There is no explicit sex in this story. I wish to thank the people who helped contribute to and edit this story, per their wishes, they remain anonymous. This story is totally fictitious; any resemblance the characters might have to persons living or deceased is purely coincidental. No part of this story may be published at any other site without the express permission of the author. © December 14, 2007
'FUCK... fuck, fuck, fuck, and double fuck, there goes my afternoon, ' Hank thought as he watched the small group come in the door. 'I've just been sitting here minding my own business... Hell, I'm only on my second beer and she has to show up.'
Sarah seemed to be very excited as she clung to the arm of a handsome young man. They appeared to be the center of attention as the sound of her giggling friends filled the room.
Hank watched Sarah glance around and knew she was looking for the perfect spot to sit. She used to do that with him. Suddenly Sarah noticed Hank at the end of the bar, and her eyes danced in lively recognition as she waved at him. But Hank only nodded, slid off the bar stool, and turned away. Quickly as it had lit up, her face dropped in embarrassment.
Suddenly Hank reached around with one arm and grasped the top of his pants. As he pulled them up tight, he leaned a little sideways while his other hand forced its way into his pocket. 'Damn tight ass jeans, ' Hank thought, 'I really should start wearing slacks.' After digging out his money clip, he said, "Ok barkeep, time for me to go."
Rick knew something was wrong. Hank never left before finishing his drink. As the bartender checked out the batch of new faces, he spotted Sarah and immediately understood the problem. 'After all, it is a small town, ' he thought, 'and everyone does know everyone's business.'
"Come on Rick... give me the bad news. How much do I owe ya?" Hank asked.
"Put a lid on it," the bartender joked, "it's your fault anyway. Whatever in the world possessed you to order that second beer I'll never know. Have you forgotten how bad I am with numbers? I can calculate the first on my fingers, but after that I have to use my toes. Just be glad you don't have time for a third."
Normally Hank would have laughed at the humor, or least at the attempt. But for now, he could only muster a lopsided grin. After being told the amount of his bar tab, he peeled off enough bills to cover the damages plus a couple of extra for a tip.
Due to the difference in their ages, Hank had never been close friends with Rick, but had always liked him. He was a good bartender, always hustling, never talking unless spoken to, and had a very pleasant disposition.
To show his appreciation, Hank added one more bill to the stack then asked, "Be okay if I take the rest of my beer with me?"
"Sorry man... you know the rules. I'm not supposed to let anyone leave the premises with alcoholic beverages. If you got caught, it could cost my license," Rick replied.
Since the answer was what Hank had expected, it didn't really upset him. He knew the bartender had more than just himself to worry about. With a sudden twinge of regret, he realized, 'Unlike Rick, I don't have a loving wife waiting at home... with three little ones to feed.'
Hank looked at his money roll and thought, 'Hell, it ain't doing me any good just sittin' in my pocket, and they probably need it more.' With that he peeled off three more bills, one for each kid, and laid them on the stack.
"Damn it Hank, you don't have to do that. Oh what the fuck, just keep the bottle down and make sure no one sees it. And if you get stopped, remember... you didn't get it here. If I lose my license, you're putting my ass to work, and for a damn good salary," Rick chuckled.
Hank couldn't help but notice that Sarah was glancing sideways at him as he strode across the bar and out the front door.
The old truck came to a sliding halt in the loose gravel of the 'ole river road.' In his anger, Hank's foot still had the brake pressed hard to the floor. Raising the bottle to his lips, he leaned his head back and finished off the last couple of swallows. Then with one hand holding the empty beer bottle, Hank leaned forward, resting his arms on the steering wheel.
As he looked out at the small stream he couldn't help but ponder, 'Why do they call it a river? It's not over three or four feet wide in most places. Other than a few large pools, it's nothing but a small creek.'
"Oh well, they didn't bother to ask me," he sarcastically chuckled, "and if it was any of my business, I'm sure they would've. So, then... it's a river, and always will be... no matter how screwed up I think that is."
Hank pulled up on the door handle and pushed the truck door open. He could still smell the dust he'd stirred up in his frustration.
After easing out of the truck, Hank strolled slowly along the river bank. Occasionally he would pick up a rock with his free hand and throw it into one of the larger pools. The sound of the splash felt real and reminded him of the fact that life went on, in spite of his pain.
But as the ripples rolled across the pools, Hank began to realize his real enjoyment was the comfort he derived from watching the water reclaim its calm surface.
A large familiar flat rock caught his attention. It was just what he had been looking for and he plopped his butt down.
Unconsciously Hank pulled off his hat and laid it on the rock beside him. With his elbows resting on his knees, he leaned his head forward and ran his hand through his hair, rubbing and scratching as it went.
Then holding the top of the bottle between the thumb and finger of one hand, he tapped the bottom with his other. After swinging back and forth a couple of times, the bottle came to rest, hanging straight down.
'Just like my life, ' Hank thought sarcastically, 'it's been tapped... no, it's been knocked on its ass, turned upside down, and left standing on its head.
'What happened to us?' He wondered. 'All those years, I thought we were in love. Damn it, I know she loved me. Did it just slip away while she was at college?
'Maybe Sarah discovered she loved that new guy more? He looked like a nice enough fellow, not bad looking, and from what I hear, his family is loaded... No, it wouldn't be... couldn't be the money. She's too special to be that shallow.
'Hell, I would never have even talked to Sarah, let alone fallen in love with her if I had known she could do this to me.'
All at once Hank was filled with rage, he needed to break something. Flipping the bottle up, he caught it by the neck and raised it over his head as he reared back. But suddenly Hank pictured kids playing in the pool like he and Sarah used to do. And even though he wanted to shatter it on the rocks that lined the other side, he stopped. The thought of bare feet on broken glass left him feeling embarrassed. 'My anger doesn't give me the right to hurt others.'
As the bottle flipped in the air once more, Hank reached out, grabbed it, stood up, and headed back to his truck. Before getting in, he leaned over and dropped it in the backend.
Sarah sat in the back porch swing, reading a book. She finally laid it down and smiled recalling her day with her new boyfriend. 'My friends really seem impressed with Fred, and it was fun showing him off. He's so witty, but what's more important, he's very cultured and refined, which fits in perfectly with my future plans.
'But running into Hank was embarrassing. I'm glad he made it easy and left. I don't know what I would have done or said if he had come over. Thank goodness none of my friends mentioned him. That would have been difficult to explain, like everything else since I've started going out with my new boyfriend.' But... Sarah also realized seeing Hank had inflamed emotions she thought were buried.
Just at that moment, her dad walked out with a cup of coffee and sat down beside her. She grinned, "Daddy, I wouldn't know what to think if I ever saw you without a cup of coffee in your hand."
"Well daughter, I dread the day you do. Because that means either the end of the world has finally arrived... or they're fixin' to put me six foot under," he smiled at her.
She slapped him on the arm, "Dang it dad, don't even joke about that. We both know you're going to live forever."
"Sure I am, darlin'. Now what's got you so flustered, and don't tell me nothing. I know you too well. You have that look on your face," he cajoled her.
"Just wondering... now that you've had time to get to know him, what do you think of Fred?" She asked.
Her dad took a deep breath, then said, "Well, he seems like a nice enough fellow. Good breeding from what I can tell. His teeth are white and always look freshly brushed, that's important you know," he joked.
"Ahh daddy, be serious, I really want to know what you think."
With a deep sigh, he stood and walked to the porch railing. Sitting his coffee cup down, he leaned forward with a hand on each side and gripped the rail tightly. "He's not Hank, baby girl."
Sarah rose and stepped up beside him. She laid one hand on his back and squeezed his upper arm with her other. "I know daddy, and I know how much you like Hank... hell, we both love Hank. But my life has changed. Hank is tied here forever. This town is his future, but it's not mine, I've moved on. I have plans for my career and he just wouldn't fit in.
.... There is more of this story ...