I crossed the threshold from pale yellow streetlight into dull orange and paused a moment at the doorway, soaking in the atmosphere as my eyes re-adjusted. Most of the light bathed the bar area, but most of the movements clung to the shadows, small pockets of subhumanity laughing and flirting in the shadows. I chose the bar.
One sole drinker sat two stools down from me, sipping expensive water from a green bottle. I nodded, he nodded. The barman took my order and money, and rewarded me with a whiskey.
“Do you know,” came a voice from my bar companion as he slid up a stool to sit beside me. “why it’s called spirits?”
“Spirit alcohol, of course,” Education has its uses. The man snorted and I looked at him from the corner of my eye. Old, greyed uncut hair, three day stubble and a fierce intelligence behind the eyes. This looked to be a fun night with him as company.
“That’s what we’re told to think,” he replied, sipping more of his water.
I smiled, happy to be taken in. Company was something I wanted tonight, whatever the kind. “So what’s the real reason?”
He ignored my question, and pointed to my glass with a gnarled finger, “And how do you supposed that is made, eh?”
“It’s whiskey. It’s made in a still,” I corrected myself, “a distillery”.
“Ah,” he gave a short chuckle, “DI-stillery, you say? Noooooo, that’s not the old word for it. It used to be called a be-stillery.”
He looked me in the eye, “Where the spirits are made to be still. Where they are captured and bottled.”
It was my turn to laugh. “So, you mean that there’s a ghost in a bottle of whiskey? That I’m drinking some dead guy?”
“In an essence, that’s what I’m saying. What you call drunk, I call possessed. Why do you think the yanks tried to prohibit this stuff? Why do you think folks say ‘it’s the drink talking’. Why do people do things when they’re drunk they’d never do when sober? Ever heard of the demon drink, sonny?”
His head turned, and his gaze met mine. I gulped, and pushed my drink a little further away.
“That’s the alcohol affecting the mind, nothing to do with spooks or ghosts or ghoulies or anything like that.”
He laughed again, a low bass chuckle that told more than he let on. “You think so, eh? Ah well, enjoy your drink.”
With that, he stood picked up a sack cloth bag from under his stool and made for the door.
As he left, I heard him mutter, “I’ve got work to do.”
I ordered water.