It was a cold gray day in Connecticut; the kind of day that hinted winter was on its way to New England. Ezekiel stood outside with his back pressed up against the building, trying to will his legs to carry him safely home.
Although his name was Ezekiel, his friends called him Zeke. He was a short, thin man, who appeared to be in his mid-sixties. He may have been younger, but it was difficult to tell, as years of drinking had aged him. He had large, protruding, blue eyes, and a mop of thick, wavy, gray hair that stuck out in every direction. He had suffered a stroke several years ago, which left the right side of his mouth curved upward, making it look as though he had a permanent grin on his face.
Minutes before, Zeke had been sitting inside the bar, drinking shots of whiskey along with his coffee. He arrived shortly after the bar had opened, at six o’clock. How many shots he had downed that morning was anyone’s guess. Even Sam, the owner, had lost track.
Zeke spent the major part of each day at the bar. The others who frequented the pub, always had a laugh at his expense, but Zeke never seemed to mind. He was just grateful to be in their company, and for the few free drinks Sam occasionally passed his way. Every afternoon just before dinner, Zeke would slowly stagger home. Where he lived, exactly, was anyone’s guess. Nobody knew that much about him, except that his wife had left him several years ago because of his drinking, and that he had a son who had never given him the right time of day. Zeke himself had disclosed these small pieces of information, although he never bothered to go into detail, simply because he knew no one was interested.
But today, something was different. By eight o’clock, Zeke was incredibly drunk, and it was obvious that something was troubling him. He tried unsuccessfully several times that morning to confide in a few of the guys … after all… they were his friends. But they laughed at him as they slugged down their coffee, and for once, their laughter upset him.
“Listen to me, godammit!” He spoke loudly, slurring his words. “I’m trying to talk here!” Attempting to stand, he lost his balance and fell to the floor, causing them to laugh even harder. “It’s my son… it’s about my son…”
“Come on, Zeke,” Sam said, as he came from behind the counter. “You’d better head home and sleep it off.” Sam nodded to one of the guys sitting at a nearby table. “Paulie, give me a hand here, will you?”
“I don’t want to go home!” Zeke was being belligerent and took a swipe at Paulie, as he and Sam tried to pull him up off the floor.
“Hey, old man…I’d be careful who you’re swinging at, if I were you.” Paulie shot Sam a wink.
“I just want to talk to somebody…please.” As he pleaded, he turned to look at the others. “You’re supposed to be my friends. You are my friends, aren’t you?” His sad blue eyes, now filled with tears, resembled those of a child.
“Sure we are, Zeke,” Sam said, in a patronizing tone. “Now go home! We can talk later.”
Sam and Paulie dragged Zeke outside, positioning him against the building, as he was unable to stand on his own.
"Please! Won’t somebody listen?” He pounded on the door, watching his friends as they mocked him.
“Hey, Zeke!” Sam hollered from inside the bar. “Cut the shit! I don’t want to have to call the police. I said to go home!”
Zeke stood with the back of his head pressed against the door of the bar, oblivious to the cold weather. Unable to move, he closed his eyes, and prayed for the strength to walk home. As the door opened from the inside, he tumbled once again to the ground.
“Zeke, what the hell’s the matter with you, leaning on the door like that!” The man yelled, picking him up off the pavement.
“Please, can you bring me home? I want to go home.” Zeke’s speech was garbled, his voice barely audible.
“Jesus Christ, Zeke! It’s not even eight thirty, and you’re plastered already! You’d better get the hell out of here before Sam calls the cops.”
Now, as Zeke stood with his back pressed to the building, he began to sob uncontrollably, holding his head in his hands. Somehow, finding the strength, he made his way to the street, staggering in the direction of home.
The last bell of the morning sounded at Jefferson Middle School, as a few stragglers hurried down the walkway, hoping to make it to class on time. For a few brief minutes, life seemed to move forward in slow motion, as pedestrians and commuters looked on in horror, shielding their eyes from the scene that took place before them.
A small crowd of men hurried out of the bar at the sound of screeching tires, some of them still holding their coffee. Paulie and a few of the others rushed forward, making their way to the street.
“Someone better call an ambulance,” Paulie hollered to those that remained at the curb. “It’s Zeke…and it doesn’t look good.” Shaking his head, he slowly walked back toward the bar, keeping his gaze fixed to the ground. “Poor bastard.”