One Last Drink

“Don’t do it, Carl.” His sponsor’s voice echoed in his head. “Don’t throw away all those years of sobriety.”

Carl wasn’t listening. He moved numbly through thickening snowflakes toward the Ajax Package store on 17th Avenue. Since his visit to the graveyard hours before, he’d wandered in confusion, turning over in his mind how he could have done any of it differently.

“You knew these men! What of them?” lashed his psyche like a whip. It was true he hadn’t gone back for them. He’d left them behind at the fire barrel to face the killing cold. What of them indeed? He didn’t know their names just as they did not know his. They were faces, flickering shadows in a distant past; ghosts.

“God, I need a drink.” Carl murmured aloud, opened the door to the Ajax and stepped into the warm inside.

A tall man in a black ski mask moved the Glock in his hand off the cashier, leveled it on Carl and fired three shots. He hated surprises.

Carl sank to his knees and then collapsed.

An angel reached down for his hand.

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