The useless men at Clement mostly hung around at Mason's Bar and Grill, although the grill hadn't been lit in years. Mason stacked boxes of beer and liquor on it. On most nights, about 15 to 20 men would shuffle into the bar, play some pool, throw a round or two of darts, tell a few dirty jokes, and do their dead level best to drink themselves senseless with Mason's delighted help.
The bar opened in the early afternoon, but only the real serious drunks showed up that early. Like Teddy Aimes who came back from military service with memories he couldn't live with, Lonny Dewey who started drinking when he was 12 and wouldn't stop until he died when his liver finally gave out, and on the the day I'm talking about, Officer Larry Tweans who hadn't been right since his wife left him for a flooring salesman three years ago.
Larry had built his life about his lovely wife, Lisajean. They had dated in high school, the football quarterback and the blond bouncy head cheerleader. A cliche couple, it seemed. When they married, Larry thought his life was set. He'd work at his father's furniture store until his father retired when he'd take over, Lisajean would raise two or three beautiful children but keep her looks, and they would live in a large house over on Oak Street where the kids and then the grandkids would play.
Larry, as it turned out, should have spent less time on the football field and more time talking to Lisajean. 'Cause Lisajean had no intention of settling for Clement when she could travel and do more exciting things than what Larry had envisioned for her. After a year of being married to dependable ol' Larry, she was ripe for the picking when that salesman showed up and told her his cousin Jack ran a TV station in Oklahoma City and he'd love to introduce Lisajean to Jack as well as introduce her to a better life than she had in Clement.
She left a note detailing Larry's failings. He kept it in his front pocket. He went on a three-day drunk. That was so much better than being sober he started planning his weekends around getting plastered. His father and mother tried to intervene, particularly after a terrible Monday morning when Larry showed up at their furniture store still drunk and threw up on a large three-piece micro-suede sectional couch. Larry quit the next day. The Wednesday following, two men already on the run from the FBI robbed his parents' store and shot his father twice. His father died, the men were never caught, Larry's older brother Rod Jr. took over the store, and Larry decided to become a policeman.
He stayed sober for the year and half necessary for him to take a few law enforcement classes at the vo-tech at Sumark City. He applied for the part-time position at Clement to get a few months of actual work experience. His half-formed plan was to get a job with the Oklahoma City PD as a traffic cop, and soon after stop Lisajean's car for speeding. He was hazy on what would happen after that, but it either involved him discovering a few ounces of cocaine in the trunk of her car or her declaring her undying love upon seeing him.
Possibly his plan might have worked out for him. At least it might have moved him out of Clement. Might have let him discover something else in his life other than bitterness.
It might have happened as he planned, but one night, his dead father started appearing to him. First in his dreams and then when he was awake. His father haunted him all the time now. In fact, Larry's father Rod Sr. was sitting in the chair next to him and would be until Larry drank him away.
Larry knew -- in that way you know things in dreams -- that his father wanted to talk to him. So far Larry hadn't let him. Larry was afraid. Not so much of his father's ghost, but what his father wanted to tell him.
Larry knew like he knew gravity that his father's words would get him killed.
Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.