A Bar in Boston

July 28, 2010
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It’s a tough town, Boston that is. You can live there your entire life, and think that you know the city, only to learn that there’s another area of Brooklyn society that you had never known to exist. Sure it’s easy to see the towering skyscrapers lit up like stars in the night, reflecting down on the water, causing ignorant tourists to gasp at the manmade beauty, and quickly capture that moment in time through their disposable cameras, but all of that is just the outside. If you just look at the titanic buildings, the majestic bridges, or the fancy hotels and offices all you see is the skin of the city. If you want to truly know Boston you must avert your gaze from the lofty heights of the towers, and look to the streets.
The streets are filled with cars, the blood of the city, like all major cities, they flow through the city, transporting people to different areas of the city, so that the people can do their jobs, and keep the city healthy.
Of course when you do go to Boston then you’ll have to listen for the pulse. You might here it faintly at first, obscured by the sounds of the city in a rush, but if you listen carefully enough you’ll hear something different throb through the city, if you follow that sound you’ll find a band at the end of it, big or small, famous or not, you’ll find a band, there’s always a band nearby, and that is the pulse of the city. If you listen carefully enough you’ll also realize that the people walking, the cars moving, and the bands playing all seem to be working to the same beat.
Unfortunately though, there are those that can’t seem to move to the same beat as the rest of the city. Those people are discarded, and before they know it they’re just another unhappy, disgruntled face wandering from bar to bar, at one time or another wandering into a small bar right across from a greasy pizza joint called Pablo’s Pizza.
In that bar there was a permanent fixture. Al Timothy Jones had frequented the small Boston bar named, simply, Tough World, for the last decade, staying from noon, to closing time every single day without fail, and poured out what money he had left from his football playing days just so that he could drain a couple beers in the hope that they would wash his problems away.
Yes, anyone who frequented the bar could agree that Al Timothy Jones was a pathetic sight to see. Yet for some reason that Al couldn’t explain he had one friend who always reserved a table in the corner, next to the bathroom so that Al could sit alone, everyone else avoiding the bathroom, his hands wrapped around a cold beer as he muttered about his past and his ruined dreams.
Al’s unexpected friend was the bartender Giovanni, but all his friends knew him as Gion, so naturally everyone knew him as Gion, except for the government.
Gion approached Al with a fresh beer in his hand, foam flowing over, down the sides of the frosted glass.
“This one’s on the house Al,” Gion announced happily, setting down the new beer, and taking the warm, empty glass that Al had been licking, so as to get every last drop.
Al looked up at Gion, pushing his shaggy mess of hair back so as to get a better look. “What’s the occasion?”
Gion’s smile broadened until Al was afraid that it would wrap all the around his head. “My wife gave birth to another little baby girl today, we’re going to name her Angela.”
In response Al raised his glass, so as to give a toast. “Here’s to Angela, because she got me a free beer, now Gion, go have another baby so that I can have another beer.”
Gion chuckled and walked off to serve other drunken customers, leaving Al alone with his brooding thoughts.
I had so many dreams, so many dreams that this stinking city crushed under its heal as if they were just a couple of bugs. I was a linebacker, and I wasn’t just good I was great, that is at least for high school. Then along came college, and then suddenly everyone is lifting weights and growing bigger, making me the second best. I just missed the football scholarship, I just barely failed English, I just barely missed marrying the prom queen, and guess what I have now, a wife that can complain all day, a kid who laughs at me, and beer.
As Al thought of the many mistakes that he had made in his pathetic life he watched people go by through drunken eyes, and a half filled glass of beer.
There were three sailors, temporarily unleashed on the city to first enjoy the Boston bars, and later enjoy the Boston girls. They were all strapping young lads in pristine uniforms who were entertaining two blonds, and a redhead, but the way that they eyed the girls told him that they hadn’t joined the navy to be heroes.
Al cursed under his breath, thinking to himself that if he hadn’t hurt his back in his last football game that he had ever played, then he would have joined the navy long ago, and then he could have been a hero.
There were two Lawyers, discussing a case over drinks, but all the while slowly becoming too drunk to talk straight, much less consider legal matters. They also wore what appeared to be nice suits, but they smelled of cheap cologne under the whiskey. They were apparently not the big shots that they pretended to be.
There were also a couple of college kids nearby that Al recognized as the six students who came every Friday to argue politics, and discuss homework before walking over to Pablo’s Pizza across the street. They did that without fail, but strangely enough while Al had seen them several times digging into a big greasy pizza at Pablo’s he had only rarely seen them drink anything alcoholic. Yes they were overall pretty good kids, but Al hated them. He hated how they were succeeding in college, he hated how they had hope for the future, he hated how they would go out on the streets, and seamlessly blend back into Boston society, matching the beat as if they had never stopped in Tough World.
Finally there was a man named Davy Benson, who had recently become almost as much of a fixture in Hard World as Al was. Gion had once told Al that Davy was fighting a case of depression over the fact that his wife had started going out with other men. Other than that Al knew nothing about the guy, except for the fact that he always wore some kind of earpiece that looked like a hands free cell phone.
Naturally Al was glad to see everyone go. Slowly as the night progressed people first walked out, then people started shuffling out, then people started stumbling out, until finally it was just Al left, with one last beer, preparing for his nightly ritual of being carried out of Tough World by Gion, and being sent home in a taxi.
Al had finished half of his last beer, when Davy burst in again, his business suit disheveled, and the odd device still in his ear, but this time he had a gun gripped tightly in his sweaty hand.
Gion turned around with a glass that he had been wiping still in his hand, thinking that it was just an idiot who couldn’t read the hours posted in red right next to the door. When Gion spotted the gun the glass tumbled from his hand, breaking into hundreds of jagged pieces on the tiled floor.
Once Davy was sure that he had the attention of both Gion and I, he spoke in a soft voice that deeply unnerved me, and I couldn’t imagine how much more the voice unnerved Gion than it did me, because Davy chose not to point his gun at me, but at Gion. “Hello Gion, this is nothing personal, but it’s official, I’m no longer a married man, so before I stick this gun into my mouth I’m going to make one dream come true. Al I’ve heard you talk about how you want to be hero, how if you were just given the chance then you would do anything, just to be hero. Now here’s the chance you’ve always wanted Al, all you have to do is step in front of Gion, and sacrifice yourself for him.”
There should have been a million other things on Al’s mind at that moment, but instead what he asked was, “how did you know.”
With a bitter laugh Davy pulled out his earpiece, and threw it to the ground, viciously crushing it beneath his booted heel. “I bought this sonic hearing earpiece, you know the one on the commercials, to spy on my wife, guess it wasn’t good enough, because I didn’t hear her going out with other guys until I found them at the hotel down the street, room 239.”
Al stared for a moment at Davy, trying to calculate how far he was away, and if he could tackle him, but Davy was too far away, and Al had his football playing days washed away with his troubles. There was nothing wrong with his back.
Davy assumed from the way that Al gripped his chair that Al was attempting to stand up. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do Al, if you so much as fall out of your chair then I’ll shoot you instead of Gion. I promise you, I only have two bullets, one is reserved for one of you, and one is reserved for me.”
For a moment Al’s chair tipped, and he began to tilt forward bodily, when he grabbed the table to steady himself, and keep from falling off of his chair.
For a moment Davy just stared at Al, the shock evident on his face, but still, Davy had told Al the rules, so dutifully Davy turned his attention back to Gion and cocked his gun.
“Please Davy, I have a wife, and kids,” Gion pleaded, staring into Davy’s crazed eyes.
Davy turned away to wipe some accumulated sweat from his lip, and then he returned Gion’s gaze, “sorry Gion, but I thought that Al would do what it would take to become a hero. I guess this is why I’ve never seen ‘Drunken Hero’ as a headline, and I never will now, because I was wrong.”
With that, Davy fired a single shot that resonated in the night, seeming to Al to move in slow motion, throw the air, before piercing Gion’s forehead, and ending the life of Al’s only friend. Blood splattered on the glasses behind the bar, Gion’s eyes rolled back, and he fell, his corpse obscured by the bar counter.
Al stared at the glasses where Gion’s blood had splattered on, and as he turned back to face Davy, Davy spoke one last time. “I thought you would pay the price needed to be a hero, but you had your chance and you chose to keep your miserable life instead of saving a loving husband and father. Oh well, like I said this bullet is reserved for me, not you.”
As soon as Davy had finished speaking he stuck the gun in his mouth, and fired his final bullet.
Al Timothy Jones died of natural causes…on a Monday…in a gutter…with a beer in a bag carefully cradled under his arm. That is of course the Monday following the Friday upon which Gion was murdered.
In fact Gion and Al were buried in the same graveyard. One grave was visited by dozens of families, and friends. Meanwhile the other grave was visited by two people…who stayed for five minutes, and then through the next ten years succeeded in forgetting about Al Timothy Jones the man who could have been a hero.

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