The three of us — Frank Mullins, Jim Tanner and I — were enjoying a couple of cold ones at Tony’s Bar and Grill. Just another dull Thursday afternoon, in which we were partaking of our favorite pastimes, drinking and talking baseball. We’d been talking about the trade of Prince Fielder by the Detroit Tigers to the Texas Rangers, for Ian Kinsler, and how that just about cinched another division title, if not actually giving the Tigers another shot at the World Series. We barely got up a head of steam when Gramps walked in.
Slouched would be the more accurate verb. Gramps looked as if he’d just lost someone near and dear. He gave us a perfunctory wave then drooped on down to the far end of the bar. This got our immediate attention, as none of us had ever seen the like before. This moroseness needed to be delved into. So I, John Fischer, bought a couple of longneck Buds and strolled down to where Gramps had nested.
“Damn, Gramps, what the hell’s got you so down?” I asked, as I slid a longneck down in front of him.
“Maddie lied,” was all he could mutter as he made a wipe across his eyes with his shirt sleeve.
I swear, just then he sniffled. This caught the attention of everyone. Tony brought down a couple more longnecks and Frank and Jim got up and moved close.
Friendship is not measured in time. It doesn’t matter how long someone has been a friend; it is a feeling that goes deep inside the gut. When a friend is hurting we all hurt a little. That’s just the way things are here in Fargone, Michigan.
“How can I ever trust her again, after this?” Gramps managed to get out between chugs of beer. He actually hung his head then. Our hearts immediately jumped onto our sleeves.
Everyone was chiming in with platitudes of Maddie, how she was the sweetest, most thoughtful person any of us ever knew. I knew the best thing for it was to let Gramps work through it in his own way. This, more likely than not, used the Gramps technique of drinking till you don’t care anymore.
Jim, still in his coveralls from his shift at the Quickie Lube, asked, “What is it, Gramps? Maddie wouldn’t do anything serious, I’m sure. I’ve known her since high school.”
“All I know is that she promised to be here at four o’clock with our season tickets for the Detroit Tigers, and she’s nowhere to be seen,” Gramps said.
We all looked and just as my watch clicked over to five after four, the door opened and Maddie Heath strolled in waving the tickets.
Gramps immediately smiled and, giving us all a chuckle, said, “Thanks for the beer, guys.”
Tom Britz says: “I am a writer. It was basically a sorting out of private ambitions, having given up on my first career choice of Major League ballplayer and my second, an astronaut. Never got the hang of Indian Chief or even a Tinker. I have been a factory rat but never really cared for it. Thanks to Every Day Fiction for giving me a start. I am a writer.”