* * * * *
* * * * *
“Funny fing about this state,” Franklin said to no one in particular. The bartender looked up with vague disinterest. “The funny fing is that iss chopped right in two.” He waved his arms about to illustrate how someone might chop a state in half, specifically a state the size of Colorado. “Like they took a big bloody Rototiller to ‘alf the state, dug it all up, and never came back to finish the job.”
In his intoxication his accent was near indecipherable, but he continued speaking with the enthusiasm of someone addressing a large crowd. “I mean, iss got all these mountains, roight, but when I first come to Denver, an’ I step offa the plane, I swear could jump up on the back of a pickup and stare across the whole fing, straight down into – wassit – New Mexico or somefing.”
“Another beer, then?” said the bartender, already pouring a fresh glass, the brown foam cascading down the heavy, dark stout. Franklin drank exclusively Guinness, as Englishmen were prone to, and was no stranger to consuming copious amounts of alcohol. But the burly Englishman, who frequented the pub with longwinded and often hilarious stories of his homeland, his marriage or his mentally unstable mother, amused the bartender, and anyone else sitting within earshot.
Their attention was quickly drawn to the entryway where two lovely young women had just walked in and were approaching the bar. Franklin graciously accepted the fresh glass and winked at the bartender with a not-particularly-subtle nod to the women.
“Noice night for it,” said Franklin. “Enjoying the scenery, I mean.”
The two girls ordered Manhattans and chatted gaily with the bartender. Franklin ignored them, his attention focused on recent events rather than the rather bizarre game of cat-and-mouse being played by the two girls. Franklin was vaguely aware of the bartender flirting with the young women, which they clearly enjoyed. Whenever he would step away though, the shorter one with dark skin and dark hair would giggle and nudge her taller blonde friend, who apparently was attracted to the bartender, but was too shy, and quickly growing too drunk, to articulate her interest.
Franklin drank his Guinness and ordered a fourth, drinking it more slowly this time. The alcohol was starting to affect his mood, to take him back into recent memory rather than allow him to forget. The dark stout weighed heavily in his stomach, and he was starting to regret consuming so much.
Speaking with the funeral home had been surprisingly easy; Franklin found if he pretended he was handling this for someone else, it was much easier to stomach. He arranged for an old family friend to handle the phone calls; their family doctor had also volunteered to help with paperwork and logistical needs. There were still more plans to be made, though, and more complicated arrangements to handle; he knew his week would not be free of painful tedium. The will and the estate – those he knew would be the most difficult. Gathering his mother’s things. Selling the house. He knew there was a life insurance policy waiting for him – he had asked her not to take one out but she had insisted – so he assumed there was some money, and more paperwork. Before her illness became unmanageable she had married well, and when her husband left her a widow, she found she could survive for a very long time without work. When she needed hospitalization, it fell on his shoulders to arrange things then. He had a sister – Beverly – back home; she had moved to Yorkshire when she married and started a family. They had lost touch when he’d moved stateside to take care of their mum. He was the only family his mother had, really – it was unlikely his sister would fly in for the funeral. The phone call had been awkward enough. Beverly seemed to barely care – she seemed distant and detached; her family in England was her real family now. Franklin hung up the phone feeling more alone than he had before.