He sits at the end of the bar
drinking coffee,
eating a Reuben sandwich,
crinkled wax paper face upturned toward hanging tvs:
one eye on NASCAR the other on People’s Court.

Door opens: momentary sheet of sunlight.
On the blvd.: jack hammering, honking horns.
A guy comes in, sits down.

Wax paper says,
               “Hate the smell of whiskey.
               When I was a teenager, a truck driver gave me a 5th of Seagrams.
               Drank it all.
               Stumbled home through the snow.
               Daddy went running down to the truck stop, asking for the man.
               Everyone cleared out. The man was gone.
               Never had whisky again.
               Beers. Not whisky.”

“No don’t want no beer.
               Use to get silly drunk.
               One night said something and hurt my wife’s feelings.
               Never drank again.”

The guy drinks his whiskey, then says
“Your wife, she don’t drink neither?”

“Passed on 23 years ago.
               Tried to quit in ’63. Withdrawals were cruel so I stopped bugging her
               Should have helped more.
               She was the woman for me.
               My brother-in-law, he’s been married 7 times.
               Now he’s back with the 4th because she’s the mother of most of his kids
               and because of sex.”

Commercials flicker.
No reason to stop talking.

               “Lived longer than I should have.
               Daddy died at 45 from a heart attack.
               Granddaddy died in his 50’s from gangrene
               after snapping his leg
               while breaking a horse.

               “You know, I broke my arm in 11 places
               when I was 9 from playing baseball on a dirt road
               littered with stones.
               Doctors were going to amputate. Momma said,
               ‘You’re not making a cripple out of my boy.’
               They set the break.
               Funny thing, got the bill 58 years later.
               Told them I’d pay up if they sent my x-rays.
               Never heard back.”

Wax paper looks at the bar door,
then back.
               You can see that, can’t you?
               Ought to be dead by now. Outlived everything.
               No money for nothing.”

“Life’s become skintight.
               You hear what I’m trying to tell you?”

Commercials end.
Wax paper upturns to the hanging tvs,
sips coffee,
takes a bite of sandwich.

Ron D'Alena was born in San Francisco, earned an MBA at the University of San Francisco, and now lives in Southern Oregon with his wife and son. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in numerous journals and magazines, most recently: Crannog Magazine, Slipstream, Underground Voices, Lowestoft Chronicles, Blue Crow Magazine, Criminal Class Review and EDGE. He is a two-time Glimmer Train Finalist and nominee for the 2012 Pushcart Prize for fiction. See Ron read on YouTube.

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