by Gil Hoy
Jack’s favorite breakfast spot was “The Breakfast Club.” He always ordered “The Jock.” He’d been one in college. Egg whites, asparagus, tomatoes, and onions. Jack was older now but still strikingly handsome. Trim and fit with a sun-bleached, brown mane and piercing blue eyes.
Jack had an hour to get back to his wife. She was a real estate broker. He’d just dropped her off in the next town over after he put up her “Condo For Sale/Open House” signs. Her open houses usually lasted an hour. Jack sat down on a barstool, put his book face down on the counter, and ordered.
A thin, scraggly-haired man called Willy was sitting nearby. Under a window by the front door. His back propped up against the wall. He had bad teeth, mottled skin, and looked older than he was. Drinking his fourth Jack Daniels.
Jack liked to read while he ate. And write something good if he had a good idea. He’d brought Hemingway’s Men Without Women with him and was reading about a once-famous bullfighter who could no longer draw a crowd. The bullfighter was old but still had courage.
Jack had been a star quarterback ten years ago in college. He’d loved the roar of the crowd in the large stadiums where he played. He’d married the prettiest cheerleader the day after graduation.
When Jack was almost done eating, he sneezed twice. “God bless you. God bless you,” Willy said. “Thanks,” Jack said and continued reading. After a few minutes, another “God bless you.” “God bless you, too,” Jack said. Although he’d never been a religious man, never went to church, and didn’t believe in God.
Another man came in. It was painful to watch him walk. If you could call it that. His arms were strong but his legs couldn’t move. They were dragged along by arms and crutches that slowly moved the man forward.
The man on crutches sat on the barstool next to Willy. They talked for a while. “I’m leaving. “But I’ll be back,” Willy said. And left without paying his bill. The man with crutches kept turning his head towards the empty chair and kept right on talking.
Jack had seen the man with crutches before. He always drank soda pop. And mumbled when he talked. Jack thought to himself, he’s a real dunce, a simpleton who can’t even walk. And now he’s talking to a drunk who’s no longer there.
Jack got up to leave. He had ten minutes to get back to his wife. As he was leaving, the man with crutches said, “Enjoy the short stories, man. There’s something to them. He’s a damn good writer.”
Jack stopped walking. He went back to his barstool. Began to write. He called his wife, “Honey, I’m going to be late.”
Jack was thinking that the real man is often hidden, that courage is not always apparent, and that we’re all dying. The man with crutches ordered a whiskey. And continued right on talking to an empty chair.
About the Author:
Gil Hoy is a Boston writer and poet who studied poetry and writing at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy previously received a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. While at BU, Hoy was on BU’s championship wrestling team and finished in second place in the New England University Wrestling Championships at 177 lbs. He served as an elected Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. Hoy is an elected member of the Brookline, MA Democratic Town Committee. His work has recently appeared in Indian Periodical, The Galway Review, Best Poetry Online, Muddy River Poetry Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, Rusty Truck, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The Penmen Review, Misfit Magazine, The New Verse News, Chiron Review and elsewhere.