Previously in this blog serial...
Now the HAUNTING continues...
I am standing outside of Gordon’s Bar. My father would occasionally come here to celebrate a big win for Tommy’s football team. Tommy would join him for a triumphant soda, but I never did. I just heard stories afterwards of cheering, vomiting and even back alley fighting. The latter being my biggest fear as I open the door to loud voices and music.
I step inside and it’s as if a switch has been flipped. All conversations come to a screeching halt and the music dies, throwing the dimly lit room into uncomfortable silence. The bartender, along with half a dozen customers sitting at the bar, all focus on me. I glance away, spotting an old-fashioned jukebox, with a croquet mallet mounted on the wall above it. A tall man is towering over the machine, also watching. My fight or flight mode kicks in and the choice is quick and easy. I stand my ground, letting the door close behind me.
“Jimmy, you’re here.” Eddie steps from the neon shadows, a welcoming smile cutting through the tension.
“Yeah, I’m here, but I hope it’s ok.” I tilt my head towards the deathly quiet reception.
“Don’t worry about them. They’re just cautious.” Eddie slips into his lopsided grin, putting me at ease. “Come on, I got us a table.”
I follow him to an intimate setting far away from the crowd. We sit down and I can’t help but think how he cleans up well. His hair is now parted in the middle, with a cluster of dark strands hanging unbearably close to his right eye and there isn’t a spot of grease on his clothes. I am about to compliment him when the bartender arrives.
Eddie exchanges pleasantries with the curly-haired woman and then introduces me. Her name is Valerie Danforth and she is only a few years older than us. I don’t know her, but I recognize something in her eyes. Something I see when I visit my mother or look in the mirror. We order a pitcher of beer and she asks to see my I.D. Valerie studies my driver’s license with the same intensity as Sheriff Johns and I expect her to mention my brother, but she doesn’t. She simply returns my license, announcing she’ll be right back with our beer.
“So, do you come here often?” I ask, trying to avoid a different question turning in my mind.
“Once in a blue moon, but Val is great.” Eddie leans forward, smiling proudly, “If anyone here gives me shit, she kicks them to the curb.”
“I like her already.” I glance towards the bar as she fills our order. Maybe I shouldn’t ask, but I want to know if I’m right. “Did she lose someone ten years ago?”
“Yeah, her grandfather.” Eddie frowns a little. “He owned the bar back then. How did you know?”
Before I can say more, Val is setting our pitcher of beer and two filled glasses between us. We both reach for our wallets, but she waves a hand, locking eyes with me. “On the house for a fellow Sturgeonite.”
“I, um, thank you, Val,” I fumble through my gratitude. She replies with a quick nod and turns to leave. Watching her walk away, I wonder if Gordon’s Bar is where the irreparably damaged come to forget, or maybe to remember. The voices and music resume as Val draws closer to the bar and I chuckle a little. “Guess it really is ok for me to be here.”
Eddie, either ignoring or forgetting his question, gives me a look that says, I told you so. I smirk a sarcastic shut up at him and we can’t help but laugh, making it feel as if no time has passed. He adds to the feeling by raising his beer, initiating the old routine, and I follow his action. Clinking our glasses together twice, like we always did with our sodas, we simultaneously chant our childhood toast, “Up and at ‘em.” .
After a long sip, Eddie sets his glass down and searches my eyes. “So, Jimmy, how have you been after all these years?”
The HAUNTING continues on September 21, 2021
Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words!
Click the pic ⤵️ to learn more about the author of HAUNTING STURGEONS…