We gather daily in the dark cave like bats returning from a night of foraging. As we settle into our roosts and eyes adjust to the familiar murkiness, beers appear, and pleasantries are exchanged. “Good to see you, John.” “Good to be seen Mike!” “How are you feeling today, Bob?” “With my fingers as usual!” Laughter rises to join the nicotine stains on the ceiling. Old, retired men, some by choice, others forced into it by a world that favors the “New and Improved” over the “Tried and True.” We gather here to dull the floundering of our lives with beer and bourbon. Souls gone wandering, but not yet lost, using each other as anchor lines to sanity.
Joe shows off his missing front tooth, proudly explaining how he yanked it out himself using pliers. “Ain’t got no insurance so…POP! Done!” I cringe a little but offer up the strongest “Right on!” I can muster.
Burl shows up with two baggies of freshly smoked salmon. “Caught this silver last week, aint any fresher!” He passes the bags around then sits down to his waiting beer. The salmon is good! Damn good! The salty tang going perfectly with the ice-cold Rainier. Better than store bought, that’s for damn sure.
Talk around the bar settles into a low drone as the old men discuss the salmon, where the best places are, how much better the fishing was 40 years ago, what the best bait is. Karl starts talking about his days as a crabber while eyes roll. Karl has told this story so many times we all could tell it, but it’s okay. Karl is old, he’s entitled here. The cave has lost so many bats over the years. Cancer, age, accidents, you name it. Karl is close and we all know it. Better to hear his old stories today.
I glance up at the TV to watch the noiseless words flow from the talking heads. Old men, their stories, and a beer. I smile a little and go back to listening to Karl, nodding along with the others, and adjusting the anchor line.