Beckman Day 1


I was hitching north from San Fran to climb Mt Shasta but It looked like a climbers convention and I wanted solitude so I walked for a couple of hours until I saw a ramshackle building with BAR painted on the fading clapboards.

Stopped in and there was an old man drinking a draft and the bartender asked, “What’ll it be?”

“Give me a gin tonic-double limes.”

He walked away, pointed to a sign that read, Free Beer Tomorrow, grabbed a tall beer class pulled the handle leaving an inch of foam and on his way back to me grabbed a shot glass and a bottle of whiskey. He set the beer down and poured a shot. “$1.75,” he said.

“What about my GT?” I asked.

“That’s as close as I can come.” He was polite but weary as if he had said these words too many times in his life,

I tossed the shot against my tonsils and followed it with a sip of beer to put out the rotgut fire.

“Got anything to eat here?” I asked. “Sure do,” he said. “I live here.”

“I mean to sell.”

“Pork hocks or beef jerky.”

“I’ll have the jerky.”

“That’s a buck,” he said.

I finished my beer in silence left a $.25 tip grabbed my backpack and walked out heading north.

Fifteen minutes later the old guy that was nursing his beer drove by and stopped fifty feet past me. “Ride?” So, I got in his truck.

It was another fifteen minutes before he said anything and then told me to open the glove box, ignore the pistol and take out his wallet. I started to hand it to him and he said, “Look at the pictures”

There was a sepia colored picture of 3 boys in a photographer’s studio all dressed and smiling ages 2, 6, & 7.

I looked at him and asked where he got it and he said “Got ‘em a while back.”

It had to be quite a while because I was the 6-year old in the picture and I was about to turn 65 and this old guy looked old but couldn’t have been more than 75 hard years.

He told me to look at the others and I did and saw three sepia graduation pictures of me and my two brothers. The pictures, all the same physical characteristics, wallet size small, scalloped edges, and confusing. When I flipped one over it had my name and age in pencil. My mother’s handwriting almost worn off.   “Who are you?”

“Don’t recognize your father?” he asked.

“I haven’t seen or heard from my father save for one letter on my 13th birthday since I was in kindergarten.”

“Oh, your bar mitzvah letter,” he said, nodding.

“Let me out here. Right now,” I said spooked as hell and worried about the pistol and who this nut job was.



  1. Constance Malloy

    Oaky, this was totally unexpected, and I loved it! The opening line takes me right in, like I’m sitting on a barstool next to the narrator listening to his story. And then, the old geezer is his father. Or at least acting the part with pictures. And I love that father or not the narrator is getting away from him and the gun. Favorite line: “I tossed the shot against my tonsils and followed it with a sip of beer to put out the rotgut fire.” I so wish I would have written this line for a character in one of my stories.

  2. Trent

    Paul –

    Quite an unexpected chain of events!

    A couple of things come to mind:

    1. The bartender. He ends up answering (about the drinks) in a kind of resigned way, but does he give that vibe right
    out of the gate? Or, does he more or less dissolve into that, just due to the question about the G&T? I’m just thinking about a small kind of progression.
    2. The letter, from years back. Was it a “just going through the motions” kind of letter, or was anything colorful about it? Such as
    tying into a good memory, from that stage of life?

    Not saying these are any kind of make-or-break tidbits. It’s a very cool piece – just some thoughts, for contrast points.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Chelsea Stickle

    Don’t you hate it when you’re going for a hike and then some guy who turns out to be your father shows up? The twist here is great. The photo–physical evidence–that the old guy is his father or knew his mother or robbed his father. (A leap, sure, but the gun’s still there.) I like that it’s your narrator who first tells us of their connection. It would’ve been easy to have the father do it in a line of dialogue, but it’s better the way it is rooted in the narrator’s experience of the moment.

  4. Roberta Beary

    Love all your stories and this one doesn’t disappoint.

    I can see the wallet and the pictures. The faded writing in the mother’s recognisable style. The sense of long-ago abandonment is palpable.

    Favourite line: “Oh, your bar mitzvah letter,” he said, nodding.

    As if that makes up for everything.

    The ending is perfect.

  5. Tommy Dean

    I love how your stories always have this easy to enter the story kind of voice that draws us right in! How even the exposition feels like an important part of the story! Love that he wants a GT and the bartender refuses to give it to him! What a great way to start a story event! and that line from the bartender is great!

    ““Sure do,” he said. “I live here.” This was really funny!

    Love the shift and turn on the photos I the glove box, the casual way he’s told to ignore the gun, the way the ages are mystifying to the narrator!

    “The pictures, all the same physical characteristics, wallet size small, scalloped edges, and confusing.” Love this line, how it goes from the visual/physical aspects of the photos and lands on the soft edge of his feelings! Just wonderful!

    ooh, I want him to stay in the truck longer, really figure out what’s going on!

  6. Gay Degani

    Paul, I love your voice and the ease by which you can bind me to your stories. I love the description of the photograph because of course I happen to own quite a few of them!!! The twist ending makes me want more more more.

  7. Meg Tuite

    Hi Paul! You never cease to surprise! Once again, great dialogue. I was lost in the hellishness of pedophilia, until he recognized his photo. And then the other’s as his brothers. Dad! My only suggestion is that the ending felt too abrupt. Maybe a few more lines until he jumps out of the truck. Great writing!

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