Now, this is more like it. Ralph did an excellent job as usual. The burger was cooked to perfection. Ralph and his grill are really in top form tonight. The whiskey was a bit stronger than usual. This batch must be part of the winter brew. He always adds a bit more for winter. I like that. It does a better job of keeping us warm. Or at least makes us think about the cold less. I forget which one.
I see Alfred hasn’t arrived yet. I do hope I didn’t confuse my dates again. Let me see.
“Well it looks like you didn’t have any trouble with that burger.” Rebecca appears at my table. L & L pub has quietened down since my arrival. I should have heard her approach, but I suppose that Alfred weighs too heavily on my mind. I do hope he is okay.
“Yes, Rebecca, I did have a problem. The burger disappeared. I don’t know what happened to it. You sat it down, and then it was just gone.”
Rebecca smiles and nods her head. She lets a giggle sneak out. “Well, the ketchup on your cheek says that you know exactly what happened.”
I laugh while cleaning myself up with the napkin. “Observant as ever. Good eye.”
Rebecca collects the plate and empty glass. ” Yeah, after this many years, I think I have learned a thing or two, Edward Would you like anything else? I think Ralph has a spoonful of banana pudding left.”
I push back from the table and lounge against the seat back. “I don’t think that would be a good idea. I know that you make a delightful banana pudding. I always seem to have to walk a little farther than usual after eating it though. However, I would gladly accept another glass of the winter brew whiskey.”
Rebecca smiles. “Yes, I thought you would. We are very proud of this year’s winter brew. It’s a little sweeter than last year’s. We got a little heavy handed last year just working on potency. This year we worked a little bit more on flavor. We really got closer to balance.”
I roll my empty glass as I hand it to her. “Yes, the flavor almost hid the potency though. I guess I have merely drank enough of all the seasonal mixes to tell the difference. Thank you for adding that sweetness though. I remember last year’s brew being a bit difficult to drink.”
She laughs. “We did have more than one incident over that brew. We did well to tame it a bit. I’ll be right back with that drink.”
Rebecca goes back to the bar and tells Ralph to pour another. I lean over to pull another pipe out of my pack. I grab one with a bigger bowl since I do not know when Alfred will join me. I might have a longer wait than I expected. I get the pipe lit, and Rebecca turns to bring my drink to me.
The door to the pub opens with a startling gust of wind. I feel the cold even at the back of L & L over the fire. A taller man with a white beard steps into the pub. He reaches the back of the door and slides it closed. He leans on the door a moment. He takes a deep inhale and turns to face the bar. I’m glad to see Alfred made it. He looks exhausted though. I guess he had a harder walk than I did. He comes from a busier side of the world than I do. I figured the road would be dryer coming from his direction.
Alfred turns from the door. His eyes are glazed over. I’m not even real sure that he sees the inside of the pub. The folks at the bar jolt around to see that he closed the door. They turn back to Ralph and converse among themselves that the storms must have brought the cold. One shakes his head. “Well, that’s likely a warning to me that I need to get home. No one likes a cold walk. Thanks, Ralph, we’ll see you next trip.”
Ralph’s eyes never move from the newcomer. Alfred lingers at the door for another moment. Ralph acknowledges the man at the bar. “Yeah, Carl, your wife is probably wondering where you are anyway. You know she worries about you when you’re out too late.”
Carl chuckles and lays his money on the bar. “If that’s not enough, I’ll settle up tomorrow.” The other men at the bar say goodbye to their friend as he starts in Alfred’s direction.