by Zac Collins
Prose Fiction, "How To"
| He's young really. His age indicates the opposite, but his voice, worn low like a steady growl from years spent in conversation, has an enthusiasm in it that makes a man in the final stretch of his life seem like a child who is laughing at nothing. His eyes are the other aspect about his appearance that gives him his youthful demeanor. Where a man in his late sixties would have a dull, milky layer over his weather-beaten eyes, he has the crystalline blue eyes of a newborn, full and wondrous when he tells a story, intense and almost predatory when he listens.
He'll want to be outside. The porch probably, overlooking the river his house house was built near. He likes the smell of the air after it's been saturated with the summer day's sunlight. He'll say something somewhat crude, overplaying his rough charm to test the disposition of his companion, and amuse himself, "Missouri evenings are really quite lovely, particularly if you're spending it with a very attractive first cousin whose had enough to drink", smirking only after gauging the reaction. Packing his pipe, he will gesture to sit. He'll take the rocking chair on the right, slightly rotating it at an angle to wear he faces his companion, but still sees out into the Missouri twilight. He will motion with the stem of his pipe to the table between the two rockers, offering a drink. On a silver tray, there will be two glasses, a pitcher of lemonade, and a bottle of bourbon. He likes either, and typically chooses them depending on the weather, or what it is he feels like talking about that particular evening, but he won't choose first --- his test of character. The sun will be on its way down, but the air will still be warm. The eastern breeze will chill the sweat that beads down the side of the neck. Bourbon is the right choice.
He is a fantastic conversationalist, so there will seldom be time to speak. He has a way of steering a conversation in the way of making great points without making point of anything at all. He'll turn a serious thing into a joke, and a joke into a serious thing. He's proud of this. He enjoys laughter, but will only accept genuine laughter; he respects honesty, even if it checks his ego. Especially if it checks his ego. That will allow him to achieve an even greater level of success in his next attempt, which he will do with a subtly anxious beam under his mustached face.
He is light-hearted, though his brow never loosens its furrow behind his bushy white eyebrows. He will mostly tell stories: real easy, comfortable stories that he will tell slow, pausing every now and again for a discussion on a particular tangent that blasts his focus off its path. "Multi-faceted bull-shooting", he'll call it. When telling a story, he enjoys interruptions. They make him exercise his wit's agility.
It will be dark soon. The sun is only half visible now beyond the gentle waves of the tall grass in plain that stretches from the river to the sky. As the fireflies begin their shift as night watchmen, the bourbon that has been consumed between breaths of haughty conversation swaddles the brain, and the air begins to taste and sound like the whims of childhood, the laughter will reach its climax. His low grumble has turned into a high pitched squeal, which almost perfectly imitates the shrill, rusty screen door hinges that interrupt the evening's pleasantly foolish mood. On the tray, the glass pitcher of lemonade has lost its sweat, and the bottle next to it is a memorial to where good bourbon was once. Swigging the last bit in his glass with a powerful effort like that of stamping a letter, or knowingly throwing the knockout punch, he will set the glass down on the tray and breathe deeply. With a soft sincerity, he will acknowledge the sadness of the evening's close. Dizzily, he will reach his hand out with the goal of making contact to intensify his final words of the night, "The saddest sight is an empty bottle at the end of the night, but tomorrow will be right again. There is a whole barrel more in the cellar."