After Hours

Streetlights glowed. Yellow light shined. Sounds of beer cans and bottles being tossed in a dumpster woke up the neighborhood. Closing time at Sully’s.

The front door was locked. Money was taken off the bar. A few; a lucky few remained after hours. Shots were poured. Beer steins filled. A snifter of Grand Marnier sat in front of him. The old man drank it slowly. Finished off each sip with a swig from a short glass filled with New Castle. He liked the combination.

There was no music being played. Just men talking. Speaking in drunken tones. The bartender would often say shhhh. Then he’d continue cleaning and pour more shots.

These were the night’s big tippers. And it was the same crowd every night. They tipped tens and twentys. Most of them bartenders from around town who got off their shifts early. Their’s was the drinking life. Day and night. Filled with booze. Sneaking drinks during shifts. Buying rounds at Sully’s. Driving home at sunrise. Sleeping till noon. Then waking up and doing it all over again.

The old man was a barkeep from way back. He poured drinks of condolences the day Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles. Listened to people’s distrust in government during Watergate. Laughed with the crowd and saluted Clinton when he said, I did not have sexual relations….Stood behind the bar and watched as the twin towers fell and America began to doubt. Bought rounds for the bar the night bin Laden was killed. He watched young men turn into old men. Casual drinkers become drunks. Girls selling their souls. And, there he was. Drinking after hours in a saloon that served him well over the years. What more could a man want?

The talk was the same as the night before and the night before that. Middle aged men whose wives had left them. Gamblers saying would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. Cubs lost again. Toilets needed cleaning.

And the old man waited at the door to be let out into sunlight. Beautiful bright sunlight. He said to himself, Today will be a good day.

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