St. Anthony's Stories

Ben

He stood at the bar and stared through the front windows, watching the snow fall in what looked like white sheets. He’d been in Michigan five years and yet his southern heart was surprised over and over at the variations of winter that could occur here. He’d never imagined snow falling in sheets like rain, pulsing and driving with the wind, and yet, it did.

He thought of Jess at home with Alfred, sipping herbal tea, the two of them tucked beneath flannel and blankets, burrowed in. He was just weeks old and still seemed to want to crawl right back into Jess’ body, as though he was furious that he’d been evicted in the first place. And she, despite months of panic and anxiety, seemed to know just how to console him in his grief.

She called him Freddie. Much to Jess’ disgust, Ben called him Alf.

Ben would have thought a snowstorm of this nature would drive people indoors. Instead, it drove them to their local watering hole. In this case their brewery. He fingered the barn wood bar that he’d worked tirelessly to lacquer to smoothness, the tiles he’d painstakingly placed behind the taps, the copper ceiling he’d put in, late on summer night listening to James Brown. He was proud of it. It had been his part of the dream, carefully designed and crafted, day in and day out, ignoring her impatient pleas to hurry because they were nearly out of money and needed to open.

But this part, the people, they were hers. These people, the dozens of them that sat swaddled in down, Sorel boots dripping snowmelt, hair plastered to their faces and necks in odd ways thanks to the snow and sweat and the wool hats that they crammed over their ears, they’d be here until close. He knew this. Jess would love it.

“Heya, man, how about a stout? Feels like stout kinda day, right? Actually, can you tell me a bit about it? What’s it taste like?” Like a stout. Ben poured a taste in a glass and slid it across the bar. “Oh, yeah, that’s good, real good. I’ll have a pint of that. Actually, nah, I’ll take a Pale. Yeah, I’ll go with a Pale Ale. That’s good, too, yeah?”

Ben stared at him and shrugged. “If you like Pales.”

“Huh. Yeah. I’ll go with the Pale.”

Ben poured the beer, marked the tab and turned back to the window. He heard the fellow in his red and black plaid turn to his friend, “not super friendly here are they?”

This was never his dream.

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