A Life Away - Part 3: No Soul

Jack stared down into his beer. He was exhausted. It had been a long day out on the property. A length of barbed wire fence had gone down after a tree fell on it. Under Earl’s supervision Jack and another hand finished cutting away what was left of the tree. Then it was one post after another as Jack worked down the line with the post hole digger. Chunk. Chunk. Chunk. He could still hear it in his head. The whole day had disappeared and he didn’t have a chance to get out to see Erica. She probably found something by now. The leaf was floating all through his mind. Jack squinted. He could have sworn he was seeing square bubbles coming up in his drink.

“Jack!”

A hard slap on the back brought Jack out of his beer. Kenny took the stool next to him at the bar. Lucy came up on the other side of the counter, her dark curled hair bobbing as she went along. She put a beer down in front of him and headed to another patron. Kenny took a sip then ran his fingers through his blonde locks. He glanced over at Lucy to make sure she didn’t see him do it.

“Darryl is going to kill you,” Jack said.

“What for?” Kenny asked.

“For making a pass at his sister.”

“Nah, man. Me and Darryl are cool. He’s fine with it.”

“Then maybe you should just make your move already. Stop being an idiot.”

“Oh you’re one to talk. What about Erica?”

Jack waved his hand to dismiss the topic. In truth he hoped she might show up at Lucy’s. At the same time she would probably want to talk about the leaf. Jack did not want to have that conversation in front of people. He felt weird about it. Like there was an air of taboo around the subject of something that seemed out of place.

A bottle clunked down on the counter. Darryl leaned on the other side of the bar, the low hanging lights shining a dull glare off his caramel scalp. He looked at Kenny.

“You’re being creepy,” he said.

“What?” Kenny said, tearing eyes away from following Lucy.

“Exactly,” Darryl said. “You can’t talk to her with your eyes. Use your mouth.”

“If he can manage to keep his foot out of it,” Jack added.

The trio chuckled. Jack liked Darryl and Kenny. They were probably his closest friends in Shutter Leaf. Kenny worked on Frank’s ranch down the road from the farm. Earl would send Jack down that way to help out every once in a while. Darryl did some work at the mill by the train station on most days, but he co-owned the bar with Lucy. They had inherited it from their father. Jack guessed that Lucy got more of a share. Her name was on the sign after all.

“All you do is talk,” Kenny said. “You don’t have to get breakfast at the diner every morning just to see Becca. You’re gonna talk that poor girl to death.”

“Better than staring her to death,” Darryl said.

“He’s got a point, Kenny,” Jack said.

“Oh you aren’t safe here either. What about Erica? I thought everything moved quick out there in the city. You should have courted, seduced, and married her by now.”

“Yeah, you’re giving city folk a bad rep. You’re moving slower than hell. Might as well be going backwards.”

“Says the man who can only look,” Jack said. “Besides, not everything in the city moves fast. Sometimes things can grind to a halt.”

“We talking girls still or have we moved on?” Darryl asked.

“Little bit of both. It all meshes together. You go to work in your grey cubicle in a beige office. Two colors that really suck the life out of the air. You’re not close to a window so you can’t even see outside. You just feel the weight of time dragging by every day. Then you go home dead tired even though you didn’t really do much. Don’t feel like going out, so there’s no chance to meet girls or anyone really. You just sit on the couch and wait to wake up the next day to drag your sorry ass back through it all again.”

“Damn, man.”

“Reminds me of the old manor,” Kenny said.

“How?”

“Nice and pretty on the outside, but there’s no soul.”

They sat contemplating their drinks for a moment.

“I think Kenny just said you’re pretty,” Darryl said, breaking the mood.

Kenny and Jack laughed. The trio finished their beers. Darryl grabbed three new bottles from behind the counter. Sharp hissing cracks broke through the din of the bar as he popped the caps off with an opener.

“It couldn’t have all been that bad,” he said, placing the drinks in front of his friends.

“No, you’re right,” Jack said. “Wasn’t all bad. Have family and friends there still, they were the good parts. Actually I should think about when I’ll go back to visit.”

Darryl looked Jack in the eyes. He could feel Kenny’s gaze as well. In fact it felt like the whole bar had turned his way. Jack couldn’t hear the jukebox anymore. The whole place had gone silent.

“What would you do that for?” Kenny asked.

“I-uh…”

Jack turned toward Kenny. He was leaning with an elbow on the bar, as casual as always. A new track kicked on through the jukebox speakers as the song finished changing over. Lucy walked past heading for a table. The quiet rabble of the bar continued on.

“I haven’t seen them in a while,” Jack said slowly.

“You haven’t been in town that long,” Darryl said. “I’m sure they aren’t dying to see you just yet.”

“True, but I do miss my parents a little bit,” Jack said.

“Yeah, but why leave?” Kenny asked. “They can just come visit you here.”

To be continued…

Part 1: https://medium.com/the-assortment/a-life-away-part-1-lakeside-sunset-bcb48a0e029a#.xcvhc9ol2

Part 2: https://medium.com/the-assortment/a-life-away-part-2-the-way-it-is-ef8104ffb5e4#.ffvmh2d4c