Thomas set down his brandy for the umpteenth time that day, and began to try and tell Luke the story of Edward, a story he hadn't really pieced all together himself yet. He had over scrutinized some parts of it over the years, but it was like asking someone to tell you what the whole eggs looked like before you had scrambled them. You could remember the obvious, like they were white and oval shaped, came out of a carton that held twelve eggs. But could you remember which three eggs you had picked out? Did any of them have any cracks or blemishes on them? Did the yokes stay in one piece, or did they break? Did you whip them clockwise or counterclockwise, and how long did you stir them, etc.
It had been almost thirty years. He was sure there were probably some mental blocks of his own, perhaps some things just too painful to remember. He might even concede there were some things that his alcoholic mind couldn't quite piece together after all these years. But the truth of it was, there were parts that just hadn't made any sense, and those were the ones he had tried to run from the most.
Yet he knew he couldn't run from the truth any longer. Jonathan was on his way to talk about Edward, Eddie as he called him, and it wasn't to reminisce over old photo albums. With the return of Jonathan into the picture would come more pieces to the puzzle that he had no interest in solving; more pain that he had decided to ignore for the last twenty-five years, at least to the best of his self-medicating alcoholic abilities.
Thomas glanced up at Luke, who remained passive as ever, just waiting for him to continue. "Did I ever tell you that you were too good of a goddamned listener?" Thomas said.
"No," said Luke, setting down his own brandy. "But I've never had anyone tell me quite as good a tale as you've started either, Tom. Besides, I've got a sneakin' hunch that you need to tell it a lot more than I need to hear it, but that's what us bartenders are good for."
"That may be all too true my friend, just beware that you have opened a can of worms that has been sitting in the sun for way too long."
Luke just smiled, not a big grin, but one that seemed to say ‘I understand exactly what you mean.’ He picked up his mug again and took another sip. "You ever been to a Korean whorehouse in July?"
"No. Have You?" Thomas asked, not knowing where this could possibly be leading.
"Just once. But I haven't been afraid of a can of worms since."
Thomas laughed for a moment, glad for a break from the seriousness of the day. Luke really was the best of the best, he thought. And without any further interruption he continued his story.
"After Edwina died, they kept Edward at the hospital for a while, which gave me a chance to arrange for a funeral and to round up a baby sitter. Luckily for me, Edwina's sister Louise was willing to come and stay for awhile, until I could get my feet back on solid ground. She was basically my wife, except for in the bedroom of course. Thank God for that! Louise was so ugly she could scare the horns off a bull just by lookin' sideways at it. Ornery too. You'd never of known her and Edwina were sisters.
“She made everyone toe the line, that's for sure, which was just as well. I never was one for all that domestic crap; I had my hands full just running the farm. The kids were too young to help out yet, and I had to let the only farm hand I had go so I could pay Louise something. It wasn't enough, that's for sure.
“She cooked and cleaned, fed the kids, washed and ironed the clothes, and even gave me a haircut every two weeks whether I needed one or not. I could always tell how the last couple of weeks had went by how my hair looked afterwards.
“That went on for about ten years. She stayed on a lot longer than either of us had planned, which sent her to her grave way before her time, God rest her soul."
"How's that?" asked Luke, busy refilling the reservoir of the hidden brandy dispenser while he listened.
Thomas took another sip of his brandy. He was surprised that he didn't seem to feel its effects at all. He decided to down the rest of the glass in one shot, and lit another cigarette.
"One day I came home from going into town for some tractor parts, and I could tell she was in a huff. She was bangin' pans around and slammin' cupboard doors like there was no tomorrow. I asked her what was wrong, ‘cause I had never seen her so upset. She told me flat out that I had ‘till the end of the week to find someone to replace her, and that was all she had to say. She still wouldn't talk at dinner, in fact, after she laid out all of the meal she excused herself for the evening without even eating. We never spoke again."
Luke grabbed Tom's empty glass and reached down under the bar to refill it.
"Topped off and working like a charm," stated Luke, as he wiped his hands off on his apron. He handed Tom his drink back, refilled his own, and began replacing the screws to the access panel.
"She was that pissed off that she never talked to you again? Just like that?" Luke asked.
Thomas could recall that day as if it were only yesterday.