The 51st Thursday
Shelby Bainbridge, former championship winning quarterback and son of an Alabama Senator with presidential aspirations, lost everything one Thursday night fifty-two weeks ago. Lost, alone, battered, and broken Shelby finds comfort in the local bar called Deacon’s Place. Week after week, he finds himself drawn to Deacon’s for the beer, for the atmosphere, for the solace and for Deacon himself.
Deacon can no longer deny the desire he feels for the man he calls Thursday. When Deacon wants something Deacon is a hard man to resist. The problem is, Deacon never planned to lose his heart. Especially to a man who could be destroyed by an unexpected night of forbidden passion.
Outside, the storm clouds swirled ominously against a pewter gray sky. Inside, the five flat-screen televisions mounted on various walls were tuned to each of the local stations offering nonstop coverage as Hurricane Sally loomed in the Gulf of Mexico.
A Category Four, Sally was due to make landfall sometime after midnight and Deacon’s bar in downtown Mobile was right smack-dab in the crosshairs of the predicted path. That was the bad news. The good news was it was a small, fast-moving storm and it was only five in the afternoon. Plenty of time to batten down the hatches, as they say.
Deacon’s Place was Joe Deacon’s now, his daddy’s before him, and his daddy’s before him. Located in a pre-World War Uno era five-story brick edifice in the old part of town, Deacon’s had survived countless storms, including the monsters Ivan, Katrina, and Frederick.
Joe—or just Deacon as he was called by friend and foe alike—enjoyed the impromptu hurricane party going on around him, though the crowd was smaller than the one for Ivan had been. Once bitten and all that jazz, most people knew enough to get the hell out of Dodge, or at least stay their asses home and hope the old girl took a jagged turn in a different direction. However, the patrons who braved the squalls already coming ashore weren’t most people, as evidenced by their choice of dress.
Of course, it being the day before Halloween could account for the costumes or in one girl’s case the lack thereof, but hey, if she thought she was Lady Godiva then more power to her. As long as she kept the wig draped in the right places Deacon wouldn’t say a thing.
The light outside began to grow dimmer and Deacon glanced at the clock and then the open doorway where he watched rain pelt the street. Disappointment formed a deep well in his chest.
Of course, Mr. Thursday Night would be one of those people with enough sense to stay in out of the rain. Nevertheless, Deacon had hoped he would come in for a moment at the very least, but with each newcomer that hope was beginning to dwindle.
Trying to keep his mind on his business and not the door, Deacon stood mindlessly wiping the counter as he watched television. In particular, the red crawl at the bottom of the screen that issued the curfew warning. The new data streamed across the screen followed by the updated curfew of nine o’clock when all business in the greater Mobile area must close their doors.
Deacon tried to ignore the little spark of hope that twirled in the pit of his belly. Thursday could still come in. There were still three hours left until he had to close the place down. Three hours were an awful long time in which anything could happen. Realizing he was behaving like a fool, Deacon tossed the bar cloth into the sink. He was a fool. A fool waiting for someone he really didn’t even know to walk through his door.
Hell, he didn’t know Thursday’s real name. He didn’t really care, he told himself. Why should he care what Thursday’s real name was when he’d had fifty Thursdays to ask him? Why had he counted the damned days anyway, Deacon wondered, shaking his head at his own foolishness.
Try as he might, Deacon couldn’t help remembering that night fifty-one Thursdays ago. The night Thursday had rolled in, or rather staggered in as if he was on a weeklong drunk. Deacon hadn’t wanted to serve him anything until he proved he wasn’t drunk. Banged up and argumentative, yes; drunk, no; looking to rectify that situation, hell yeah. He was probably about the same height as Deacon, which was just an inch less than six feet. Not as broad across the shoulders but nicely made just the same. His eyes were sort of a green-brown color that defied explanation, his hair sandy brown. Incredibly pale, he looked as if the slightest breeze would knock him over. He was bruised, battered, and broken in more ways than Deacon could see from this side of the bar.
He’d asked for a beer. Deacon poured him one, he didn’t say anything else. After the third, he paid his tab and stumbled out into the dark. Deacon could see the cast on his leg as he left. A stab of something pierced Deacon’s thick skin that night, sympathy maybe.
He came every Thursday after that, earning him his name. Deacon was never sure what drew him, but he came at the same time, taking the same seat at the bar and ordering the same three beers before heading back out into the dark. Sometimes he came dressed in jeans, other times in business attire, but always in an oxford cloth shirt, usually white, sometimes blue. Deacon started noticing his clothes sometime in January. He didn’t usually notice his male patrons or their attire, he tried to keep his personal life as far away from the job as possible, but Thursday wore his in a way that made Deacon want to look.
Then in May, something changed and Thursday came for more than just the quiet spot at the bar and a few beers. He joined in a game of pool, which was just fine. Deacon enjoyed looking at his ass across the room as he leaned over the table to make the shot. He still didn’t say much. Then he left with one of Deacon’s waitresses.
The next visit, Deacon had to remove him and a couple of wannabe bikers to the parking lot. Thursday gave ‘em hell before Deacon picked him up off the pavement and put him a cab telling the driver to take him home. After that, Thursday kept his temper, except when he lost it. And when he did, it was a magnificent temper to behold. In June, Deacon noticed a pattern where Thursday was concerned. Woman, fight, brood alone in angry silence, rinse, and repeat.
That’s when he started wondering what made the man tick. Why just Thursdays? What was so special about Thursday? Why the reckless behavior? He was obviously well schooled and he wore expensive clothes and an air of authority when he was dressed in his Sunday go-to-meeting best. The blue tie with a discreet gold letter A tie tack. The choirboy haircut he wore at first became a thing of the past in May, and as of last Thursday, his hair just touched his collar, falling in soft waves that he constantly pushed out of his eyes.
Dark began to creep in the door, and Deacon gave up watching. He wouldn’t show. He’d gone farther inland. He would be safe, sitting in some other bar on a Thursday night. The fifty-first Thursday night. At the top of the hour, he turned up the volume on the closest television to catch the latest update on the projected path. Old Sally was hell bent and determined to take a trip straight up Mobile Bay.
Shit, it was going to be a long night.
In an hour or so, he’d do last call and send the brave souls out to seek shelter elsewhere. There was still work to be done before the old girl turned the street outside into a raging river.
At seven, the weathergirl started looking nervous. She was new to the area and this was her first hurricane, or so she said. Deacon looked around the tap room noting that most of the costumed customers had gone home. Only a few die-hard drinkers were left. Maybe he’d go ahead and call it a night, he thought; close up early so that he could finish the battening down the hatches portion of the program. He glanced outside at the rain falling heavily now, while he watched a yellow cab drove slowly past, stopping just out of Deacon’s line of vision. A door slammed and Deacon felt a tug of anticipation. Maybe. Irritated, he told himself to stop being a fool; the cab was just driving slowly because of the wet streets. Thursday wouldn’t walk through the door. Not tonight.
Then Thursday stepped inside, just as he had every week at the same time for the past year. He paused in the doorway to take in the place before taking the same seat at the bar. Tonight he was dressed in a pair of faded and ripped jeans, a blue button-down collar oxford shirt, slightly wrinkled and half-buttoned to expose a white tank undershirt and a pair of beat-up Top-Siders. His hair was wet from the rain; he ran his hand through the unruly mess pushing it back from his face.
Deacon nodded just as he did every Thursday night and pulled him a glass of the only beer he had on tap. “I’m closing in an hour.”
“Yeah, okay, thanks.” Thursday rapped his knuckles on the bar beside the beer and looked everywhere but at Deacon.
Satisfied, Deacon walked away to put another box in the storeroom while trying to ignore the strange sensations churning in the pit of his stomach.