THE STRANGER

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

From out of nowhere, a stranger confidently walks into a bar and buys two rounds of whiskey for his new friends, paying with gold nuggets. Then he leaves, never to be seen again.

THE STRANGER

By John Ross Hart

 

It was a snowy weeknight at the Washoe Club.Tonight there was but a handful of miners, scalawags, businessmen, and even less high rollers. The winds off Sun Mountain were anything but its namesake, coming instead as bitter cold and heavy snow.Even in a city as rowdy as Virginia, you were a fool to be out and about on this night.

About nine, a time when those hanging on were deciding to go home, a confident man walked through the club doors.

"Howdy boys!, " he greeted to no one in particular."What are we drinking?"

"Whiskey!" was shouted out by the small majority.

"A round of whiskey for my new friends!," he shouted gleefully.John Drake, the club bartender, took out three bottles and started pouring.Nobody was going to refuse a free drink.

But who was this man?  He looked somewhat disheveled with unkempted hair and a scraggly beard.His clothes looked nice but appeared quite baggy.Was he a miner?Was he a speculator?Maybe he was a new reporter for the Territorial Enterprise?

He paid John in gold nuggets.No one had seen minerals so shiny.Immediately, everyone began to wonder where he had found this gold, not to mention who he was.

"Where did you find such a flash?," volunteered Luther Green, who happened to be the cashier at the Bank of California and certainly knew something about gold nuggets.

"What I have you can no longer find," said the stranger.Then he said no more.

Others pestered him with questions.Gold Hill?Silver City?Devil's Gate?

His answer was "no" to all of them.

"Is it north, is it east?," they continued to ask.

"It's a long way from here," replied the stranger.

Just as they prepared to ask for questions, the stranger bought another round, again paying with shiny gold metal.

"Where I got it and where I found it is a mystery even to me," he told his audience.  "But what I have is enough to sustain me."

The drinkers were now confused."You got lost and were lucky to find it," reasoned Luther Green.

"I wasn't lost!," said the stranger."But I was certainly blessed."

Now everybody was really confused, except the bartender, who went on washing and cleaning the bar glasses.

The stranger spoke again."I am a miner," he insisted."I have won it all and lost it all.  I have worked hard and have played hard.I have seen the good and the bad of humanity.But all that is behind me now.I am content."

"So, what you have is your last reward?, said a Mr. Finley.

"I need nothing.I want nothing.Just being with you, tonight, has given my heart great joy," smiled the stranger.

He took a last sip of whiskey and prepared to leave.

"You need a coat," responded Luther Green.  "You'll freeze to death out there!"

"I'll be all right.Good night, my friends!"The stranger walked out the door and out into the storm.

Immediately, the customers ran to the door to see where he was headed.But they saw nothing.Nobody was on the street, much less the man who bought them drinks.

"Who was he?What was he?"They were left scratching their heads.Were they drunk?Were they hallucinating?There was a man who came in and bought them whiskey.Then he just disappeared.

What was left of that night's crowd slowly drifted towards home, still wondering about the stranger.

Back at the Washoe Club, John the bartender smiled and called it a night.

"Mr. Evans is at peace!" 

###

 

 


Submitted: November 19, 2020

© Copyright 2021 John Ross Hart. All rights reserved.

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