The Flicker of the Light

By Rea Rizvanolli

The doorbell chimed as the front door flew open. The wall was covered with half empty bottles of liquor. The dim lights hid the dust on the shelves, but nothing could disguise the pungent odour of alcohol and tobacco.

“Ed, my man!” a voice called from behind the counter. 

Ed slowly walked towards the voice on the creaking wood floor and took a seat on the bar stool, dropping his satchel beside him. 

“You still haven’t fixed the floor, I see.” Ed said. 

“Yeah, well, doesn’t stop people from coming in,” the man said. “Scotch on the rocks?”

“You don’t even need to ask.” Ed sighed as he massaged his temples. 

“Some things never change.” 

The man stepped on a stool and reached for a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and poured the drink into a glass of ice. Ed pulled out a wrinkled ten-dollar bill from his wallet and slid it across the counter in return for his shot of whiskey. 

“Keep the change, Hank,” he insisted. 

Hank straightened out the bill before shoving it into the cash register. The murmur of the heater and sound of slurred words filled the room. Couples sat at the checkered covered tables while strangers were seated along the bar. Ed stared at his glass as he swirled his drink before bringing it up to his nose. He closed his eyes and took a whiff of the bitter scent before slowly bringing it down to his lips and finishing it in one gulp.

“Another one; no ice this time,” Ed said, his eyes focused on the glass.

“You got it!” 

Hank handed Ed another shot of whiskey, and Ed slid him another ten-dollar bill. The small television on the wall showed the news channel. A woman said the forecast predicted a storm within the next few hours.

“These weather people are so full of shit. There isn’t a single cloud in the sky! I doubt there’ll even be a speck of snow on the ground tonight.” Hank chuckled. 

“You never know, it may just be the calm before the storm,” Ed said.

Ed clutched the glass with his hand before relaxing it again. He chugged down the whiskey before slamming the dry glass on the counter. He shifted his gaze from the television down to his hands and began to fidget with the gold band on his finger. He twirled it around before finally taking it off. He spun it on the wet countertop, and asked for a shot of vodka as he watched the ring spin like a tornado. He then held it up to the light and examined every curve of each engraved number before sliding it back on. 

“Here you are,” Hank said as he placed the glass between Ed’s hands. 

He poured himself a shot as well. 

“Cheers,” he said as he lifted his glass up towards Ed. 

Ed took the shot and shook his head.

“Sometimes that’s all you really need,” Hank said, smiling.

Ed nodded as he loosened his tie. He opened his wallet and stared down at the photograph behind the plastic. He caressed the photo with his thumb and pulled out another bill. 

“Yeah, sometimes,” he said as he tucked the wallet into his coat pocket.

He pulled out a large envelope from his satchel and took out a pen. He glanced over the documents and clicked his pen before finally placing the papers aside. The door behind him flung open, sending in a gust of cold air. In walked a blonde woman with skin like a porcelain doll. She stood at the doorway and looked around the dim room, before locking her eyes on Ed. She walked towards him and sat down.

“You haven’t brought me down here in a while,” she said as she adjusted herself on the stool.

The woman looked around the room and up at the flickering light bulb above them. She looked back at Ed, her blue eyes sparkling like the ring on her finger. 

“Looks the same as the first time, doesn’t it Gretchen?” he asked. 

They were silent for a moment, and all that could be heard was the distant laughter and ticking of the clock on the wall. 

“Ed, we need to discuss things like adults. I know that this place is practically the same but I’m aware that we…” the woman said. 

“How about a drink?” he interrupted. “Hank, get her a whiskey, would you?”

Hank nodded, pulled out a glass from beneath the counter, and poured Gretchen a glass. 

“Ed, can we at least sit at a table?” she pleaded.

“Why don’t you have some of that whiskey?” he said. “We can discuss things just fine here. Like old times.”

Gretchen looked down at the auburn liquid placed in front of her. She ran her fingers down the glass before pushing it towards Ed.

“Things aren’t like old times, Ed.” 

“Come on, having a drink together doesn’t change anything.” 

“No Ed, I don’t want to have a drink,” she said as crystal tears trickled down her rosy cheeks. “I can’t.” 

Ed’s eyes widened as he looked up from the counter and at Gretchen again. He looked at her from her dark roots to her wide hips. He took the papers beside him and shoved them into his satchel. The light above them finally stopped flickering.

“How about we go sit at a table?”