Alfred Settles In

Carl paces to the door. “Excuse me, Sir. I was just leaving.”

Alfred never acknowledges Carl. Alfred just turns around and opens the door again. Carl moves a bit quicker toward the door. His eyes never leave Alfred. “Thank you.”

Alfred snaps back around to the bar. Alfred hauls himself to the bar next to the three remaining farmers at L & L pub. His eyes never leave the floor as he moves. Rebecca hesitates, sets my drink back on the bar, and gives him the same enthusiastic hug that she gave me. “Welcome, Alfred. It has been too long. I do hope everything is going well for you. Edward is waiting for you at his usual table.”

Alfred rolls his head over to see Rebecca. A smile ghosts across his face. “Thank you, Rebecca, for your warm welcome. You certainly know how to warm an old man’s soul. I tied my horse up on the rail to the porch. Is that okay?”

Rebecca’s hands flick out from her sides with palms up. “Of course. That’s where you usually tie up a horse.”

Alfred’s eyes close while he nods. “Thank you. Ralph, I would like a mug of beer, please.” Ralph spins on his heels and grabs a mug. Alfred shakes his head. “Do not worry about the vintage tonight. I doubt I could tell you the difference.”

Ralph turns back to Alfred. “That’s fine, Alfred. Why don’t you go have a seat, and Rebecca will bring your drink to you?”

Alfred finally turns his head to me. His eyes focus on me for a second. He blinks turning his head back and forth to take in the whole bar. He focuses on the fire for a moment. Alfred turns back to me. I give a quick hand wave. He genuinely smiles for the first time. His shoulders drop with a single nod. He even chuckles a bit. “Ah, Ralph, you have the most comfortable place in this whole world. I’m glad to see my friend waited on me. It took me longer to leave the farms than I expected. Blessedly for me, the roads were in better shape than one might think. If you could spare some feed, my mare would gladly take some. I know you are not in the animal business, but I would gladly pay for it.”

Rebecca puts a hand on Alfred’s shoulder. “Yes, we can take care of Gilda. She had a hard ride I suppose. Let Ralph get that drink poured, and I will bring it over to you and Edward.”

Alfred shrugs. “That will be fine. How is business treating you?”

Rebecca glances at Ralph and shakes her head. “You just missed everyone. We had a packed house about an hour ago.” Her voice gets louder. “I suppose your buddy ran them all off. You know he can clear a room like few others.”

Alfred laughs warmly. “Well, I’m glad you got your money before he arrived then. Yes, he does have quite the talent for creating lonely places. However, he has a calming spirit too. He can collect crowds as quickly as he can get rid of them.”

Ralph pours Alfred’s beer and hands him the mug. “That is right. I have seen him sit in that corner for hours by himself, and I have seen him entertain everyone in here. At least for a moment.”

Alfred tips his mug in my direction. “Truly, he has some gifts. Though I am not sure what you would call them.”

Rebecca laughs with a shrug. “No, I don’t think any of us want to guess at that. Still, he does seem to get by.” Rebecca throws me a wink.

“Y’all do understand that I can hear you, and I am still waiting on that whiskey.”

Rebecca slaps her palm to her forehead. “Oh, I forgot about that. Here it sits just waiting like you have done. See, Alfred, that’s those life skills we were talking about. I’m on my way, Edward. Come on, Alfred.”

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