The tall, bony man walked into a bar. He rubbed his head, then entered the pub. He maneuvered his way past the tables filled with late-night drinkers and took a stool at the counter. He dropped the farming tool he was holding and cleared his throat to alert the barman of his presence.
The bartender put down the glass he was polishing and turned to face the newcomer. “How may I- Oh, it’s you. I haven’t seen you around here since we got that designated driver. What can I get for you?”
“You know I don’t drink.” The man reached across the counter and took a newspaper off the rack. “This new?”
“Yup, yesterday’s issue.”
The man scanned the headlines.
SCIENTISTS DISCOVER A CURE FOR CANCER
AGE-DEFYING PILL CAN ADD YEARS TO YOUR LIFE
ALL STRANDS OF THE FLU HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY ERADICATED
WORLD PEACE DECLARED
WORLD HUNGER A THING OF THE PAST
He sighed and put the paper down, then looked around at the other patrons.
“Business hasn’t been going too well,” He muttered, “That kid over there, is he twenty-one?”
The bartender leaned over the counter to get a look the teenager the man was pointing to. “You mean the one sitting by himself?” The man nodded, “Well, he has a pretty good fake I.D, so I’m legally in the clear, right?”
The man shrugged and placed a handful of bills on the counter. “Give him another drink. On me.
“I don’t think I should; He’s already had a few.”
“Give him a few more.”
While the bartender fixed the drink, the man caught the attention of the boy and waved him over.
“What’s your name, kid?”
The boy sat on the empty stool next to the man and accepted the mug from the bartender. “Eliot.”
“Did you drive here by yourself, Eliot?”
Eliot nodded and downed half the glass in a few gulps.
“That’s good. Do your parents know you’re out this late?” Eliot shook his head. “And I’m sure they’d be pretty upset if they found out you were drinking.” Eliot nodded. “Bartender, please give him another.”
The barman hesitated, “I think he’s had enough.”
“I don’t think that’s for you to decide. Give him a stronger one, please.”
The bartender placed another mug in front of the boy, just as he finished off the last one, and turned to help a few other customers. Eliot picked up the drink, spilling a little on the counter and on himself, and brought it to his face. After a few tries, he finally found his mouth and took a sip.
“I’m guessing your friends are all asleep considering they’re not here with you,” The man continued as Eliot spilled a little more, “So, who’s going to take you home?”
“Se driv’r guy,” Eliot’s words were so slurred the man could barely make out what he was saying, “He do’s that.”
“The designated driver? Oh, he’s busy this time of year, you don’t want to bother him.” The man lowered his voice as the bartender walked by, “And cabs are far too expensive these days. Not to mention the fact that you need to get your car home.”
Eliot nodded, swaying in his seat, and put down the cup.
“So, I guess you’ll be driving yourself home. You look alright to drive to me.”
“’M alrait to driv,” Eliot repeated.
The barman returned to the spot in front of them and pretended to look busy.
“Barman, another drink,” the man said.
“He hasn’t even finished off the last one.”
“I don’t care. Another drink.”
The bartender scowled, but did as he was told.
“You better get going,” the man whispered once the bartender had his back turned, “If he knows you’re leaving, he has to stop you from driving.”
Eliot slid off the stool, nearly falling over, and staggered to the door, running into just about every person and table in his crooked path. The bartender finished Eliot’s drink and turned around. He glared at the man.
“Where’s the kid?”
The man held up his hand for silence, waited two minutes, then said, “About a block away in the middle of a wreck.” He jumped off the stool and retrieved the scythe he dropped when he first came in. “I should be going now.”
“That was a cruel thing to do, Death," The barman said, “A very cruel thing.”
“Business is business,” Death shrugged and disappeared.