JOHN 10 – an Excerpt from The Devil You Know

So, I did, and instantly he began to lecture me like a father. I wasn’t sure how to take it when he started off with,

“I’m a man…”

I put my hand up as he took a rag from his apron to wipe his forehead.

“Listen. Can you hear that?” I asked him.

My words were slippery and sticky on my tongue like honey as I looked down at the bar. My cheeks were warm and my fingers a little tingly; almost like they were falling asleep.

“I can’t hear anything sug’” he started wiping the counter.

Slapping the bar, I looked up.

“That’s the sound of me not giving a shit that you’re a man. Can I get another beer please?”

He shook his head and kept cleaning the bar, but when I looked up I froze.

I saw my daddy’s face

A face that I hadn’t seen in ten years

His jaw line

His bear paw hands

The hands that could move mountains

Scarred from manual labor

His face was hazy

Then with a flutter of my eyes it was still just that fat little bartender. My father was gone again and all I was left with was a shitty lukewarm Coors, and the smell of cheap shit cigarettes pungent in the room. The clickety clack of pool balls deafening under the veil of beer filling up the empty spaces in my blood. 

It shut out all light

Muffled the sounds around me

It was stiflingly hot

It seemed an eternity before John spoke to me again.

“Listen, all I’m saying is. He’s a bad guy, you’ll get yourself hurt.”

Running the neck of the bottle against my cheek to cool down, I looked at him. Then pointing in Negro’s general direction, I said,

“I’ve seen the devil, and he’s not it.”

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