Enough is enough, Simon decided.
It wasn’t that he minded his own company. In fact, his solitary life was rich with opportunities. Simon had time to himself, and time to get his thoughts in order. Distractions were few.
Still, he thought, is this really living?
Simon came to a conclusion: What he needed was a night out. After a bit of planning and preparation, he was ready. Soon enough he had on a new set of clothes and was strolling the familiar sidewalks of his hometown.
Simon delighted at the mild chill of the early evening. He took a deep breath and smiled.
God, he thought, how long has it been since I’ve done this?
Simon stopped in at the corner drug store, so much the same after all these years, to buy a newspaper. Mr. Curtis was behind the counter, as always. Simon was thrilled!
“Mr. Curtis!” he called out. “How are you?”
The older man regarded his customer but said nothing. Simon’s elation died.
“Simon,” Mr. Curtis finally replied, unsmiling. “Haven’t seen you around.”
“Um…yeah,” said Simon, his discomfort growing. “It’s been awhile.”
He left without the newspaper.
Simon was flustered as he walked to the diner across the street, and he wasn’t put at ease by the halt in the clatter and chatter when he walked in.
This isn’t good, Simon thought. He sensed that staying wouldn’t much improve matters, so he made his second uncomfortable exit of the evening. A roomful of stares followed him out.
Simon had been hungry, urgently so, but it seemed that a pleasant supper was now out of the question. Checking the wallet, though, he saw there was enough money to remedy things and rescue his night out.
There was enough to get drunk at Billy’s Bar.
A long time ago, Simon drank his first legal beer at Billy’s. He seemed to recall that Billy Jr. had taken over the place from Billy Sr. No need to change the neon, so they didn’t.
Simon didn’t make eye contact with any of the patrons, though he could tell he had their full attention. He wondered how long it had been since he’d had a drink. Years, certainly. At any rate, the one in front of him was tasting good and hitting hard.
Simon had promised that he wouldn’t, but he did: He started feeling sorry for himself. Because what had he expected from a homecoming, really? Hadn’t he been the black sheep of his family, and then the black sheep of an entire town?
The black sheep.
The odd duck.
The strange cat.
For a while, he was a sly fox.
And now he was going to get drunk as a skunk.
Simon heard the footsteps first, coming his way fast. Then a pleading voice.
“Dale, don’t,” someone said. “We’ve already called the …”
At hearing the familiar name, Simon started to turn. The fist caught him just under his right ear, knocking him off the barstool and onto the floor.
In spite of the pain and the ringing in his head, Simon was observant. Dale Edwards was still a powerfully built man, he noted. Maybe thicker in the middle, but that’s the beer. A man has to cope, after all.
With the first kick, Simon knew Dale’s boots were steel-toed, though he might’ve guessed. Dale was a man’s man, a working man. He could also be an angry man. Simon had seen his rage before, but not like this. This was the first time no one had prevented Dale from getting close to him.
Simon couldn’t blame Dale, really. Not after what had happened between Simon and Dale’s wife … and Simon and Dale’s daughter, and Simon and all the others, too.
Simon heard the sirens and knew he would be going back soon. He’d figured his night out wouldn’t last long. Simon was quite aware of why his clothes were a poor fit, and that the jacket hid a stain on the shirt. He knew what caused the stain.
Simon knew what he’d done to get a night out, just like he remembered everything he’d done to get the rest of his nights — and days — in.
Scott Weisser is a writer and editor based in Goshen, Ind. A former newspaper journalist, he now works in the public relations and marketing field. His fiction has been featured on the NoSleep Podcast.
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