“Rob, I zipped down here right after I got the text. What’s going on?””Hey. Hey!!! My man, Terry. Hold that thought, brother. Drinks are on me. What’r’ya havin’?”
“I see you already started without me as usual, you lush. Jack and water. That’s what I’m having.”
Rob motions to the barkeep. Orders Terry’s drink and another Scotch for himself.
Terry’s conscious is eating away at itself, waiting for the news.
“So what’s this all about, Rob? You shoot me an emergency text, and a very vague one to say the least.”
“Patience. I got a surprise for you..well, for us.”
“Shit. You know how I feel about surprises.
“Relax.” Rob says, in his cocky way.
Rob went silent. His devilish grin always meant he was cooking up something sinister. It was a look he’d even worn in the oddest places. His mind was a dungeon of secrets. He harbored weird encounters there. Like gawking at all the women at a friend’s viewing two years prior. He played the “deceased was like a brother to me” card and managed to briefly date a few of the women paying their respects that eventually became victims to his womanizing.
But this dead silence sliced through Terry to which the guessing game commenced.
“It’s the promotion. The promotion!!! You finally outdone that asshole, George…your competition. Your boss gave you the head nod for that….”
“That’s not it, Rob. But you’re right, George is ginormous ass.”
Rob starts fishing again.
“Linda. Awwwww shit! You finally sealed the deal. Brother, I told you to be attentive, have a nice dinner, a jazz concert, couple cocktails…”
“Ummmm no. That’s not it either. Linda’s been out the picture for some time. The Christmas party at her parents…remember? I told you I ran into a college fling of mine at the party that’s NOW Linda’s sister in law. We were sexing like jack rabbits at Penn State. Now can you image us sitting across a table from each other over a Christmas meal…her and my girlfriend right there, now bonded through marriage? Oh God…the things Linda and I did to each other. So AWKWARD!!!! I had to tell her everything.”
“Okay. Got it, Rob.”
“Yeah..well. You lose some and you REALLY LOSE some…know what I mean, Terr? Linda was good but my college fling, her in-law was outstanding.”
“Yes. Got it, Rob!!!”
The bartender comes through with the drinks. Rob adds it on the running tab and the second moment of silence nearly sends Terry nosediving into his drink. Rob pounds his down then smirks.
Terry’s drink surges down then settles.
“Okay. What is it? I give up.”
Rob points toward the bar entrance “He’s here!!!”
Terry turns to look.
“Horace? That’s Horace!!!! Oh no, Rob. You told Horace to meet us here…of all fuckn’ places?”
Rob’s grin is fully demonic.
“But he’s fresh out of rehab, you ass!!! He starts group tomorrow. And you invite him to the very watering hole…he nearly… Prick! You’re such a bigger ass than I thought. Ever since we were kids, you…”
Rob stands up and waves to their friend, 8 months removed, now returned from an episode of an alcohol poisoning scare. It happened there, the same bar.
Once Rob and Horace’s eyes lock, Horace heads over to the bar stools where his long time friends were.
“Shhh! Terry. Relax. It’s a test.”
“What the hell. He’s an alcoholic, Rob.”
“Right. So what!!! And he’s our best friend. Does a bar, drinking or alcohol stop us from doing what we do…meeting up at the places we frequent? Shootin’ the shit and enjoying each other’s company.”
“But he has an addiction, a disease. We could be toxic for him now.”
Horace approaches and is all smiles.
“Hey fellas!!! Long time! Miss you guys, man!”
Horace gives both best friends a hug then plops down on a bar stool.
“…so what about my addiction, my disease? It’s called Alcoholism, fellas. Continue on.”
Terry head is in hand.
“You heard. Ugh! This whole idea is so insensitive. So evil. Sorry Horace.”
“Don’t apologize, Terr.” Horace says, patting him on the back.
Rob, with no shame, doesn’t hesitate his admission. “I told him to relax. It was my idea you coming here. I mean, having a few before a Sunday mass…that’s inappropriate.”
Terry snaps back.
“No. THIS is inappropriate. You fuckn animal. Moron! I’m sorry, Horace but this is all wrong, man. Let’s go to Dina’s Diner instead. You hungry? Couple of steaks. My treat.”
“No. No. This is cool, Terr. Like Rob said, relax. I’m fine. Trust me.”
“Wanna drink, Horace?” Rob laughs.
“Sure!” Horace replies.
Horace takes a whiff of both Rob and Terry’s glasses then calls the barkeep over.
“Jack and water and Scotch neat.”
Terry stands up, shocked!
“Shit! This is wrong on all levels.”
“…and bottled water for me, thanks.” Horace looks deeply into his friends eyes. “Trust me.”
Rob claps his hands. “See! Told you he’d be fine.”
The three men caught up in conversation over Jack and water, Scotch Neats and bottled H2O. Horace talked about his rehab and why he turned away visitors. As the drinks continued mounting, Rob retold past, legendary stories with even more zeal, slightly different variations, bringing the original version in further question. Terry eventually relaxed into his sympathetic warmth. His drinks finally conquering the initial anxiety of Horace’s arrival, and his past and present condition. And Horace enjoyed both Rob and Terry’s company, like old times but missing a certain element.
Horace made made several trips to the men’s room to relieve himself of his new addiction, water.
He was still surrounded by the familiar sounds. Bottles clanging. The enticing and ever audible pour of anything strong into a shot glass. Loud talk and laughing streaming out of drunk faces. Epic stories that won’t be remembered but rather trapped in the walls of bar.
Returning from the final trip, Horace watched both Terry and Rob, heads down on the bar counter top, absolutely intoxicated, way over their limit. It was a site that caused him to reflect, 8 months ago that there was a third man there, beyond wasted.
Now Horace, a sobering alcoholic, walks over to his buddies, passed out. He digs into their jacket pockets for their car keys and driver’s license then takes them to the barkeep.
“Make sure these guys get home safe. Call a cab form them. And this should cover everything.”
He gives the barkeep money to cover the tab and a generous tip. Horace then turns to exit.
“Hey! Horace Jamison!” The barkeep calls out to the alchi. He holds up the money, keys and licenses.
“You’re a good man. Take a bottled water to go. I’ll see you in group tomorrow.”