Gil Hoy is a Boston writer and poet who studied poetry and writing at Boston University through its Evergreen program. Hoy previously received a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Boston University, an M.A. in Government from Georgetown University, and a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. While at BU, Hoy was on BU’s championship wrestling team and finished in second place in the New England University Wrestling Championships at 177 lbs. He served as an elected Brookline, Massachusetts Selectman for four terms. Hoy is an elected member of the Brookline, MA Democratic Town Committee. His work has recently appeared in The Galway Review, Best Poetry Online, Muddy River Poetry Review Tipton Poetry Journal, Rusty Truck Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, The Penmen Review, Misfit Magazine, The New Verse New, Chiron Review and elsewhere.

God Bless You

By Gil Hoy

Jack’s favorite breakfast spot was “The Breakfast Club.” He always ordered “The Jock.”  He’d been one in college. Egg whites, asparagus, tomatoes and onions.  Jack was older now but still strikingly handsome. Trim and fit with a sun-bleached, brown mane and piercing blue eyes. 

Jack had an hour to get back to his wife. She was a real estate broker. He’d just dropped her off in the next town over after he put up her “Condo For Sale/Open House” signs. Her open houses usually lasted an hour. Jack sat down on a bar stool, put his book face down on the counter and ordered.

A thin, scraggly-haired man called Willy was sitting nearby. Under a window by the front door. His back propped up against the wall. He had bad teeth, mottled skin and looked older than he was.  Drinking his fourth Jack Daniels. 

Willy was arguing with the bartender. “I want a clean counter for my drink. No crumbs and spilled water.” The bartender was keeping his cool, as he’d been trained to do. “No problem,” he said. And wiped off the clean counter for a second time. 

Jack liked to read while he ate. And write something good if he had a good idea. He hadn’t had one in a while. He’d brought Hemingway’s Men Without Women with him and was reading about a once famous bullfighter who could no longer draw a crowd. The bullfighter was old but still had courage. 

Jack had been a star quarterback ten years ago in college. He’d loved the roar of the crowd in the large stadiums where he played. He’d married the prettiest cheerleader the day after graduation.

When Jack was almost done eating, he sneezed twice.  “God bless you. God bless you,” Willy said. “Thanks,” Jack said, and continued reading. After a few minutes, another “God bless you.” “God bless you, too,” Jack said, although he’d never been particularly religious and never went to church.

Another man came in. He had a few thin strands of black hair on his head and watery, bloodshot eyes. It was painful to watch him walk. If you could call it that. His arms were strong but his legs couldn’t move. They were dragged along by arms and crutches that slowly moved the man forward. 

Willy knew the man on crutches. Who sat on the bar stool next to him. They talked for a while. “I’m leaving. “But I’ll be back,” Willy said. And left without paying his bill. The man with crutches kept turning his head towards the empty chair and kept right on talking. 

Jack had seen the man with crutches before. He always drank soda pop. And mumbled when he talked. Jack thought to himself, he’s a real dunce, a simpleton who can’t even walk. And now he’s talking to a drunk who’s no longer there.

Jack got up to leave. He had ten minutes to get back to his wife. As he exited through the door, the man with crutches said, “Enjoy the short stories, man. There’s something to them. Hem’s a damn good writer.”

Jack stopped walking. He went back to his bar stool. Began to write. He called his wife, “Honey, I’m going to be late.” 

Jack was thinking about the bullfighter, the man on crutches and his college days. That courage is not always apparent and that man is sometimes not what she or he appears to be. That we’re all getting older. And the sooner we know it, the better. The man with crutches ordered a whiskey. And continued to talk to the empty chair.