A Meek And Thankful Heart
A Phillip K. Marks Story
by Jeff Somers
The old man should have been cut off an hour ago, but he was obviously well known to the bartenders, as they continued to serve him gimlets despite his increasing inability to bring their contents successfully to his mouth. He was well-dressed and groomed, with an expensive suit and new shoes. Handsome, in the way old men get handsome sometimes, just from the dignity of their experience. He’d been a semi-regular and was popular with the female staff of Rue’s Morgue. One or two of the waitresses had flirted with him purposefully, but he’d gently turned them down. They all considered him a rich old man, lonely in his money, who came out to a young people’s bar a few times a month to hear some noise around him. He always drank gimlets, always complimented the bartender on her rare ability to make them, and always left a huge tip. He’d been coming to the Morgue for five years now, and every Christmas had given each of the staff a nice monetary gift. They liked him. They thought he added a bit of class to a place otherwise populated by predatory former frat boys and the squeaky women they attract.
This night, however, was different. Usually the old man (who told everyone to call him simply Juno) had at most two drinks, smoked a few cigarettes, and then bid farewell before the real crowd poured in. On rare occasions, he deigned to have dinner at the bar. He would chat amiably with the staff, flirt a little, and then go home with some kind words and a big tip. Tonight, he’d come to drink. He’d been drinking steadily since three in the afternoon and did not seem prepared to stop, had smoked three packs of cigarettes, and had not eaten a thing. His cheerful demeanor had been replaced by a grim monosyllabic personality which frightened the staff a little. They wondered if he was having a breakdown, if there was anyone they should call.