“For the love of God, Linda, turn down that damn jukebox! I like Pearl Jam as much as the next guy, but enough is enough… Jeeeez…”
Linda stopped washing glasses long enough to stare at the fortyish man in the simple dark sport coat and blue shirt. The guy had been coming in every day for the past week or so, and she couldn’t remember him ever speaking to anyone other than to order his Glenfiddich double-malt-- straight-up… never with ice or a splash of water. Doesn’t he have any other clothes? He always wears the same thing… strange duck.
The cute blonde bartender wiped her hands on a bar towel and adjusted the band holding her ponytail in place while sashaying over to the volume control knob directly behind the cash register. That cuts it. He doesn't get to tell me how loud to play the jukebox... A quick counter-clockwise twist bathed the area in total silence as Linda silently sauntered closer to the stranger’s position at the bar.
“I’m going to keep this real simple, Nimrod, because I know you’re a simple guy… this is a neighborhood bar. Take a look at the people sitting around you. Some of them are good people; others, like that fat loser, Cecil, sitting at the other end of the bar, are real assholes… but they all have two things in common. Know what those are, per chance?”
‘Nimrod’ cocked his head and pushed his hand out, palm up. “Oh, I don’t know, let me guess… abominable taste in clothing and music, perhaps?”
Linda broke eye contact with the man and looked around at the others sitting at the bar. Everyone suppressed grins and several looked away, avoiding eye contact lest they instantaneously be turned to stone by Linda’s gaze. “Well, I was shooting for having a good time and unquestioning loyalty to their bartender, but I’ll give you that one…”
Spontaneous laughter filled the room as people began to vacillate toward Nimrod’s seat, introducing themselves and shaking hands. Beaten at her own game, Linda took a five-dollar bill from her tip jar and placed it in front of the man. “Here… go play some music.”
For the next few hours, the bar more closely resembled a homecoming than an assortment of casual acquaintances, as new friends told eclectic stories and laughed in counterpoint to the Irish Rovers, always led by Nimrod’s singing and dancing.
Sometime after midnight, the small fortyish man in the simple dark sport coat and pastel blue shirt checked in at the Avis desk and surrendered the keys to the Ford Taurus. After a quick
walk to the ticket counter at Grand Central Station, shortly past one a.m., he sat down in his window seat and stared into the blackness beyond. Very soon, his brief interlude completed, he’d be en route to the real world.
Michael Patrick Flannery laid his head against the rest and closed his eyes. When next he awoke, Father Michael Patrick Flannery would greet the Abbot and once again enter his world of silence.
Bob Church ©