into the bar."

The seahorse looked down at his stomach, alight with thrashing, frantic baby seahorses. "The game is on, dude," the seahorse said, indicating toward the TV above the bar showing the Steelers game. "I just want to watch the game."

The bartender pressed his palms into the bar to get in for a closer look at the seahorse's stomach. "You're not gonna shit a billion babies, are you?" the bartender asked.

The Steelers game was in the fourth quarter. The Eagles were playing in that Sunday's night game. The bar was already filling up.

Resigned, the bartender said, "Alright, fine. You want a food menu, guy?"

"No, just some hot wings," the seahorse said. "The hottest you've got. Maximum heat."

The bartender put in the order for the hottest wings the bar could make. He left the seahorse alone. Not much happened for about fifteen minutes, until the penguin arrived.

The penguin entered the bar. He held a red and white Rubbermaid cooler with his fins. Its lid was missing, making room for his egg to poke partway out. The corners were packed with hay, ripped t-shirts, and a few bits of pink fiberglass insulation.

The penguin waddled to the bar beside the seahorse. He plonked his cooler with the egg inside on the bartop and said, "It's fucking freezing out there, fellas! And I know cold. I'm from Alaska!"

The bartender smoothed back what was left of what had once been a regal empire of hair, now just strands draped from his skull's back and sides.

He said to the penguin, "I didn't think they had penguins in Alaska. Thought they were a species exclusive to the Antarctic."

"My family moved to Juno when I was six," the penguin answered. He patted his egg. "Wife and I wanted to raise the family in America's heartland though. Can I get a drink when you've got a free sec?"

"Yeah," the bartender said. "What do you want?"

"Uh, a Guinness and a shot of Jameson," the penguin said. "And a cup of coffee."

He retrieved the seahorse's order of hot wings from the server and began filling the Guinness for the penguin.

The bartender placed the Guinness next to the penguin's egg. He placed the shot of Jameson Irish whiskey next to the Guinness. He placed the cup of coffee last in the row.

The penguin flapped his rubbery flippers together at the sight of it all.

Then the praying mantis arrived.

The praying mantis cluched his own head with his scissor-like limbs. He was gushing fluid from his neck hole. He staggered on weak knees to the bar. The entire establishment took notice. Glasses were lowered with audible clinks to tabletops. Chewing slowed. A few men in the corner wearing Philadelphia Philly's hats spoke some inadubile words. They weren't sure what to make of this praying mantis.

The praying mantis thumped his head on the bartop next to the Penguin's egg and the pregnant seahorse's half-finished plate of hotwings.

The praying mantis's exoskeleton creaked, sucked air, and frothed. "Guess who just got laid, fellas?!"

The bar erupted in excitement! The penguin slapped the praying mantis on the back, not realizing the praying mantis had just breathed his last breath, considering the decapitation. Screeching to himself in satisfaction, the penguin dropped his shot of Jameson into the Guinness and started drinking the pint in one go.

Other patrons caught a glimpse of the penguin's drink. They fired frenzied hollars to the bartender, demanding identical orders. The penguin shot thumbs-up to anyone who noticed, drinking glass still pressed to his bill, his white chest awash with spilled beer.

The seahorse tooted with joy beside the penguin. He bopped his nose against the praying mantis' severed head in celebration. The seahorse hadn't gotten any action at all since he started carrying his brood in his belly. It was fantastic to hear at least somebody was getting his dick wet, even if it was just a praying mantis.

Finishing off the final hot wing, the maxiumum spices induced birth in the seahorse. The seahorse trembled and exploded with baby seahorses all across the local Pittsburgh bar. They flapped in desparation on countertops, shelves, on top of bacon cheeseburgers, and within the wide-mouthed margarita glasses the bartender had begun to hand out in celebration.

Tipsy from the drink, and with no food in his stomach, the penguin fell of his stool. The gun in his jacket went off. It fired upward through his egg on the counter, splattering penguin yolk atop the seahorse's gaping, exploded stomach.

-- Alex Crumb
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