posted on Sep, 8 2019 @ 02:18 AM
In the middle of town sat a respectable yet largely ignored old building more recently referred to as the old courthouse. Even people new to the area
would call it the old courthouse. It's faded brick and chipping mortar triggered an often unnoticed sense of awe that some people feel when they see
something that old standing on its own. It would have been called the old courthouse even without the construction of the new brushed steel and
walls-of-glass courthouse built an irreverent two miles North on the very same street. Except for traffic court on the second Thursday of every month,
the old courthouse saw bargain hunters in its basement mall more than criminals in it's distinguished yet arguably barren halls of justice.
Surrounding the courthouse were the equally aged buildings comprising the historic business section of town. All of the older buildings in town seemed
to find their way to the courthouse square. It was as if they meant to give each other moral support where their structural support might have failed.
Some of the buildings weathered the journey better than others. Creaky floors and water-stained plaster was the uniform of the day. Cracked
foundations and crooked stairs made some of the older old buildings look like architecture you might expect to see lurking about in the shadows of
Hitchcock's most unfilmable nightmares. In a small, back of the building, upstairs apartment of one of the creakier, more water-stained of these, sat
a solitary figure.
The cold wind forced it's way through the cracks around the ill-fitting windows and whistled its arrival forcing the old man to slide a little closer
to the pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room. The fire in the stove, like the one in the old man's eyes, didn't burn as brightly as it once
did but the warmth was still there. The glow of the fire played dangerously close to some of the deeper cracks and lines in the old man's face giving
him an exaggerated three-dimensional appearance. The shadows on the old man's cheek suggested he might have fallen asleep leaning against a brick
wall. He had, in fact, done exactly that but in this light, it was hard to tell. The old man wished his arthritis wasn't acting up so he could huddle
into his arms a bit more for warmth but that was not to be. Instead, he tossed a few scraps of paper into the stove and enjoyed the small burst of
warmth and light.
"It's a cold one out there tonight," the old man said with an accent that hinted more of a different time than a different place. "Not a lot to do
on a night like this. Stay warm is all. Yup, I says. Just stay warm and look at the stars in the sky." His voice was quietly gravelly but rang of
sincerity. If the old man took another big pull at the bottle of whiskey he held carefully in his hands he would see stars for sure. Stars, Aardvarks,
tuna fish sandwiches, honest politicians. Who knew what mystical evils might turn up if he kept drinking at that pace. The old man was determined to
find out, though, of all the unspeakable horrors the world had to offer, he knew even the best Kentucky bourbon could never conjure up an honest
politician. When the tuna fish sandwiches and the Aardvarks that would sniff them quizzically failed to appear, the old man leaned back once more
against the brick wall, with only the old building for company. "Nothing but the best whiskey tonight," he slurred. "We're celebratin'. I wish
all the old guys could be here for this."
A tear formed in the corner of the old man's eye as he thought about the building across the street and down a ways. "Torn down to make way for a
new parking lot," the old man dismally intoned. "Never care about anyone else, do they?" He asked of no one in particular. "Can't see past their
billfold," the old man said as he tilted the bottle just enough to slosh some of its contents onto the floor. He sat patiently watching the cracks in
the old wooden floor slowly soak up the potent liquid and seemed satisfied at its end. "Always in a hurry to get rid of the old and rush in the
new," he complained. "Fight, they do, for every dollar. And for what? They'll meet their maker same as me – naked, pissed off and ashamed of
themselves for the life they led." He leaned his head back and took a long, slow pull at the bottle.
Had anyone been there when the amber flared in the stove they might have seen that what could easily be mistaken for bitterness in dimmer light was a
deep and heartfelt sadness. As usual, no one was there.
"When I'm rich me and you are gonna get ourselves all prettied up and looking smart." The old man stared at the floor as he spoke, shifting
slightly to the left as the toes on his right foot started to tingle. "No time for anything old," he said wistfully as he sloshed another fairly
good-sized pool of bourbon onto the floor. "Yup, I says, I think I'll pour us another drink. We're celebratin'."
The old man and the old building enjoyed their bourbon as he tossed the last few scraps of paper he had into the stove. As his eyes slowly closed and
the numbers on the paper faded into ash his mind shrieked a warning that went unheeded.
Yup, I says, were celebratin' were the old man's last thoughts before the bourbon set him off to dream of fortune and riches.