The Irascible Gentleman

Jennifer York
18 min readMay 13, 2024

Edgar Allan Poe abroad

Paris, 1835

The tavern, nestled in a narrow alley in the shadowy heart of Paris, was a haven for the city’s nocturnal souls. Its name, Le Sombre Reflet, or “The Dark Reflection,” was etched on a weathered wooden sign swinging silently above the door, speaking to the mysteries that lay within. The atmosphere inside was thick, redolent of tobacco smoke and the faint, underlying scent of damp cobblestones seeping through the walls.

Inside, the lighting was dim, provided by candles nestled in colored glass holders that cast an array of surreal hues across the rough-hewn wooden tables. The bar itself was a long slab of mahogany, scarred and dented from years of use, doused with small pools of alcohol like some ritual baptism, behind which rows of bottles of liquor were scattered in a careless fashion...the amber of the whiskey and brandy, the ruby red and pale gold of the wines, and the emerald of the absinthe…a jewel shop in a haunted house, an Alladin’s cave guarded an unshaven genie in soiled attire, a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth.

The music was a melancholic accordion played by an old man seated in a corner. Though gnarled with age, marred with arthritic bumps, his fingers moved with a fluid grace born of years of repetition, weaving a haunting melody that seemed to echo the very soul…