There is a priest in the off-license, buying two bottles of whiskey. His face is pasty and pocked with blotches. His hands tremble as he struggles valiantly to count out his notes and coins. On his third attempt, he reaches the correct amount. Even though he has not yet had his first drink, the physical and psychological changes that come over him are instantaneous and dramatic. His posture improves from pathetic to near heroic. His hands and voice cease their trembling. He even makes a joke at his own expense to the man behind the counter. I watch as he strides out into the night. A moment ago he was sick and desperate, clinging to life and sanity with the most tenuous of holds. Now, his whiskey in hand, he is saved, buoyant with hope.
The man behind the register, in contrast to the priest, has started his evening out splendidly. Not a thing in his world is amiss, until I point my gun at him.
“Empty it, son. Or I will ruin your night.”