Wilby’s on his fifth beer when the kid comes in. Normally Wilby wouldn’t even notice new arrivals, but this one catches his eye because the kid is already clearly drunk as hell.
The kid staggers up, slides unsteadily into the seat next to Wilby. Bartender says, “What’ll it be?” and the kid says, “Shot’a Maker’s. Beer,” and the bartender fetches.
The kid knocks it back, takes a healthy pull on his brew. He seems to steady out right away. But he still looks sort of agitated, like he has some great burden on him. He glances over at Wilby, and Wilby nods, says, “How ya doin’, kid?”
The kid seems to consider the question. He says, “Like shit, old man, if you really wanna know. I been in so many bars this last week, I done lost count of ‘em all.”
“What, you writin’ a tourist guide on bars in the greater Metropolitan area or somethin’?”
“No, smart-ass. I’m looking for someone. I been lookin’ for three years, and I got word that the man I need to find is in this town. Somewhere. But fuck if I know where.”
Wilby notices that the kid has a long, thin nose, with nostrils that flare like a bull. He notices, because his own nose used to look like that, before it got all swollen and red from drink.
He says, “Who ya lookin’ for?”
“Some no-account sonofabitch.”
“He got a name?”
The kid grimaces, sips his beer. “I don’t know his first name. But his last name is Munson.”
Wilby nods. “Why you lookin’ for him?”
“That ain’t none of your goddamn business.”
Wilby shrugs. “Okay, kid, suit yourself.”
He orders another shot from the bartender, knocks it back, sips his beer. The kid stews next to him. Wilby notices that the kid’s pierced earlobes are abnormally long, and it makes Wilby tug absently on his own rather elongated lobes.
Finally, the kid says, “He’s my father, if you really wanna know. A no-good drunk. I didn’t hardly know him. He… he left when I was five years old.” The kid’s voice sounds sort of whiny.
Wilby says, “That’s a tough break, kid.”
“Tough for him, when I find him. He left my Mama all alone to raise me up all by herself. Broke her will. But the sonofabitch used to beat her every day before he lit out. He used to just batter the shit out of her.”
“Maybe it’s good he left, then.”
The kid sneers. “You think so? Leaving her to raise me all by herself, with no money? He went off and joined the goddamn Marines, and we nearly starved, until… well…”
“Until she took to the street. She…” The kid chokes a little, knocks back another shot. He says, “She had to whore herself. Spread her legs for any old sonofabitch that had twenty bucks.”
Wilby doesn’t say anything. He scratches idly at the faded U.S.M.C. tattoo on his forearm and drinks his beer.
“Then,” the kid says, “three years ago, she killed herself. Buncha pain pills and a bottle of vodka. I… I found her.”
“I swore I’d track down that sonofabitch.”
Wilby says, “What are you gonna do, if you find him?”
The kid looks at him, and even though his lower lip is trembling, his eyes are steely. “What do you think I’m gonna do? I’m gonna put a knife in his goddamn black heart.”
Wilby nods. He says, “Let me buy you a beer, kid.” He orders a couple from the bartender, and the two of them drink in silence for a long time.
Finally, the kid stands up on wobbly legs, says, “I… well, thanks for lettin’ me bend your ear, mister. I need to move along. Lots of bars left to visit.”
“Right. Good luck to you, kid.”
The kid heads out, and Wilby sits and drinks and broods.
The bartender comes up to him with another beer and says, “Damn. I sure do feel bad for that kid’s Pop, once he catches up to him.”
Wilby says, “Why? Way I see it, the kid’ll be doin’ the old fucker a favor.”