The man seemed to be deliberating on whether he should enter the bar. And it seemed to be a hard battle he was waging. My heart went out to him. My cousin Armand is a terribly conflicted alcoholic, and I've seen that dance before. However, I was also preoccupied with my own quandary. I was suddenly wondering if I was even on the right street. I didn't remember any tavern on this corner, or even in this area. As far as I knew, I had been taking a shortcut around the Ranger's station, and should have been on green, worn-away back roads; roads that hadn't been paved in ages, and didn't even have official names, let alone bars.
He stood by the window, staring in. The warm glow that spilled out into the night, and across his face was pleasing to see. But when I peered past his head (and he had quite a pair of ears, I noticed), I saw no happy revelry. There was much flickering of candleflame, and apparently, a good deal of motion in the shadows that lay about the room. From the road, the aura emanating from the windows seemed an orange-y tungsten glow, but as I leaned in closer, it seemed a deep, ruby that originated, perhaps, from low-standing lamps.
Finally, I spoke to the man.
"Good night for a few rounds?" I said, hoping to ease his anxiety a bit. I didn't want to encourage a man who had difficulty with liquor, but I didn't actually know that he did. For all I knew, he was busy deciding if he had time for a drink. I was not a father to him, just a stranger.
"Well...I don't want one," he began. "But it may be necessary."
He said this deadpan, which I found rather funny. "Yes," I replied, just as grim. "I do believe you are right. Do you want to join me in a drink, then?"
It was completely spontaneous, this offer of mine. I hadn't planned on stopping for a drink. I had some pages to scratch out when I reached my home, and I don't do my best writing under the influence of alcohol. In fact, what I do best under the influence of alcohol is, perhaps, laugh unrestrainedly with friends, prove myself an idiot, or grow sleepy on the couch. I am not one of those busy-bee drinkers, like Chinaski. But the odd man had evoked a humor in me, I can't account for it. I felt he might be a good guy to toss one back with.
"Of course not," he snapped. I was taken aback. What an odd night. What a curious fellow. I only stood mute as he seemed to shift in his clothes, and readjust his stance. He leaned to one side a bit, and stuck his chin out, defiantly. "No man wants a drink at three in the morning. A man who drinks at that time has no choice in the matter."
"Three in the morning?" I asked. Now this was news. It could not possibly be later than nine p.m. Perhaps he was just a bit mixed up tonght. "Hunh."
"Well," I continued, in some sort of Zen Cowboy drawl I apparently found the need to invent, "I don't know about all that. I just know I am no particular rush at the moment, and I guess this place has a sort of...well, some kind of draw. You know what I mean?"
The man looked nonplussed. Almost as if he hadn't heard anything I'd said. He worked his jaw, and turned back toward the window. I don't know what he saw there. I found myself wanting to see it the way he did. Because to me, it was all a blur of red glow, sharp yellow flames, and shifting shadow. Yet, he remained transfixed.
He spoke, then, without turning away from the window. When he did, it was with a scoff, more or less. I was beginning to think he was out here because nobody wanted him at home.
"They don't serve drinks here. It's much stronger stuff." He seemed to be speaking to himself, and I had to strain to make out his words. I wasn't sure I knew...or liked, where this was going. Stronger stuff? What was this, anyway? Did I wander my way into some dangerous part of the woods? Were we huddled outside of a meth lab, or something?
"Well, perhaps it is too late," I said, adding a few drops of Cautious Grandfather to Zen Cowboy. After all, I didn't know this man from Adam. "Maybe it's best just to head on home and get some rest." At that, I began shifting my bag, preparing to walk off.
"Damn it all," the man cursed, and all at once, the moon slid free from a dark sky-tangle, and a pale light washed down over the both of us, as well as the strange shack. I peered above the tavern, then, still trying to discern a name. It read GOTTERDAMMERUNG INN.