Always late. He was never on time. His schedule ran opposite of everyone else. If the old man was supposed to be there at two, he’d show up at three. He’d make you wait. You can drink a lot of beer in an hour. By the time the father showed up, his boy was ready to go home; questioning why he waited for him to begin with? The boy figured it was owed.
The old man and the kid were both night owls. Boy would get to the bar around ten each night. The old man came in an hour before closing. He’d spend the better part of the night walking around town with a pint of whiskey in a brown paper bag. Dad would go from shop to shop looking inside the windows at televisions on sale. He’d watch Johnny Carson behind glass without sound. Lips moving. Johnny laughing in silence. His guests sitting on the couch beside him laughing quietly too.
He walked past the beauty shop and see women’s heads with different wigs on them. Blonde, brunette, redheads on man-made Styrofoam. No eyes, or, mouths. The noses were gone. The old man laughed at this. He’d talk to them. Whisper with his lips against the glass. Drink more. Then kept on walking, stumbling down Main Street. Lighting cigarettes one after another. Talking to himself about the great rapture coming. Jesus will be back soon, he said. All this will be gone in the great fire, the old man would raise his hands to the heavens. He continued his nightly journey. Going into bars for a cold beer on tap. Something cheap. Drank from a frosted mug. Would add salt. The old man would only stay for one. Just one.
Boy sat there waiting on the old man. The bartender knew both father and son well. Around two he’d pour the old man’s beer and set it beside the kid. Thanks Patty, the boy always said. I’ll have another as well, he’d tell him.
The father was always pleased to see a beer waiting for him. The old man made his way to the bar through heavy gray smoke, stepping on peanut shells that made a crunch sound with every movement, sitting down in a pleather chair with a rip in it next to his son; all the family he had left.
Conversation was the same every night. Boy would ask how his evening was? The old man would smile. Told him everything was just fine. He was always just fine.
Waiting on Jesus, the old man said every night to the boy. Waiting on Jesus. He’s coming soon, the dad would say. Any minute now, then he’d lay his head on the bar. The bartender would give the boy that look of it’s time to go. Boy nodded his head. Threw the old man’s arm around his shoulder and walked him out every night.