Archie and Wilson looked to their shoes. They hadn’t heard about the Reverend Wesley Wilding being so directly involved in trying to shut down Sam’s, and that was surprising in a gossipy little town like Striven. Too, Archie and Wilson knew better than to ask Sam more about it; experience had taught them that you just shouldn’t pry into certain areas of Sam’s life.
Donnie, though, was undeterred. “You ‘member, Sam, we was up to our ears in corn liquor one night, and –”
Sam’s glare deepened. “Drop it, I said.”
Donnie pushed with both hands at the air between Sam and him. “Okay, okay, don’t get yourself all worked up, now. I just thought…”
Noxanne put a hand on Donnie’s arm and peered to the bar. “You say them beers is for us?”
“Yeah,” said Sam, “if y’all can see fit to shut up about my private doings.”
Wilson, afraid Sam’s temper still might boil over, changed the subject. “Funny things happen when you get off the battlefield, huh, Sam?”
A quizzical look. “I reckon.”
“What I mean is, you could of took a job, any job a‘tall, over in Montgomery after that discharge of yours.”
For a moment, Sam said nothing. Then he sighed through a now-saddened expression. “They wasn’t all that fond of soldiers back then. Some of us got turned down for jobs because we was ex-soldiers.”
“I ‘member hearing ‘bout when you got out,” said Donnie. “You took a job sweeping up this place for your Uncle Clifton. Didn’t make much sense, even to a kid like me.”
“You ever been to a war, you’d know,” said Sam, “‘specially one that was lost.” He whistled out a breath, his eyes fixed on some faraway thing. “Damn war stayed with me for quite a spell. Sweeping up helped keep me outta the doldrums.”
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