Amidst all this chaos and confusion, amidst all this desperation to win Frank’s attention, amidst a drunk Ruth, an injured Kathy and a catty nurse, Barney’s presence in the house was forgotten by all.

From the moment the day had begun for him, right about the time when he left for work, Barney was well aware that it was going to be a long and eventful day. There were signs, according to him, which told him something big awaited him. But, what? He kept asking himself, as if the little voice inside him knew the answer. He was eagerly waiting for the evening to arrive so he could go to the choir practice.

Buy beer. Barney made a mental note.

To everybody, Barney Smith appeared to be… strange. Always known to be a recluse, no one knew what he did for a living or, for that matter, what he did for fun. Though he was in his mid-thirties, no one ever saw him socializing either. He never hung around at the bar with a bunch of friends, went to the movies, or attended parties. Barney did not realise when and how this oddness became a personality trait and started exuded from him. While the men around the town avoided eye contact with him, the women tried not come into his contact range at all.

Soon, it was a normal thing; by shunning the society, Barney became invisible to it, until one spectacular day he jumped in front of a moving truck to save Ruth. Weeks later, when Barney approached her, requesting to be allowed to join the choir, she could not refuse; after all, she owed him one.

Tonight, as things took an unexpected turn, Barney sat in Frank’s laundry room sipping beer, smiling all by himself, remembering something. He was gulping down the remaining beer when a sloshed Ruth barged in to the room. Slightly surprised by seeing him there she stopped abruptly at her track; in a matter of seconds, she threw up.

“What on earth are you doing here?” Ruth inquired after one go.

Barney waited for several seconds before he answered. However, as he started to speak, Ruth threw up some more. Barney held her hair as she finished puking and handed her a clean towel.

“You didn’t answer my question Larney.” Ruth mumbled.

Barney looked at Ruth as he made her sit on the floor. Her eyes were half shut and she could barely speak.

“I’m here because only a fool wouldn’t want to hold your hair back while you puked.”
Barney wetted the towel to wipe her face with it. By this time, Ruth was almost unconscious, however, she was still mumbling something. He picked her up and took her to the adjoining room. The silence in the room made it difficult to ignore the noise outside.

“Ruth, I am glad you will not remember this tomorrow.” Barney bent down to kiss her gently on her forehead.

“I love you.” He whispered as he left the room.

Read rest of the story here.


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