“What’re you scared of boy?” barked the old man. The young man’s wide open eyes stared right back at him. “Come on, boy, there’s a fear in you, an I ken see it staring right at me. I may not know what it is, but I ken see deep down, you got a good fear sittin’ right behind them wide eyes of yours.”
I took a sip my whiskey, wondering how this would play out. This old saloon was right the place for the old man, and it would be the right place for the young man in a few years. It was no place for me. I was just passing through. I kept my head down while I sat at the bar, finished off my drink and ordered another, then kept eavesdropping on the old drunk a few seats down from me.
“I en’t scared of nothin’, ” I heard the young man lie.
“That ain’t true, boy, and you know it ain’t. Ain’t no one scared of nothin.’ All them kids who say they ain’t got a fear ani’t the ones who make it as old as you, and you ain’t that old.”
The young man’s eyes got wider again. The bartender was going to be scooping up eyeballs in a minute if the young man didn’t start to close them. Even just a little.
“You fearin’ me boy? You ain’t got nothin’ in me te fear. No way, kid.” The old man downed his drink, got another, downed that one, and got one more, but held onto it. This old drunk was just razzin’ the kid. Trying to get him worked up just so he could shut him down. Maybe he was just trying to get the young man to grow up a little quicker.
“En’t scared of nothin’ I already told you,” the took a sip of his drink.
“Well now, boy, one thing you is scared of is the fire that drink will put in your belly. Come on now, kid, drink it like you mean it,” the old downed his drink again, “and tell me what you’re scared of.”
The young man looked past the old man right into my eyes, tipped his hat and walked out. The old man turned around and gave me a once over. “You scared of this here vagabond? Is that what you been fearin’? Why, he ain’t nothin.'”
I looked down at my drink, avoiding the gaze of the old drunk. The old man ordered two more rounds and slid one over to me. “Tell me, son, what’re you scared of?”