Short Story Fiction
The Bench Part Three:

Wesley has the opportunity to start a new chapter in his life. Will his addiction be more than he can overcome.

Wesley stopped outside the barber shop. He had twenty dollars in his pocket. He could go in and get a shave and a haircut, go back to the coffee shop, play the piano for one hour and have thirty dollars in his pocket. Or he could keep walking to the liquor store.

short story fiction / The BenchJohn Tuesday/Unsplash

He paced out front. He knew which was the better deal but he needed a drink. If he could hold out for just a couple of hours he’d have another ten bucks. He didn’t like making these types of decisions. The thought of steady money and real food finally won out. Wesley stepped into the barber shop.

The barber sat in the chair reading a paper. He pulled it down past his eyes and looked over the top as Wesley walked in. “You must be Wesley,” he stated without getting up.

“Yes, I am.”

“You just cost me twenty bucks.”

“I’m not sure I understand?” Questioned Wesley.

“Corey called me and told me to be expecting you. I bet him the cost of a shave and a haircut you wouldn’t show. I saw you pacing out front. I was hoping you wouldn’t darken my door but here you are.” The barber got up. “Have a seat. Let’s see what we can do with that mop of yours.”

Wesley took a seat. He hadn’t had a drink in hours and it showed. He was beginning to shake. The barber knew the signs. Wesley wasn’t the first addicted homeless person Corey had sent his way. He pulled a bottle of scotch from under the counter and poured a drink. He handed it to Wesley. “This should stop the shakes.”

Wesley thanked the man and downed it. It helped. The barber washed and cut Wesley’s hair and gave him a clean shave. When he had finished he handed Wesley a mirror. “What do you think?”

Wesley didn’t recognize the person in the mirror. The barber handed Wesley a tissue to wipe his eyes. “You flatter me young man,” stated the barber. “No charge and by the way, Corey says to keep the twenty. He’s expecting you.”

Wesley got up to leave and the barber stopped him. “Listen young man. I don’t pretend to know what took place in your life to cause your addiction or to put you out on the street. I do know what it’s like. I’ve been there myself. You’re Wesley Gordon, right. You were a hell of a keyboard player. Corey believes you still are. My name is Al, Al Mansard. You may have heard of me. I played a mean guitar in my time.”

Wesley broke in. Al Mansard, really? Ya, I’ve heard of you. Who hasn’t. Why are you cutting hair?”

Al continued. “I ended up on the street just like you. I had plenty of problems. Alcohol wasn’t one of them. Anyhow, Corey found me and helped me get myself straight. I still play some but I gave up the fame and fortune. I cut hair for a living now. It’s more relaxing. Corey has a soft spot for people like you and I. He’s a good man. Don’t let him down. Go back to the Morning Glory and play your heart out.”

The barber pulled out the bottle and poured Wesley another drink. “This should calm your nerves. Enjoy it. It may be your last.”

“How so?” asked Wesley as he downed it.

“Don’t question it. Now go. I’m going to call Corey and tell him you’re on your way.”

Wesley thanked the barber for cleaning him up and for the drink. He took his time walking back to the coffee shop. As he walked, he gazed at his reflection in every window he passed by. When he reached the Morning Glory coffee shop he stepped in. He was surprised to see so many people in the place.

Corey met him at the door. “Wow, look at this. You look like a new man. They walked up to the piano. It wasn’t some cheap out of tune upright like he had been playing in front of the second hand store. This was a Steinway. And a new one at that.

Corey motioned to Wesley. “Have a seat.”

Wesley sat down and Corey addressed the crowd. “You all may have heard of this man. He’s been laying low for awhile but I’ve convinced him to play for us this evening. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Wesley Gordon.”

The crowd cheered. Wesley wasn’t expecting this. He was nervous. He closed his eyes and placed his hands on the keys. The crowd began to grow anxious as they waited for Wesley to begin. They were finally rewarded as Wesley hit the first note.

The time flew by. After the hour had passed Corey stepped in. “A deal’s a deal. I asked for one hour and you delivered. Come back to my office. We have some business to attend to.”

Wesley stood up and the crowd stood up as well as they cheered and clapped. It had been a long time since he had received this type of appreciation. Corey and Wesley went back to Corey’s office.

“Well, I think they liked you. What do you think?” Asked Corey.

“I think it’s been quite some time since I’ve felt like this,” replied Wesley as he took a seat.

Just then there was a knock at the door. One of the barista’s entered and handed Wesley an envelope. “We know of your situation and we passed the hat. I hope this helps.”

Wesley looked in the envelope. It was filled with money.

“There’s close to a hundred dollars there. You should play here more often,” commented the Barista as he left the room.

Corey handed Wesley another thirty. “Here’s what I owe you for today.”

Wesley hadn’t had this much money since he first hit the street. “Thank you. This is almost too much.”

“Listen Wesley. Here’s the deal. I would love to have you play here for a few hours a couple of days a week. I’ll pay you thirty an hour and you can put a jar on the piano. Here’s the straight scoop. I’m the head of a small group of loose knit individuals who help homeless musicians such as yourself. We’re very informal. We would love to sponsor you. On top of what I’ve already offered you, we’ll give you a few bucks for some nicer clothes and we’ll set you up with an inexpensive room. We’ll sweeten the deal by contributing a hundred a month toward the rent. No more sleeping on the streets.

“Here’s the catch. We’ll expect you to start going to AA. You need to get and stay clean and sober. We won’t have it any other way. You’ll never get a better deal. What do you say?”

For a moment, Wesley was speechless.

© Copyright 2023 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.

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