He went to work as usual.
Every night of the week, between sundown
and closing time. The Saloon prospered.
Ray’s drinking habit grew worse. His wife left.
Thirty years of marriage, and grandchildren
and all the lad had left was a bottle,
one at a time until they were empty
like him passing out. Juan took on the shift
Ray had worked, opening and cleaning up,
sixteen hours a day. Adore was not home
nights, but HO HOTEL was always open.
There was just enough left of him
after a day and part of a night . . .
He walked the dark streets, the back way
and up in his room collapsed and slept long.
The desk clerk, as requested, awoke him.
There was a shower and a private room
in back of The Saloon. But no bed there.
Every morning, before the day started,
he called Ray and left a message.
Ray called back when he was sober.
Ray came by in late afternoon
to say hello and go across the street
to eat at the Absinthe House.
Juan didn’t bring up leaving town.
Ray said he was leaving the place to him.
Juan asked where he was going,
Ray said, Hell probably, Heaven maybe–
depends on who’s running the place by then.
Juan said, Tell the truth and shame the devil.
One thing though, Ray added, it’s in your name
Johnny Flowers. That OK? . . . No,
Juan Flores is official now . . .
Why don’t you bring Cathleen out here?
Ray asked as Juan rose from his chair.
I would be afraid for her life,
Juan replied matter-of-factly.
You remember what happened to Betty,
the year we met? Irish Cathleen loves men
more than life itself, or at least as much.
Juan left the House, and crossing the street
realized he must have told Ray the truth.
The days went by like horses breaking out
of sleep’s corral. He dreamed Cathleen
was here. She had brought no clothes. Nakedness
becomes you, he said to her in his dream.
She did with him what she wanted.
In his dream. The dreams as old as they were.
Then the horses were gone, and here he was.
The corral empty.
(22 March 2011)
copyright 2011 by Floyce Alexander