"You," he called out to me from across the bar.
I tried my hardest to just shut him out and take another drink. I couldn't tell who was shabbier between the pair of us. Neither of us had shaved in a few days or more, we both poured sweat from the unmitigated heat, and I couldn't tell if it was him or me I could smell over the sweating glass of iced whiskey.
The stranger took his hat off and wiped his brow with his sleeve before beginning again. "Are you the one they call the Whiskey Doctor?"
"Whiskey Doctor? Who says that?"
He slugged a drink back and ordered another for himself. "And another whiskey for the Whiskey Doctor, too."
"I've never heard of a Whiskey Doctor. A Whiskey Priest perhaps, but never a doctor."
I raised the new glass of whiskey up to my benefactor before taking a draught of the brown nectar.
"You are a doctor, though?"
"In a manner of speaking. I'm an exceedingly poor one."
"In ability? Or with money?"
I laughed. "Both."
"And what are you doing here? In a neighborhood like this?"
"Because everyone needs a doctor. Even if they can't pay."
"But why are you here?"
I tried forcing another laugh and answered through it, "Like I said, I'm a very poor physician."
It was apparent to me that if I stayed I'd have to continue enduring this grueling line of small talk, so I pulled up my anchor, washed the disgust out of my mouth with the rest of the whiskey, and left quietly.
The sun was as merciless as the heat and it backed the back of my neck and the exposed half of my arms. I was covered in perspiration like the condensated glass of whiskey and ice I'd just polished off.
The voice behind me was undoubtedly his.
I'd just keep walking and pretend I hadn't heard him. More than anything on this Earth, I just wanted to be left alone by people interested in haranguing me with small talk.
It was more than obvious that this fellow wasn't going to just forget about me and go away.
He ran to catch up to me, wheezing when he finally did. "Pretty swift on your feet there, Doc."
"Well, you did get out of there pretty quick, and lickety split there, we're three blocks from the bar."
His wheeze turned into a meaty, wet cough.
"Boy am I outta shape."
I quickened my pace, hoping he'd give up and stop.
"So what brought you to this neighborhood, Doc?"
"I don't know. Maybe it reminds me of where I grew up. But it's just like any other neighborhood. Only moreso."
"Little run down for a doctor though, ain't it?"
Me? Or the neighborhood? I didn't know, so I simply shrugged.
The rest of this story has been collected in a three pack of stories called "The Whiskey Doctor and other stories of the New Great Depression". It's available digitally for Kindle and the Nook.