Inside, the two men went passed the other patrons and straight to the counter. Only a few minutes had passed though. But to Toney, he felt as if it was hours. He was not the kind of man to sit still for any lengthy periods. Being asked to sit still was like asking him to serve a lengthy prison sentence, for a crime he did not commit.
For those moments in the bar, he did sit; but rock back and forth, and tapped his fingers on his lap. Then again, he was not much of a drinker. So being in a bar was unnerving.
He felt the walls of the bar closing in on him.
The countertop, the only area of safety for him, a few times he rested his elbows on it; it sparkled.
The constant wiping on the countertop, by Peter, offered a welcoming distraction for Toney’s eyes.
The cream coloured walls, flaking, offered no beauty to the already dreary room.
It appeared, in every inch of the room, the mixture of sweat and liquor dancing violently in the air. Toney’s stomach churned. Glued to the countertop; he meandered his way in telling a bit about himself to Deo.
“Well, that is a little about me. Nothing much too this man before you. I am like a child in this place, brand new.” Toney looked at the glass of whisky, twirling the last bit.
“I see…I see,” Deo shook his head, he too looked at the countertop.
“But, you have not really said much about yourself, who are you around here?” Toney shrugged his shoulders.
Deo looked at Peter with a quick side glance. Peter on the other side of the counter, with a white cotton cloth in his hand, had about six wine glasses in front of him. Not in the conversation, but certainly close enough to hear the two men. And maybe he did. For as soon as he heard Toney’s question and got the glance from Deo, his countenance changed.
Peter moved away and tended to other customers.
Deo glanced at Toney, and then surveyed the bar on either side of his shoulders. He appeared to look for something, something out of the ordinary.
Toney became concerned, but did not venture to speculate.
He waited for Deo to decide to answer, or at least process a response.
“Toney, all men are not build up equal,” Deo muttered in an undertone. He peered into his glass of whisky, his eyes ferocious; more so than what it was outside a while ago.
Deo gulped the last bit of the drink then continued, “Toney, I could sense you’re a good man, your heart, pure. An adventurer, but your heart is pure.” He gripped the glass closer in his fist.
“Over twelve years,” Deo bent his head back and closed his eyes, his breath is slow and deliberate; he dragged his words, “Toney, you tell me, what kind of man leaves his wife, his daughters, girls Toney, girls, and allows himself to go away!”
Toney bit down gently on his tongue, then attempted to fix himself on the bar stool, “Deo, you—”.
Deo interrupted him. Toney acted surprised, but was relieved to not make a comment. Really not knowing what he would have said.
“Toney, a ruthless man, I am a ruthless man!” Not wanting to draw attention to himself, but apparently not realizing his strength, slammed the glass against the counter.
“That is okay Toney you could say it,” Deo jumped off the stool, stood, then pushed the glass away from him.
The two raised their heads recognizing Peter had moved closer to where they were.
“Deo, I think you had enough,” Peter said, as he reached for Deo’s glass.
Deo looked at the glass in Peters hand; he became pensive, hypnotized by something, “Yeah well…,” he mumbled.
Peter cleared his throat and turned to Toney’s glass. Toney slid it to Peter’s reach, he too stood, frozen; waiting.
Then Peter spoke, “Ruthless men do not feel shame and guilt, but conscious men do. You have returned, Deo, you are here now. Shelly is happy, the girls are happy. You have matured and I am sure that no one really treated you badly since your return.”
Deo bent his head, placed both hands in his pocket and turned away from Peter, leaving the bar.
Toney looked at Peter. His both hands, palms opened, moved closer to his chest. His eyebrow closed in to each other.
Peter though will have no curious question. “And, please, am…,” he waved his finger.
“Yes you, Toney. Don’t ask me anything about the man’s past. Just leave it alone. No one around here wants to remember. You hear me stranger?.”
Toney awkwardly moved the right side of his face. He shook his head as a child being scolded for an unlawful act.
Peter attempted to walk away to attend too another customer, when Toney called out to him. “Peter, I am looking for work, do you…, or do you know of anyone who needs someone to employ? I am good with my hands.”
Peter stopped, held his hands over his mouth, then tilted his head as he close one eye. “Well I needed someone to help around here, but already contacted a person. Actually, she is expected today, come to think of it, haven’t seen her yet though.”
Toney nodded and gave a little smiled. “Well if you hear of any opportunities let me know,” he said and turned to leave the bar.
“Oh, wait,” Peter jerked his index finger in the air, signaling Toney.
“Yes,” Toney stopped, clasped his hands behind his back and bended slightly forward.
“You know, Mr. Chin Soo Chow asked me a few weeks back, if I knew any handy man. At the time there weren’t any willing to take the job. But I really didn’t hear him say anything about finding anyone.”
“Alright, I guessed that’s good news then. I will check him out sometime this morning,” he smiled.
Urging Toney to go see Mr. Chin, right away, he waved his palms at him, then pointed, allowing Toney’s head to follow in the direction of his hands. “He is next door, he owns the grocery store.”
Toney, became spirited, thanked Peter and headed for the door.
A young, tall, gorgeously looking woman entered the bar, passing him on his way out, he nodded at her and proceeded to push the swinging doors and exited.
He brought his steps to a halt, turning. Behind him he heard Peter vocalized something. As he tiptoed over the swinging door, he saw Peter moved from behind the counter and stood in the middle of the walk way.
“Men, stop what you’re doing for a moment, and yes, Dennis that means you too,” Peter said. He was quite assertive. So much so, that every man in the bar stopped, raised his head and listened. “Let me make this very clear—.”
But before Peter could continue, he was interrupted by Dennis.
“My goodness, Peter, who is that sweet girl?” Dennis yelled, while he rose to his feet.
Some of the men chuckled.
Peter quickly made his voice overpowering once more, “Yes about this girl,” Peter suspended his words for a few seconds to glance in the direction of Dennis, “Dennis, I think you should remained standing, because when I am through with what I have to say, you will leave. I will see you tomorrow, not today again but tomorrow, right!”
Dennis appeared to ignore Peter, pulling his stool closer to him to sit back down again. The stool made a scraping noise against the rustic floor.
About twenty, or so, men were in the bar. With horrid stares on their faces, they turned to look at Dennis. His body arched to sit.
Peter’s toes itched to move in Dennis direction.
There was a silence, overshadowing the bar’s misty air.
Toney, still stationed at the door, heard an influencing tone from the other side of the bar.
“Dennis, you heard the man, we’ll see you tomorrow!” The voice, assertive as well, but friendlier than Peter’s.
“That’s find Zig, I was leaving anyway,” Dennis responded.
Peter came back into the conversation, appearing to not be overly sidetracked by what had just happened. “Now this is Candy, she’s my niece. She’s now staying in the house just right around the bend, after the cemetery. I think most of you will have remembered my older sister, Miss Joanna, who lived obliquely opposite the primary school.”
“Oh, yes man, I remember her, Miss Joanna, boy. I for one sorry she gone,” Zig said nodding.
A few men chattered quietly among themselves about what Peter’s sister had taught them at school.
“She will be our waitress from today, she is to be respected and I ask that she shows each of you the same. So are we are clear?”
Like a choir after the orchestra played the introductory piece, the men harmoniously bellowed, ‘yes’ to Peter’s request.
Peter now focused his attention on Candy. He hugged her tightly, and kissed her on the forehead.
Dennis made his way out of the bar grumbling something to Toney as he brushed passed him.
Toney chuckled to himself. Unto the streets, he entered the blazing sun and glorious light which emanated from the heavens, upon Kiskadee village. As he walked in the direction of Mr. Chin’s grocery he squinted, trying to adjust his eyes to the brilliant light. By now the sun was directly overhead.
Copyright © 2017 David Alexian
All rights reserved.