Tommy carried the fresh bottles of brandy and whisky in from the stock room only to find a young man sitting at the bar. This was both odd and not odd at all. Odd because he’d locked up about an hour ago and not odd because after lock-up was when his real work as The Bartender started. The Jukebox was softly playing “How Can You Sing” by Front Country. Ooookaaaay…so a little crisis of the soul? Considering the young man was wearing a clerical collar coupled with the song, yeah crisis of the soul.
Tommy leaned against the back bar. That’s when the guy finally looked up. Tommy saw the anguish in his eyes.
Tommy held up the two bottles, “Brandy or Whisky?”
One side of the guys mouth kicked up just a tiny bit, “Brandy I guess.”
“Good man. It’s a cold night and brandy helps to warm both the body and the soul.” Tommy placed the brandy glass in front of the guy and poured one for himself.
“I’m not sure brandy will be enough to warm my soul tonight.”
Tommy sighed, “Well some nights are darker than others eh? But then that’s what company is for right? That’s why we talk to each other.”
The guy smiled softly, “I have to admit I love the irony of a Priest coming to a Bartender for…confession if you will.”
Tommy chuckled, “You aren’t the first and I hope you won’t be the last because different than the way your Church’s confession process works, I don’t give absolution because it’s not mine to give, it’s yours to find in the safety of companionship on a dark cold night. So confess if that is what is on order for tonight or we can talk about baseball or music or books until whatever it is that is causing those shadows in your eyes lightens up.”
The young priest’s smile grew, “What do you like to read?”
Tommy lit a smoke and pulled his stool up, “Better to ask what don’t I like to read, it’s a much shorter list.”
Slowly the Jukebox faded up Deb Talan’s “Comfort” and the conversation of books wandered slowly to thoughts and ideas and doubts and despair and finally to the hope that can only be found in compassionate company.