Note: I love reading a story that describes a brief moment in time without any real context. This leaves it up to the reader to fill in the blanks. I wrote this with that idea in mind.
It wasn’t just that the man was almost assuredly drunk, and Edgar was sure it had nothing to do with the beastly manner in which he conducted himself. No, the real reason Edgar found himself instantly disliking the man who sat himself at the table near the bar was in how he avoided the eyes of the young man that sat across from him.
Definitely his son, Edgar thought to himself. The lad has his father’s heavy brow and prominent chin. Edgar sipped at his scotch and leaned his tired old frame against the bar where he sat, watching the father and son in the reflection of the mirror positioned behind the bar.
The boy broke Edgar’s heart. Anyone could plainly see how much he looked up to his father but something about the man seemed immune to his son’s love. Edgar tried to take another sip of scotch and was surprised to find it gone. He caught the bartender’s eye and rattled the ice in his otherwise empty glass. With a nod, the bartender replaced it with another filled with the amber liquor.
Edgar ignored the bartender and continued to watch the drama unfolding in the mirror’s reflection. A waiter was attempting, in vain of course, to calm the man’s wild gesticulations. The man’s hands were gnarled and calloused, the type of hands that were far more accustomed to swinging a hammer in the salty air of the docks than embracing his son.
The boy’s father looked about the room with glazed eyes, seeking another target for his wickedly sharp tongue to sharpen itself upon. Finally, another man came over to the table and spoke softly to the boy’s father. Edgar couldn’t hear what was said but the reaction of the man left little doubt. The father thrust himself up from the table unsteadily, defiantly puffing his considerable chest. The boy stood more gracefully, his eyes locked on the tablecloth.
Edgar could see the change that had come into the young man’s eyes. A heavy shroud of shame had clouded his gaze. Oh, the love was still there but it had matured into something else, resignation perhaps. It broke Edgar’s heart to see the boy recognize his father for what he was: a selfish and cold man. As plain as day, it was written on the boy’s face, there would be no reconciliation, no moment of clarity with this absent parent. Edgar pitied the boy for looking like his father. He held little doubt that the young man would come to resent his father’s features staring back at him in the mirror.
Edgar watched them leave, never turning around from his perch on the bar stool. They disappeared into the brief but dazzling glare of sunlight as the man shoved the door open with a slam. Then they were gone, the boy nothing more than a shadow in his father’s wake. The door swung shut and the room was blessedly dark again. Edgar waved the bartender over with a hand worn hard by the years and forgot about the boy.