Bastrop Texas 1987
Some bar. I don’t remember exactly which one. A Friday night. The Preacher walked in. I didn’t know he was a preacher then though. I still thought he was just a regular guy.
“Well got damn. I haven’t seen you in awhile.”
“It has been some time for sure. Long time. How’s the eye?”
“It’s gone. That’s how it is.”
“I meant the one you have left.”
“I can see with it. I guess that’s as good as it gets for an eye.”
I drank. He just sat there.
“I owe you one. I’d of lost them both if it weren’t for you.”
“You’d have done the same for me.”
“Would I of? I don’t know. I owe you is all I’m sayin.”
I drank some more. He sat there some more.
“I saw Leo the other day. He told me something I couldn’t believe. He said you became a preacher. Can that be right? What the hell happened to you?”
“I became a preacher.”
“You can imagine I was kind of surprised, given how you were and all that shit we did back then.”
“I became a preacher precisely BECAUSE of how I was and what we did back then.”
“You got a church?”
“Little one. Out in the woods. Real pretty place and peaceful. No pulpit either. You just stand right there on the same level as everyone and say what you gotta say. People are nice. Real. Not pretentious. We have the occasional asshole wanders in but they generally don’t stay.”
“What happens to them?”
“People are too nice. Makes them uncomfortable is what I think.”
I drank. He sat there.
“Can you still drink whiskey with me, you bein a fuckin preacher and all?”
I’ll never forget this part as long as I live. He turned and looked at me. A long time. He put his hand on my shoulder, which was odd because neither of us are that touchy or anything. I knew what was coming was serious.
“I need to drink whiskey with you now more than ever. BECAUSE I’m a preacher.”
“Well shit, you’re just sittin there. Let me get you a bourbon.”
I held my hand up and looked for the bartender.
“Hang on. I’m gonna to get you one. Something you haven’t had before. Something I got to drinking when I was in seminary. It’s called Laphroaig. Some people call it the frog. It’s a scotch. I noticed they had a bottle when I came in. I’m kind of surprised they did in a place like this.”
He leaned back and looked at the floor. There was a sock lying there.
I shook my head.”I drink Maker’s Mark.”
“Yeah I know. You’re one of those one whiskey types. But trust me. Try this. I kind of think it fits your personality.”
The bartender came over and poured two glasses. I sniffed mine.
“Jesus. What is that?” I sniffed it again.”Smells like… what’s that shit our moms used to rub on our chests when were were sick?”
“Yeah, that’s it.” I sniffed my drink again.”The way this smells makes me think of my mom. Remember her? How she was?”
“I do. Good woman.”
I held up my glass. He clinked his against mine and said, “Slàinte!”
“What’s that? One of those weird ass Bible words you have to know now that you’re a preacher?”
“No. It’s Gaelic. It means…..”
He sat looking off and blinking a few times.
“It means you and me. It means it’s good to be here with you.”
“Okay. I can’t pronounce that, so here’s mud in your eye.”
I took a sip. Then I looked down into the glass and sat there. I looked up and the preacher was smiling at me.
I looked back down into the glass and smelled it again.
“It smells and tastes like….everything. Sweet Jesus. I did not know such a thing as this existed in the world.”
That’s how it began for me.