Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Man Comes Around

     It rained that Tuesday. The gutters overloaded and filthy water washed up over the curbs. The club hadn't opened yet, and the few within were still, watching the rain. It streaked the one-way reflective front windows. A woman beneath a large black umbrella stopped and checked her hair in those windows. Once sure the rain hadn't mussed her hair too greatly, she hurried on.
     The piano player was oiling the dark wood of his instrument. Most of the lamps were off and the empty barroom was hung with grays and cool blues of wet light. From where Lou watched, the piano player, sleeve of his white shirt billowing at the garter, was almost silhouetted against the front windows. Lou liked the man, and his quiet dedication to his work.
     The piano player stood straight, cloth in his hand, and looked out the windows. “It's going to be strange” he said without turning.
     Lou wasn't sure what the man meant, “Strange?”
     “Without you running the place.”
     “Oh. Yeah, well. Who's surprised, eh?”
     “Oh, no one”, the piano players tone was coolly even, “but it will still be strange.”
     Silence hung in the room, and the rain rose then to fill the emptiness with its battering. Large drops shook the windows, maybe the whole building, with their force. The piano player gathered his materials and went into the back room.
     Lou started to make himself an old-fashioned. He called to the piano player, “You wan'a drink?”
     “I'm alright, Lou” the other man said from just behind him. Startled, Lou slopped the bourbon a little. The man moved so quietly.
     “What are your plans?”
     Lou sipped the drink, “I'm going down to the coast. My sister left me a place down there, and I've never really used it. Be good to now.”
     “They'll send the man around.”
     “They don't know about the place” he sipped more, and stood silent, rinsing the liquor across his tongue, for a long time, “but yeah. They'll send the man around.”
     The piano player nodded, “Ya know, Lou, while you've got the stuff out, I think I'll have that drink.”

     The dock was cold. To the south the water was tossed gray, capped with dingy white. The sky another layer of the same, muted gray across the expanse of ocean, below closer pale gray clouds. The piano player flexed his hands, enjoying the leather of his gloves on his knuckles. He felt good. The salt in the air teased his taste buds. The cool temperature was refreshing, and he enjoyed wearing the wool coat.
     “Do you travel much” the woman asked.
     “No. But I always enjoy it when I do” and he kissed her. She giggled and did feminine things with her eyelashes at him.

     Lou opened the door, and started to smile at the familiar face. The piano player waited until Lou's face had fallen before smiling back.
     “So, it's you.”
     The piano player stepped into the cottage, brushing past Lou, observing the emptiness.
     “It was always you?”
     “Yes. Always me, Lou.
     “You've known me a long time.”
     “I have. You were a good man, for a long time.”
     “Now I ain't?”
     “Now you're not.”
     Lou looked fat, and sullen, and old. He felt it too. The piano player killed him, quietly, and left. The breeze was still blowing in off the water, cold and salty.

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