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.
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."
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.
"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.