Silence had turned on Les. It betrayed his lone, pathetic image reflected on the big picture window to anyone walking past outside. The evening had enveloped the Empire inside a massive velvet curtain pulled together by forces that kept hidden the fundamental mysteries of death.
Les remained fixated on the muted television above, not really listening, but using it as a tool for distraction. Like everyone else in the room, he was dwelling on the loss of his friend. The television lights were a mixture of chrome and glass continuously panning a repressive football game interspaced with exuberance fought with insecurity cheered scared into an abusive, intolerant sporting event where control over others was actually a national pastime, shared by anyone, he thought.
This was America, he reasoned. A country usurped from its natives and devolved into the world’s entertainment bastardizing art, religion, education, fashion, politics, food, romance, sex and even the weather. It seemed to dominate his conscious thought.
The notion made him sick.
Trying to fog over this and the loss of his friend he finally resorted to meditation. Closing his eyes he tried to release the endorphins locked inside his brain in an attempt at sending his demons into a deep, muted hush. Tears quietly flowed, cutting tiny rivulets down the pores of his tired, weathered face. He grasped his drink harder.
The others seated around him were engaged in their own method of healing. Malcolm and his waitress friend were quietly sharing the slogging bottle and Trucker and Buster watched the football game respectfully silent.
Snaggletooth stared out the big picture window at the dwindling commuter traffic, trying to manage his stir-fry collection of life experiences bouncing around inside the mangled, coconut shaped head attached above his shoulders.
Robbie and Helen remained secluded in Robbie’s office, locked in tearful coitus, attempting to wash away the fear-to-anger-to-grief emotions left over from the whoop-dee-do ride of the evenings’ events.
“We’d better join the others,” Helen whispered. “They’re drinking all the profits.”
Robbie thought for a moment.
“What was his name?” he asked, referring to Baron.
Helen thought for a moment. “I don’t know.”
The two remained puzzled, surprised at their lack of this information. She parted and left, scurrying into an adjacent bathroom.
“Geese, you’d think I’d know a person’s real name after ten years,” he mumbled while dressing.
Everyone gave Robbie a gloomy nod as he took station behind the bar.
“Does anybody know Baron’s real name?” he addressed the group.
Everyone stared back at him like a box of rocks.
“Well?” he prodded.
Nobody responded. All were caught off-guard by the simple question.
“I know I’m not suppose to ask, but would anyone object to me using Baron as my slogging name?” Malcolm sheepishly asked.
Everyone exchanged glances.
“How sweet!” his waitress friend commented.
“Trucker, you got any problem with that?” Robbie asked Trucker, the unofficial expert of the group. Trucker raised his head out of his palm and diverted his attention away from the football game leaving a comical oversized red impression of his hand on his face.
“Whatteye look like, the Ambassador to Germany?” Trucker sarcastically answered.
“Trucker!” Helen protested.
“No, you look like an angry clown,” Robbie shot back.
“Actually, it’s a fair question Trucker,” Snaggletooth added, taking a break from his bourbon.
Trucker watched Malcolm pour himself and the waitress another drink.
“Gimmie a glass of that stuff and I’ll think about it,” he growled.
“Help yourself,” Malcolm replied, sliding the bottle over.
Robbie produced enough glasses for everyone. In a moment of spontaneity everyone raised his or her glass in a silent toast. At that exact moment and without discussion everyone in the room had realized the Empire had been irreparably changed forever.
Before toasting Robbie placed another empty glass on the counter.
“It’ll be for later, when he gets back,” Robbie commentated with unusual sincerity.
The toast was made. Some drank through tears.
“Gimmie another!” BC demanded.
Robbie sauntered over and filled his glass just as slowly.
“Last one,” he growled.
BC looked at Robbie as if he were Satan, his eyes as big as dinner plates. Over the years everyone had gotten used to BC’s outbursts, but this was different.
“What the hell’s your problem, ya crazy old fuck!” Robbie shouted, spittle flying from his lips. BC refused to relinquish. He slowly brought the drink to his lips, his stare unwavering. Robbie slapped the drink out of his hands, the glass shattering onto the floor nearby.
“Git outta here!” Robbie screamed.
BC appeared as if he were about to cry. Helen walked up and placing her hand on her husband’s shoulder was about to console the two until Robbie abruptly walked off. Helen was left standing, staring into BC’s reddened eyes.
“It’s been a long night,” Trucker whispered.
The traffic outside the big picture window had diminished. BC slowly rose and left his barstool behind, taking one last look over his shoulder at everyone giving one last doleful look before exiting the service door. At that split second Les looked over, aroused by the commotion, and was the only person to notice a small handgun tucked under BC’s belt. A chill went down his spine.
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