Warm Hands, Cold Beer

Microbrews got popular, then overdone, then commonplace. Jimmy never tried one, even though they'd have to be better than the Bud on tap. Thing was, though, he knew he could manage a mug of draft by slipping his hooks through the handle.

The microbrews came in a bottle, and Vic served them in tall, straight glasses. Jimmy had tried at home, but he couldn't manage to lift and pour from a bottle. After too god-damned many years of practice, he was about as good with the hooks as he was going to get. He could dress himself, shave, and keep himself clean. Beyond that, he had to live within his limitations.

Ask Vic to pour his beer for him? Jimmy may not have had any hands, but he still had self-respect. So, he drank what was on tap - Bud and sometimes Guinness. He cast sidelong looks at the bottled beers Vic set in front of the other patrons. Beers with strange names like Sierra Nevada Porter, Blue Moon Belgian Ale, Fat Tire Lager.

The bar had a signboard with a dozen different beers on it, crazy sounding stuff that Vic played around with. He'd started it during the height of the microbrew bubble, kept it up when it paid its way. Smart guy, Vic; he wasn't afraid to take an angle if it wouldn't piss off his regulars. He'd get in eight or a dozen cases of something, and if it sold OK, he'd bring it back.

Mackeson's Triple Extra Stout, Burning River Pale Ale, Crocodile Village Wheat.

Jimmy read the names, examined the labels on the display bottles, then moved over to the bar so he could sit and drink his draft beer. There were times, usually in the small hours of the morning but sometimes sitting at the bar, when Jimmy sort of wished he'd been killed instead of just maimed in that attack. Vic always gave him a free one on Veteran's Day, a twenty ouncer of his "favorite", Budweiser. He pictured getting a Memorial Day tribute instead, somebody lifting a glass in his memory. It would be something dark and exotic with thick foam, something with some weird kind of flavor that shouldn't taste right in a beer, but does.

He sat on his stool, knowing that Vic would have seen him coming, and have his Bud waiting for him. Instead, Vic's new bartender, Alicia, set a regular beer mug in front of him, opened a bottle and poured out a golden brown beer.

"Hiya, Jimmy. I'll get your usual for you in just a second, but could you do me a favor? Could you taste this, on the house? Vic says it tastes like Bud, only better. I think it doesn't taste anything at all like Bud. You're our resident expert on Budweiser, so what do you think?"

For a long time, Jimmy looked at the foaming mug, at the empty bottle - Third Coast Golden Lager. Her hand was flat on the bar, her fingernails trimmed short and painted a reddish shade of brown. He reached for the beer. His grip on the handle was firm; hooks don't shake.

He set his lips to the thick, aromatic foam, and sipped, then drank quickly and deeply, as though someone were going to take it away from him. He set the empty mug down and let the flavor of the beer roll around his mouth. Amazingly, it also had an aroma that was practically a flavor all by itself.

"So?" she said. "How was it?"

In her eyes was understanding. She knew. However it was that she knew, she did.

"It didn't taste at all like Bud," Jimmy said. His voice was more choked than he thought possible.

She smiled and put some paper napkins in front of him, in thick stack, easy to grip.

"You've got some foam on you, Jimmy. These micros leave a mustache." She turned her back to fuss with something behind the bar, giving him a chance to do something about the tears that had started up.

After a moment, she turned back and said, "We've got a bunch of different ones, in case you ever wanted to give another one a try. They taste just as good in a regular mug as in one of Vic's fancy pub glasses."

Jimmy sat for a moment, then said, "Sure. Give me something good. Surprise me."

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Nothing satisfies like a delicious microbrew. What a nice story to make us all smile. I'm feeling for the hooks. Great imagination Tony!

  2. This came as a pleasant surprise. Understated but quite deeply felt annoyance at the inconvenience, determination to be independent, then the appreciation of a small amount of understanding & recognition. I love the way she didn't wipe the foam away for him. Dignity in all things.


  3. I'm not sure what I expected when I started reading this, but I wasn't expecting to be crying by the end. To have memories of my dad standing over the grave of his father on a foggy summer morning come rushing back so strongly. To remember the gently curving rows of crosses at Margraaten. The white columns at Arlington. To touch the black granite wall at the Vietnam memorial. Or, to try and read all the names of those missing in action on that pristine white marble wall.

    "Honor is theirs" it reads before you pass on into the cemetery proper, "Who knew the Path of Honor."

    Thank you.

  4. Thanks for reading, guys. Once you get past the basics of food, clothing and personal hygiene, there are a lot of quality of life issues that amputees have to deal with.

    Cold beers for all.

  5. Beautiful story, Tony. Your range is a wondrous thing to behold.

    This is an excellent tribute to our vets today. Better and truer than any parade or politician's speech.

    Makes me want a Guinness at 10:30 in the morning. :-)

  6. Tony, this is a remarkable piece, just wonderful in tribute to our vets, perfect on every note and a true nose for the amber golden beverage we all love. A great story.

  7. Three thumbs up.

    We remember the dead, but so conveniently forget the maimed -- of body, of mind, of heart. Thank you. Peace...

  8. That's a really nice story. Its the simple things in life that we take for granted.

  9. You have perfect pitch, Sir.

    Well done.

  10. Great little story here, Tony. A tribute to the living who lost quite a bit of their old life doing what they felt needed done.

  11. Thanks for reading everyone. I'm glad the story resonated. As Linda said, we don't always remember the truth about what war can do.

    After their service, many soldiers get to go on living, but some have to go on.

  12. This was gorgeous. I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Made me choke up a little. :)


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