“No sipping, now. This is the good stuff.”
There was a gleam in the old man’s eye that approached evil and gathered a fan of deep lines to the sides of his face. He must have been smiling this evil smile for years to get such a deep set of wrinkles. These thoughts distracted me, but not nearly enough. I looked in horror at the beautiful cut glass tumbler in front of me. My fight or flight instinct had kicked in to no avail. I hate whiskey!
He and his buddy, Jose, leaned forward on their chairs, watching me as though they were at a dog fight. They must have been able to smell the fear wafting off me.
I tried not to shake as my fingers gripped the glass they had set down so carefully. The golden liquid was very still, apart from a small ripple. The shaking leg of one of the men was making the floor tremble, or I was about to lose my nerve. I threw some of the nasty brew across my tongue and swallowed as fast as I dared. The plan was to avoid the taste buds, the plan was not foolproof. My eyes teared up right off the bat, but I stayed very still and hoped I wouldn’t have to breathe again soon. The whiskey tore at the soft tissues of my throat like fire and I might have made a small whimpering sound. It might have just been in my mind because Jose and Henry didn’t move a muscle. It was as though time had frozen. I was thankful for being in reasonably good shape, and almost forgave my brother for all the times he had dunked me at the river. I could see admiration in their eyes for the length of time I was able to hold my breath. Even that was reaching my limit. I let the breath out in a splutter and I think maybe a sob. I was just pleased I hadn’t vomited.
The old devils sat back and smiled. I guessed I had passed the test.
“Right then.” I said very quietly. “Time to hear the real story.” They nodded. I could throw up later.
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