Back Home

March 25, 2008

It was a warm day, almost the end of March, and I stood outside the barbershop looking up at the jutting neon sign of a second floor dine and dice emporium called Florian’s.  A man was looking up at the sign too.  He was looking up at the dusty windows with a sort of ecstatic fixity of expression, like a hunky immigrant catching his first sign of the Statue of Liberty.  He was a big man, but not more than six feet five inches tall and not wider than a beer truck.  He was about ten feet away from me.  His arms hung loose at his sides and a forgotten cigar smoked behind his enormous fingers.  I interrupted his reverie to bum a non-filter cigarette from Goliath.  I was in town on account of a death in the family.  I was the last of kin and was required to take care of all the affairs.  Florian was my uncle.  My childhood memories are dim, with the exception of the bar.  I lit the Chesterfield and the smoky haze, the burning sensation in my nostrils, sent a wave of familiar warmth through me, as I stared at the neon sign, that once buzzed with life.  J.D. Florian was from Bellmullet, Ireland, he was feisty, and engaging, the kind of guy that powerful men respected and gentle women adored.  His establishment was more like an historic monument for the small town of Sugarnotch, Pennsylvania.  If anything ever happened it happened at Florian’s.  And if nothing happened at Florian’s, nobody questioned that, either.  J.D. pretty much ran the town, in his day.  We lived above the bar, my parents died when I was a kid, he took me in.  Encouraged by my fresh haircut, I stepped off the curb and walked towards the boarded up door.  My knees gave into gravity, for a moment.  I hadn’t really thought about him or this place in a long time.  I welcomed the sobering images, as they began playing in my head.  I allowed myself to relive my earthy past.  I gained access easily as the lock hadn’t changed in over twenty years.  I kicked aside some half empty boxes as I walked through the saloon style doors.  My eyes were blurred from the stinging dust as I flailed my way through the spider webs, it was dark.  My hand instinctively reached for the wall nearest me and easily found it’s way to the light switch.  It remained dark.  What was I thinking?  Of course there’s no electricity, the place has been boarded up for quite some time.  A dusty stream of daylight caught my irritated eyes, as I ventured further into the musty room.  The smells were caustic at first, then more familiar as the scents of stale beer and whiskey mixed with cabbage and potatoes filtered through.  I followed the stream of light upstairs and found myself in the narrow hallway standing opposite of my old bedroom.  I was about to open the door, of my forgotten sanctuary, when I heard a man’s voice.