Sam sat down on the barstool and looked around. Except for one man at the other end of the bar, the place was empty.
“What can I get you?”
Sam broke away from his thoughts long enough to answer. “Oh, uh…a shot of whiskey…straight.”
“We’ve got a lot of different kinds, fella. You got a favorite?”
Sam looked confused. “Yeah, I’m sorry.” He studied the bottles on the shelf. As he stared at each one, old memories resurfaced. He pointed. “I’ll take that one.”
The bartender grabbed the bottle and a glass at the same time. With expert precision he filled the shot-glass and set it in front of Sam. To Sam, the sound of the glass hitting the bar sounded familiar…comfortable. The bartender started to put the bottle back on the shelf.
“Maybe you should just leave it.”
The bartender gave a sympathetic smile. “Let me guess, if it wasn’t for bad luck…”
Sam returned the smile, almost. “Something like that.”
“Well, let me know if I can get you anything else.”
Sam nodded as the bartender walked away.
On the other end of the bar were two men.
One wore a long, black coat. His hair, his eyes…his whole face somehow matched the “darkness” of his coat. He looked – wrong.
Max sat two stools from him. He sipped his drink as he kept his eye on him.
They turned their heads towards the front door a second before it opened. Both stared as a young woman entered.
The man in the black coat began to get out of his seat the moment the woman saw Sam. Max stood up and blocked the dark man’s path. “Not this time.”
The dark man stepped closer to Max, challenging him.
Max wasn’t in the mood for games. “Those two belong to the Master,” he said, and his voice became louder with each word. “You will lay no hand on them.”
The dark man began to transform into a mass of darkness, and Max countered with an explosion of light. His voice now reached its climax. “It is not I who commands this, it is the Christ!” And in that instant, the dark mass was gone.
Max went back to his stool, sat down, and began to pray.
“What are you doing here?”
Susie stared at the full shot-glass and whiskey bottle. “Shouldn’t I be asking you the same question?”
Sam looked straight ahead. “I haven’t had any. Yet.”
She did her best to hold in the tears. “This is because of the job?”
Susie laughed. “Okay, what job. It wasn’t you fault, you know? Besides, they’ll be other jobs.”
“And I’ll bounce around from each one.”
Susie placed her arm around her husband’s shoulder. “I don’t know what you think I want from you, but I’d be happy to tell you, if you’d like.”
Sam looked into his wife’s eyes for the first time since she came into the bar.
“It doesn’t matter to me how much we have, or don’t have.” She held his face in her hands. “What matters to me is you…us. These last few months, getting back to church, praying together.” She slid the glass of whiskey away from Sam as she spoke. “Your sobriety. Our faith. This is all that’s important.”
For the first time today, Sam smiled. He leaned his head on her shoulder. “Besides, there’ll be other jobs.”
She laughed. “That’s right. Now, will you come home?”
He nodded. “Yeah.”
The both walked out, the full shot-glass left on the bar.
The bartender looked at Max as he stood. “No more ginger-ale, Max?”
“Not today, thanks.” He gave the bartender a couple of bills. “And let me take care of that too.” Max gestured towards the other end of the bar, where the unused shot of whiskey still lay.”
The bartender smiled. “Mr. Big Spender huh? Forget about it, I’m just glad those two worked it out.”
“Me too.” Max grabbed his hat. “Thanks, Jim. I’ll be seeing you.” He started to leave.
“Hey Max. How come I never see you with anyone in here? Why are you always alone?”
Max shrugged. “Just the way I do things, I suppose.” He walked to the front door, and then stopped. He turned and faced Jim. “Besides,” he said, “none of us are ever really…alone.”
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