Benny Hopper and most of her family cradled themselves into the nearest shade to get out of the intense Texas heat. Her father's car had broken down along the side of the room around twenty or so minutes ago and her mother offered to take the children and look for a repairman or a phone to call one.
As luck would have it, or not, they found themselves within the confines of a shoddy bar labeled Farside Pub.
“Mom, I don't like this place.”
Piped up Benny's annoying older sister in that horrid nasally voice she insisted on using whenever they were in public or when she wanted to make a point; the poor girl thought it made her sound more mature.
“Now dear, don't worry too much. We'll find a phone, call a mechanic, and get something to eat while we're at it. Everyone here seems positively friendly. I wonder if their having a Halloween party? Their costumes are to die for.”
Came the caring voice of Benny's mother in order to pacify her two young daughters. Benny herself could say nothing. Even if she wanted to speak, she was an eight year old mute and thus couldn't. She didn't even know enough sign language yet to really constitute full sentences. However, she felt inclined to agree with her mother via a nod as to the costumes. They were, in fact, to die for.
Down the way, a middle-aged man of a slightly big figured called out to the family as he made long strides towards them.
“Can ah get ya gals anything to drink?”
His tone was jovial and overly friendly. Not to mention his accent left something to be said for southern hospitality. It dripped in how friendly it was and Benny herself found herself jealous that he could speak at all.
The medium build man looked at the mother as if to question why a woman who brought children in the bar would ask for Tequila in the middle of the day. He seemed to think better of it as he instead wrote down the drink orders onto a pad with a pen that had been safely tucked away in his hand.
“That's one water, a Tequila, and one lemonade. Right?”
Benny looked up. How did the man know that she wanted lemonade? She looked down at her spot at the table to see her hand was laying over a picture of lemonade on the menu. Oh, that explained it. Behind her, a man dressed up as though he were a zombie groaned and put up the two fingers he had left; that makeup was really spot-on.
“Alright, make that two lemonades.”
Benny was at that age when children do things against their better judgment. She knew she shouldn't get up and sign to her mother she was going to use the bathroom. However, she didn't think much of the little white lie as she trailed behind the man. She found herself soon sitting at the bar, enjoying listening to the older people's strange conversations and a limitless amount of lemonade. It seemed soon the lie would be a truth if she continued on with her seating arrangement.
“What's yer name kiddo?”
The man asked after a while. She'd been staring at him silently for a while. Not much usually phased him but being watched by the likes of a primary school child was a new one even to him.
Her only response was met with a moment of silence of his own.
“Well, ah am the barkeep. You need anythin' then ya just lemme know darlin'”
“Ya don' talk much do ya darlin'?”
The man looked away to see if maybe her family were ready for refills on their drinks. He could bring the child back to them and maybe tell them to be more careful. The family, however, were not at their table. As a matter of fact, they weren't anywhere in the bar. It was hard to check with Benny constantly close behind the man but he'd managed to do it. He thought she'd scream at some of the less savory parts but other than a wide-eyed expression in some areas, she remained silent to everything.
Benny, after several hours, was starting to worry. She'd realized her family had gone. She'd realized they probably hadn't figured out she wasn't with them yet. What she didn't realize is her mother was probably drunk enough from all her Tequilas that she probably didn't remember her daughter at all. She also didn't realize that her father could have cared less if he did notice; one less mouth to feed after all.
Eventually, and to the chagrin of Benny but to the relief of the barkeep, someone did come to claim the child. It was a stranger neither had seen before in their lifetimes. He wore a grey-sweater over a nice buttoned up white shirt and a pair of firmly fitted black jeans.
“I'm here for my daughter. Benny, are you ready to go?”
The strange man simply picked up the silent girl in her arms while she looked over to the barkeep as if to try and tell him to help; To try to tell him that she didn't know this man nor did she know why he knew her name.
“Well, ahlright. Come back anytime but ya know, maybe keep the tots away at night?”
Were the last words that little girl would ever hear from the barkeep as she was carried away by the man who knew her name.