"I think he's dying," the old woman said to the bartender.
   The bartender had never before seen her or her companion, the sick-looking, well-dressed young man slumped over in the booth.
The Saturday night crowd was well along on its scheduled intoxication. No one would notice a dying man for quite some time. Still, the bartender already had enough problems developing with the customers whose survival was not in doubt.
   "He'll have to die somewhere else," the bartender answered in a well-practiced hard voice.
   Waitresses were calling out drink orders from the other end of the bar. The bartender stepped over to the work-station and hoped the "dying" man and his friend would go away. The strange couple had not ordered drinks, but seemed to have come in just to escape the Chicago winter.
   The bartender poured with both hands and kept up a lively banter with the waitresses while they agreed on the total charge for the drinks. When he turned his back on the room to ring up cash for one of the waitresses, he glanced at the mirror to assess the condition of the dying man.
   Maybe he really is dying, the bartender thought. People do die. He looks bad.
   The bartender had a soft heart. But if he let someone die in the room, it would be bad for business and he would hear about it from the owner--not to mention the razzing he would get from other bartenders on the avenue
   At that moment, a notorious neighborhood brawler walked in the door.
   One more problem, the bartender noted to himself. That decided the matter.
   He opened the leaf in the bar and made his way through the crowd to the booth of the dying.
   "You'll have to beat it!" the bartender snarled convincingly. "Now!" He was a big man and well practiced at appearing dangerous when it seemed necessary to do so.
   The dying man and his angel looked up at the bartender--the same distraught expression on both of their faces.
   "Now!" the bartender barked.
   The couple slowly rose from the booth and shuffled toward the door--the man hunched over all the way. When they exited, a frigid flood of night air spilled into the room.
   "He was faking," the bartender said out loud to himself, but softly, as he poured himself a generous shot of warming cognac.



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