Fiction | January 05, 2015

There was a certain bar in Charlestown that his father frequented after work at the Schrafft’s candy factory. The boy and his brothers knew to stay upwind when their father would come home three sheets to leeward, smelling more of whiskey than of sweets, a sure sign that the workday had been a bad one and he’d stopped for a topper to flood the poison. “He’s back from Cloisters,” they’d whisper to each other, the signal to steer clear.

They knew the place only by reputation until one Saturday afternoon when their mother, woozy with flu, begged their father to take their sons’ cacophony from the house and the father pushed the boy and his brothers out the door and on toward the bar. The boy wondered at first why their father hadn’t just ordered them outside until dusk. Perhaps their visit to the Cloisters simply indicated a man drawn by habit down a well-rutted path. But their father’s bearing indicated he was in fine paternal fettle that day—This is what it means to be man of the house—and in keeping with the mood, he had perhaps decided to extend his sons’ moral instruction.

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