The melodic sounds of complex guitar riffs and punchy drum beats mingled with the nuanced voice of the legendary blues rock frontman welcomes the haggard visitor through the knotty pine doors of the rustic tavern. Garbed in hunting fatigues and littered with Indian jewelry, the grizzled man in his late thirties stands stoic, motionless in the foyer. Looking as much a part of the scenery, superimposed against a backdrop of animal pelts and various hunting traps adorning the horizontal laid logs of the buildings structure, the weathered man would almost go unnoticed if not for the unique yet wholly recognizable hunting rifle across his chest. With its polished proximal femur bone stock replacing the original wooden one, it could not be mistaken, nor the man holding it.
Barney, the establishment’s proprietor, stands behind the bar, trying his best to keep the tune whilst humming with the music, his waning attention focused on the sink full of soapy mugs and greasy dishes. It is not until the patron approaches that he pulls both his gaze from the task at hand and the tip of his long yellowed beard from the soap that he notices who it is.
“Oh hell, it can’t be”, Barney exclaims in genuine astonishment. “Say it isn’t so. Jake Mueller, is that you? What in tarnations brings you back here?”
Jake grins, knowing all too well that coming back after so many years would stir up many emotions. “I’ve got some things to sort out”, he responds, his voice nothing more than a low murmur, his eyes unable to make contact with his old friend.
Barney grabs a mug from the soapy water and shakes the suds loose. “Haven’t seen you in a couple years i’m guessing. Ya used to come up here every season without fail”.
He places the lathery mug under the tap and yanks the handle back, haphazardly streaming the tasteless beer into the mug.
“It’s been closer to 10 years I should think.” Jake responds. He sets the duffle bag he has been carrying down next to him, and lays his rifle up against the bar. He takes up a seat directly in front of his old friend and confidant. “ I realized that what I used to come up here for cannot be found”, he continues.
“What’s that Jake? Barney inquires.
“Redemption, revenge, peace. I don’t know. Pick one, or all three. All I know is I wasted too many years killing and not enough living”.
Barney’s expressive aged face fluctuates from concern to hope and he slides an ice cold beer in front of his young pal from years ago.
“Coffee will be fine”, Jake affirms.
“I guess things have changed”, Barney replies. He slides the beer out of the way and proceeds to fill a ceramic mug with piping hot black coffee. Jake grins as he sips from the mug, staring at a faded portrait of his father Frank that still hangs above the bar. Even in the short amount of time his father had called the town home, the accepting people of Silver Falls had welcomed him as one of their own and looked forward to meeting his young son after many months of doting on the boy. Unfortunately though they didn’t meet young Jake until many years later when he finally came back to sell his father’s share of the tavern for some hunting gear, and a small cabin in the backwoods. Only then after months of seclusion did he finally make it into town, albeit bloodied and broken from a near fatal bear attack.
Daryl, the town drunk and ardent conspiracy theorist comes stumbling out of the men’s restroom attempting to zip up his pants with one hand while funneling stale bar peanuts into his mouth with the other. His cheap cologne still manages to permeate the air, even over the strong odors of cedar logs, spilled beer and whatever Barney had left to overcook earlier in the evening on the kitchen hotplate.
“Well I’ll be damned! If it isn’t”… Daryl scratches at his greasy head of hair, hoping the name will shake loose from years of various chemical abuses and come to him.
Barney interrupts Daryl’s momentary brain misfire with a cordial approach to breaking the awkward pause. “You surely remember Jake don’t ya Daryl?”
Jake flashes Barney a disapproving look as he pulls a handful of his long brown hair down across the side of his weathered face, an obvious subconscious attempt of trying not to enter into any drawn out conspiracy theory discussions.
Daryl snaps his salty peanut fingers as his cognitive gears finally kick in and the memories come flooding back. “Yes I surely do. The only person crazier than me! But you don’t have to call me Shirley.” He lets out a little humorous snort, entertained by his extreme wit, but begins to choke on the dry peanut dust that coats his arid throat. He grabs at the bear Jake pushed aside moments earlier and tosses it down his gullet. “You weren’t drinking this were ya?”
Jake swivels the barstool around to survey the rest of the room and its few solitary inhabitants. Daryl displays a half cocked daft smile towards Barney as Jake’s back is turned towards him, both signaling his pleasure that his old crackpot buddy is back in town, and concern for what that possibly meant in light of the recent events.
Barney interjects as Daryl gets increasingly animated, hoping to snap the drunk out of his inappropriate caricature before Jake swivels back around catching him in mid grimace. The only way anyone has found to get Daryl to stop doing anything is getting him to talk about himself, aliens or anything that might have aired on an episode of X-files. “Daryl here has been talking about some strange and unusual stuff going on around here as of late, haven’t ya Daryl?”
Daryl’s eyes widen and the stupid expression he had on his countenance slowly gives way to one of genuine concern and fear. His hands, usually stable from years of acclimation to perpetual inebriation begins to tremble and his voice flutters in an audible manifestation of his anxiousness. “More like an evil ppp…presence in these woods. SSS…something I ain’t ever seen or heard before.”
Daryl throws back the last sloshes of beer and foam and wipes at his sweaty face with his flannel shirt.
“I have.” Jake calmly responds. “I Have.”