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(continued)

Vancouver, WA

May 1st, 2019

There were times when a beer seemed a good idea, and other times when a six-pack felt like an even better one. His head was a little fuzzy at the moment but at the very least he was still fairly sober. He wasn’t slurring when he spoke and he wasn’t listing when he walked. If he had been the bartender still would have served him, she just wouldn’t have allowed him to drive home.

Out of all the bars in this town the Hideaway was the one place that knew him and knew what he liked. Almost every weekend when he’d been single and even when he’d first been married he’d come in here with his buddies to shoot some pool, sing some bad karaoke, and drink as much beer as he could before having to call for a cab or someone to come pick him up. Nowadays he couldn’t do that as often since his wife had to work three to four days out of the week and he had three little girls to think about. It wasn’t much of a loss, but they’d been missing him apparently before he started coming back.

And they’d still known what he favored. A shot of Jack Daniels and a Heineken to go with it, that was his poison then and it worked just fine for him now. The shot went down rough and warmed him up while settling in his belly and the beer was a great chaser and a good start to the night. It was the only way he started off his nights at this place, as the fruity drinks they served and the constant consumption of the hard stuff twisted up his insides like no tomorrow.

Of course there were other things that did that too. One of those was the person sitting at the opposite end of the bar glaring at him from time to time, seeming to want to say something but then turning his back for a few minutes before turning around again. He would have said something to the guy if not for one thing: he’d washed his hands of him nearly three years back.

The guy’s name was Clinton Morgan and for well over a decade the two of them had been friends. They’d said things to each other and done things over their time together that had been messed up, and a lot of their friendship had revolved around alcohol and getting completely sloshed most nights, but there had been good moments while sober as well. But when Clinton had gone to jail for beating up his fiance three years back he’d suddenly stopped talking to him, and when he’d decided to go and wait for Clinton to get out on his release date, the only thing he’d eventually gotten was a text from his fiance.

The same woman that had almost died at Clinton’s hands had told him that he was a no-good piece of shit in Clinton’s eyes and that he had broken a promise to take care of his family. That was kind of funny since he’d never made such a promise. But now that he’d started coming back to the Hideaway he hadn’t been too surprised to see Clinton still hanging out here occasionally. After all the prick had introduced him to this place.

“Another one?” the bartender, Alice, asked him.

“Yeah, one more and I’d better hit the road,” he said with a sigh.

“You okay? Oh wait, damn, sorry. I forgot.”

Alice knew about his aunt, as he’d been pretty candid about the whole thing and didn’t mind who knew. It wasn’t much a family secret really, and plenty of people in this town had lost family members to cancer. Alice had been sympathetic since she’d lost a cousin to lung cancer just a few years back. But lo and behold, Clinton, the guy that wasn’t talking to him and hadn’t spoken a single word since they saw each other a while back in this place, suddenly decided to pipe up.

“Maybe it’s karma,” he said with that same chin-jutting motion he’d always hated, “You know, you screw me over so now karma’s biting you in the ass.”

“Jesus Clinton,” Alice said, shaking her head, “that’s enough alright?”

“If it was then it’d be me about to go under,” he replied, “By the way, how’s the love life?”

Clinton’s eyes flared as he glared at him in return, looking as though he was ready to come down to his end and throttle him. Let him come, he’d be taking on more than he wanted to deal with.

“Settle down boys or I’ll 86 you both,” Alice warned.

“First time for everything right?” he quipped, “Except for you Clinton, I think that’d be your third time yeah?” he raised a hand to Alice, “I’m done, promise.”

But Clinton looked like he was just getting started.

(to be continued)

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