from Gulf Stream Literary Magazine #10
Inside Crowley’s Snakebite Tavern, Carter watches the man balance himself on a ladder behind the bar, struggling to pin up a banner.
“You need a hand up there?” Carter asks, just as Crowley affixes the edge to the shelf and steadies himself.
“Looks like I got it.”
Crowley jumps down from the ladder, and now Carter can read the sign: “Welcome Home, Jackie Nolan!” He clenches his jaw and takes a deep breath. On the mantel above it, the stuffed copperhead that serves as the tavern’s mascot is mounted on a branch, jaws open, fangs bared, flanked by a shelf decorated with empty bottles of Jim Beam three rows deep. Carter is terrified of snakes, but he’d rather tangle with a snake than welcome Jackie Nolan back home.
Crowley reddens and shrugs his shoulders at Carter. “I know the score and you know the score, but he was a regular here, too, back in the day. He’s got a lot of old boys left around here, and I can’t go playing favorites. Not today.”
“It’s fine,” Carter says. He has willed himself into making peace with the fact that his father-in-law’s release from prison is the biggest event Pelham County has seen in years.
“I can’t have you looking for trouble.”
“Who wants trouble in this heat?” says Carter. He takes a pull from his beer bottle and meets Crowley’s gaze. “I’m just here for the party.”
Read the full text of “Welcome Home, Jackie Nolan” at Gulf Stream Literary Magazine.