Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ace in the Hole

"OK. You're next Brian. Campfire, five minutes," he said.

An aged man, nearly 50 - white hair, round face, beer belly - squeezed his palm around the bottle. The cap fell to the ground. Tonight, he said to himself, I'm going to save that boy. I'm going to bring him back from the brink. His mother robbed him from a life with his family. Damn ... She's crazy, he thought. As he walked out the side door of the cabin, he saw the boy next to the fire.

"You bring a beer out here for me?" the boy said as the man drew near the fire.

"Hell, boy, give me a second," the man said.

He trudged inside, down the steps to the downstairs fridge.

What in the hell would this boy like? Corona! Of course, he would. Who wouldn't like to be reminded of the beach on a night like this?

His eyes fell on the bottle opener as he reached for the door. Hell. I could do better than that.

He peeled the door back. His eyes fell on the boy. That kid must be so damn lonely. Damn boy is just like me. I can see so much of myself in him.

He handed the beer to the boy.

"You got a bottle opener?" the boy asked.

"Yeah, give it here." The man walked over to his truck and used the metallic clip on the end of the seat belt to open the beer.

"Wow. Pretty impressive," the boy said.

"Yeah. Now what is it that you wanted to talk about?"

"Oh. It was nothing. Rather just have the beer now."

"I really appreciate what you did back there, boy," the man said. "You had a lot of balls coming up to me like that. I'm the man who takes people down that gravel road. No one takes Acen down that gravel road.

"And, boy, you wanted to take me down that gravel road. That took a lot. You're a real cool kid," he said.

"We all need to take the walk sometimes," the boy said.

The boy stared into the fire. He could hear the old man talking again. His mind trailed off into the flames. What did his daughter ask me? She wanted advice about a similar situation. But, I couldn't get a word in edgewise. What a jackass! Talking to his daughter like that. What the fuck am I doing here?

"Let me tell you a story about your brother," the old man started. "You're brother is a badass. One time, I said, 'Show me how you kill someone. I want to feel that.' Your brother said he couldn't do it. But I got on him and a few beers later, he put me to the ground. And as the lights began fading, he let go."

"There's nothing but loneliness in this world. No matter what beautiful woman you put at your side. Either you or she is going to die first." The old man went on, "And before that, no matter who's with us, there's loneliness."

"We all die alone," the boy agreed.

The man told the boy that he was in the business of saving people. He, at one time, had taken every one down that gravel path. He said, he would soon take the boy.

"I saved your brother, you know," the man said.

"I know," the boy said. "I'm thankful for that."

"Hell, boy. I'll save you too," he said.

His daughter sat there crying after he butted into our conversation, the boy thought. She just wanted my opinion. He made it into a joke then feigned emotion as she cried running into the house. "Stay away from me," she yelled. "You're nothing but a drunk."

The next words fell like an avalanche.

"I don't need saving," the boy said.

The boy rubbed his hands against the side of the beer catching the sweat from the glass. He looked up into the moon. It lit up a few wispy clouds. Otherwise, all the world was stars. Damn, such beauty.

"Damn, you're a smart boy," the man said.

"Huh? Well I don't know about that."

"No. You are. You're a damn smart boy."

Be careful, the boy thought. I'll only pity you more for what you say next.

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Ambitiously enduring.