Yesterday's Whiskey (Excerpt)

March 2, 2010
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Loch Lavender Boulevard church was finally visible in the distance. Sadie happened to glance at the failing clock above the radio in her old Buick; according to it, the time was now 9:15 pm. It was the oddest feeling in the world- to be on her way to a stranger’s funeral; a random man’s final chapter; a nobody’s last hurrah. Before she left the house, Sadie had told her father she’d just be going out to meet a new lad who’d taken a shine to her at the local pub. The old man was nobody’s fool- but still, she thought she’d try her luck.

Sadie’s fiery red locks were entwined in a melancholy bun. Her drab attire and abrupt decision to leave at this hour puzzled her father greatly.

“Where do you aim to be a’ goin, missy?” he inquired.

“Just to see a lad I met a couple o’ days ago at tha pub. Nothing too excitin’, really.”

“Wha? You’re goin dressed like that? Doesn’t seem to be entirely appropriate now, does it? You look in need of a little MacMillan strength, if I do say so myself.”

Sadie studied her father in his current stance. A playful grin danced upon his lips as he craftily supported his cigar in between spaces of missing teeth. The periodical he had been reading was perched a little too close to the end of his freshly lit tobacco; his eyes were sharply intense yet loving- alive with concern for his one and only lassie.

“Oh no, it’s quite alright Pa. Believe me, I’ll be fine.” Somehow she knew that answer would never satisfy him.

“Now dear, don’t give me that lavish balderdash; I know a distressed lass when I see one. What do you think I’m to do- let me own flesh and blood walk right out that door when somethin’ terrible’s preying on her mind? No proud man with an inkle of self respect would demolish everything his clan stands for, lest he wish to bring shame upon the family.” Sadie MacMillan’s father took her bony, delicate hands in his own gruff, weathered ones.

“Tell me what this is really about.” His whispers at that moment resounded the loudest of
all he’d said that evening.

Sadie all too quickly felt tears gather in the corners of her eyes. How could she possibly explain where she was going, when she didn’t even know for sure the reason herself? He’d never understand- a man who believed in “Live and let die”, believed in moving on swiftly after a tragedy, believed the world should never stop mid-spin for anything. Not even for the meteor that’s inevitably going to crash on his house at any minute; and certainly never for the death of a complete stranger.

She released his hands slowly. “Daddy, there was a man in the paper today...his life was taken by a drunk driver. A semi truck driver, at that! I find the whole situation somethin to be greatly abhorred; and no matter how hard I try to get it out of me head, the beast that makes me question life’s fairness will just no’ leave me alone! Therefore, I’ve decided to attend his funeral. Perhaps it will bring me some closure.”

Old Man MacMillan gave his daughter a quizzical look. “So tha’s why you’re dressed like a maiden of the darkness? Because of some freak accident ya had no control over? Sweet lassie, understand somethin- if it was a man who was near n’ dear to ya, then by all means you should grant him a last farewell. But if this is a man- who I’m guessin it is- that you never knew, never thought of, never even HEARD of until ya saw his obituary in the mornin’ paper, then don’t be a worrying yourself with his demise! Yes, it’s unfortunate the poor lad went out like this; but it’s unhealthy to be concerned ta this level with a stranger’s death.”

Sadie’s heart filled with the frustration that she knew was inevitable upon this conversation with her father. “Unhealthy, is it? Unhealthy to be concerned for another human life, taken in its prime? Unhealthy to be worried those drunk drivers may be overtakin our highways; causin death rates to skyrocket? Unhealthy to realize that it could have been YOU, or ME, or anyone that we love, struck down in an instant, for no reason at all other than the fact that they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with a selfish, drunk fool? Are you telling me that it’s unhealthy to be an astute, empathetic human being? Maybe this man had not a friend in the world; I could be the only one who shows up at his funeral for all we know!”

Tensions in the room escalated as the steady, calm rainfall outside took a turn for the worse- a storm had lashed out as a counter to its humble beginnings. MacMillan violently tossed his periodical aside and lurched up from his chair. His patience had obviously met its end. “Okay- NOW ya’ve crossed the line of all decency and reason, me lady. First of all, you’re blowing this whole ordeal ENTIRELY out of proportion. Drinkin of any kind is not illegal, and extenuatin circumstances can occur tha you’re no’ privy to.”

“What, like stuff that happened in your old bar days? Tha’s the reason your TEETH are missin, in case ya hadn’t noticed, Daddy dearest!” Sadie had certainly inherited her father’s abrasiveness; whether she wanted to believe it or not.

“Don’t you DARE be chastisin’ me on somethin I had to do to get a little peace in my life every once in a while! And how can you stand up so passionately for a dead man’s life tha you have no knowledge of? He’s only a face in the paper to ya; you don’t know what kind of a man he was, and now you never will! Sometimes there’s more to the story than meets the young eyes of the bleedin’ heart. These times are turbulent; it breaks my heart, but ya can’t trust in anything or anyone so blindly. No’ like your mother did; coulda been conned by any a one on this Earth, she was so trusting. There’s certainly a part of her that lives on in you-” his voice dropped a few decibels. “God rest her soul.”

The silence that ensued thereafter was sobering to the both of them. Realizing that while their philosophies and styles were different, their hearts were really one, father and daughter each made a silent pledge within themselves to be more outwardly gentle. Especially when it came to sensitively grave matters like life and death.

“Oh Daddy; you know I would never truly lose sight of the reality in front of me, even if it is negative. But I can’t deny this need to close up a gap in my heart. Maybe it’s leftover from Mum’s loss of her fight with cancer, maybe it’s the fact that I do have a bleedin heart. I’m not sure- but whatever it is, you have to let me go out and solve the mystry’ of my emotions.”

The benevolent grin slowly returned to MacMillan’s face. “You know, there’s something I’ve never shown you before.” He went upstairs, bringing back down a small lockbox that seemed to possess valuable trinkets inside. On opening it, he said, “We come from a proud line of great MacMillans. We don’t always realize it, but it truly is a clan for the ages. This is the
coat of arms for our very own; I gave it to your mother on our weddin’ day. Although I’m still against you goin’ out in this storm for the mystery lad’s funeral, by doin’ it you’ve shown me that you’re a true member of this fam’ly. I couldn’t be more proud of that.”

Remembering these words, Sadie finally pulled cautiously into the church parking lot. Glancing at her coat of arms- turned- keychain, a wave of reassurance and motivation ran through her body. Knowing somewhat the reason for her pilgrimage in the rain gave her confidence for the all the unconventional things she was about to undertake. Turning the ignition off, she silently thanked her father; surprisingly this inner strength came from his out-of-character words and the words of the MacMillan clan motto.

“I learn to succor the distressed” read Sadie’s newest lifeline.

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