The Prequel, Chapter Thirty-Three

It was a very busy evening at the tavern when Alexander entered. His usual spot was taken, but it was alright. He felt like sitting out of view, anyways.

There was an older man not far from where Alexander sat. As Alexander readied the amount of money he'd need, the man cleared his throat. 

"Nice evening, isn't it?"

Not in the mood to make small talk, Alexander nodded his head and replied simply, "Yes."

"I've seen you here quite a few times. You're usually up at the counter. Do you come here regularly?"

"Listen, man, I'm not really in the frame of mind to talk to you right now. I don't know what you're getting at, but I'd rather not talk right now, okay?" Alexander stopped and closed his eyes. He wasn't trying to be rude, but at the moment, he couldn't really concentrate on anything. Maybe after he was served, he'd be more willing to talk to the man.

After all, it wasn't like Alexander to not converse while at a tavern. Perhaps it was because of what Auntie Lala said about God that made Alexander  uncomfortable. Ah, well. After a few drinks, he'd be far less uptight. 

"I know you don't want to talk," the man said, "but I have to tell you something, Alexander Hale."

Startled that the stranger knew his name, Alexander's curiosity was piqued. He stalled just long enough for the man to continue.

"Run, Mr. Hale. Run away from here. You don't belong in a tavern. You belong in a place much finer than this. I can see in your eyes that you're ashamed to be here. I can also see in your eyes that you've become addicted to drinking. But Alexander - what are you doing here?"

Alexander had grown very uncomfortable at the turn of the conversation, and he cleared his throat and looked away. There was another empty table a short was from where he sat; perhaps he should sit there.

"I know you don't want to hear what I have to say. But take it from someone who's been there. Thirty years of drinking, and I can tell you that it's hell. I lost my wife and my five children and my home and my dignity over it. Don't take my path, Alexander! Get away from here!"

"I think you've said quite enough," Alexander said, standing to move to another table. He turned to the man - who still hadn't given his name - and was about to walk away when he turned back to the stranger and said, "I have no wife and no five children, no permanent home and no dignity. So don't tell me what to do. We have nothing in common."

"Yes, we do," the stranger responded, without so much as batting an eye. "We're both controlled by alcohol."

"That is enough!" Alexander said, a bit too loudly. Some of the customers looked in his direction. Too heated to be embarrassed, Alexander strode to a different table. When he was served, he hesitated to drink. What if the stranger's story was true? What if Alexander ended up just like him - an old man with nothing in life but alcoholism?

Shuddering, Alexander raised that vile liquid to his lips. He shouldn't think about the stranger's words. He should shove the matter away entirely...

The End

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