One Lucky Good-Bye
‘Beer Mugs’ Moran shuffled the last of the customers out of the One Lucky. It was 3am and closing time. Because many beers were ordered and much food was eaten, it would take longer than usual to clean up after the late drinkers. The bartender grumbled slightly as he lit a cigarette and rested on a bar stool. He lifted his aching right shoulder and pushed up his bent right elbow with an open hand. He thought he could stretch out the stiffness this way, but it did little good and caused pain to his fingers.
As he did every night, the bartender slid half eaten meat and soaked potatoes off a plate and into a bowl he would bring to the Stray Dog. The coldness of the back alley air surprised him as he placed the bowl on the cracked concrete. He expected the dog as usual to hobble to his meal. But ‘Beer Mugs’ looked at two stiff hind legs extended beyond the garbage cans. He had recognized much death in this alley. He dropped his cigarette, and placed his hand along the heart of the Stray Dog. The body was still warm but lifeless. He wanted to pet his crown, but he decided to honour the canine in death as in life, and left his head untouched.
The bartender lifted the bowl of meat and soaked potatoes and returned to the One Lucky. He had a mess to attend to, but he decided to come early in the morning and clean. There was a dead animal in the alley, and he knew he couldn’t keep his mind on washing dirty beer glasses. Besides, he had left the rest of his cigarettes at home.
The bartender locked the front doors and felt the first of an early winter’s snow. The key turned poorly in the lock. Perhaps he would need more oil to fix it, he thought. Or perhaps he would need a new lock all together. He also wondered if by morn’ the Stray Dog would still be warm—or if the steam of his soul would rise into the night.