A Clean Well Lighted Place: Faulkner Style
The moon was out, the clock read three a.m., and every soul had departed from the café except for the elderly gentleman who sat beneath the shade created by the leaves of the tree that blocked the light emanating from the filthy and old fashioned electric light fixture that hung from the ceiling. During the hours when the sun shone, the streets were overflowing with dust but as the time passed and day became night, the dew that formed made the dust settle; the elderly gentleman settled into the chair at the café and genuinely enjoyed it for he was deaf and during the night was the only time when he could sense true quiet really was. The two waiters working in the café that night knew that the elderly gentleman was somewhat intoxicated; he had been ordering brandy after brandy since the afternoon, becoming sloppier and more relaxed with each sip of the cool honey-colored liquid in the small glass. Although he was an excellent client, coming in regularly and never disturbing the other patrons, the two waiters knew that they could not let him become too drunk for he would end up leaving without paying his bill. The two waiters watched the elderly gentleman closely; eyeing the way he slouched in his chair, the glassy look in his eye, the way his words were beginning to become slurred each time he ordered more alcohol, and that reserved, almost lonely and forgotten look on his face. “Last week he tried to commit suicide,” one waiter said. The two men then began a quick conversation about the elderly gentleman’s attempted suicide. Back and forth they discussed the possible reasons why an elderly gentleman of his position would have the desire to end his own life. Possibly, the reason was the elderly gentleman’s lack of wealth, but the idea was quickly thrown out as the two waiters noticed the elderly gentleman’s newly polished brown leather shoes, which were each tied in a perfectly neat bow, the chain which connected to his golden watch with the family emblem engraved on it (most likely a family heirloom passed down from father to son to grandson and so on) and of course his lavishly detailed fall coat with the fur lining.
The two waiters sat at the round wooden table, whose polish was gone and legs were scratched from years of wear and tear. The table was up against the pale green floral wallpapered wall that led to the large wooden doors of the entrance and as the two men sat there, they would glance at the small and well kept terrace with its empty and clean tables all ready for tomorrow’s clients where the elderly gentleman sat forlornly at the small table beneath the shadow of the yellow, orange, and red leaves that were beginning to fall from the large oak tree that swayed back and forth slightly in the late autumn wind. Outside a petit almost mouse-like girl wearing a long pink pleated skirt with a silk trim and a white knit sweater walked with a flower in her hand; she was shielded from the cold as she walked in the arms of her tall and protective soldier friend in his uniform. The soldier’s brass number set on his collar shone as it reflected the light that came from the street lamp above.
“The guard will pick him up,” one waiter said.
“What does it matter if he gets what he’s after?”
“He had better get off the street now. The guard will get him. They went by five minutes ago.”
The elderly gentleman in the shadow suddenly began tapping on the silver saucer with the empty brandy glass causing the younger waiter to walk over, ask the elderly gentleman what he needed and then try to convince him to not have another brandy for at the point he was nearly inebriated. Realizing that the elderly gentleman could not be convinced, the young waiter stomped his way to the counter, mumbling that the old hag should have killed himself by now, brought back the brandy and poured it out for the old man while telling him that he should have completed the deed last week instead of still living and ultimately being a burden on the café. The elderly gentleman had no way of hearing, but the older waiter did, and this comment made him think, really think, and eventually realize that he empathized with the elderly gentleman. As the waiter sat staring at the elderly gentleman’s wrinkly and leathery hand tremble as it picked up the brandy glass and brought it to his mouth, he began to feel his own hands and face, simultaneously realizing that he is on his way to being old. The young walked back to the kitchen, leaving the elderly gentleman sipping his brandy and the older waiter thinking.
“Thank you,” said the elderly gentleman with a warm, poignant smile.