This week’s words are:
last man standing :: snack :: gold :: forgotten :: community
The Parting Glass
‘That lad wouldn’t let his left hand know what his right hand was doing,’ Jacko sniffed, flicking his head toward the still-swinging pub door. ‘He’s so tight, he squeaks when he walks.’ His voice was loud, and carried far; I wondered whether Noel could hear him. The walls were thin, and the doors thinner, in this place.
‘In fairness, he did say he had to be gone by eleven,’ I reminded Jacko. ‘It’s well after half-past, now.’
‘Ah, will you give it a rest,’ he grouched. ‘As if that wife of his even knows whether he comes or goes! She couldn’t care less if he never came home, the oul’ trout.’ He lifted his glass to his mouth and took a long draught, then wiped the foam off his bristles with one rough-palmed hand. ‘All our Noel wants to do is get out of his round. You mark my words, boy.’ Jacko settled over his pint once more, wrapping his arms around it like it was a sick child needing comfort, and I let the silence grow thick between us.
I, personally, wouldn’t have minded a wife waiting for me when I stumbled up home. Noel would have a dinner in the microwave, not long made; all I’d have for a midnight snack would be a shot of whiskey and a cigarette, and I’d have to be happy with that. Noel’s house might be quiet and dark when he put the key in the lock, same as mine, but at least another heart beat within it and another warm body called it home. I looked down at my hand, and wondered what it’d look like with a flash of gold on it, just for a minute.
‘So much for ‘last man standing,’’ mumbled Jacko, knocking me out of my thoughts. I wasn’t sure if he was talking to himself or not, so I said nothing. ‘Was a time, me and Noel’d give drinkin’ exhibitions. Sixteen, seventeen pints was nothing!’ He chuckled to himself, before letting his smile fade. ‘All the lads we’d drink with back then, a whole community of us…’ He paused. ‘A lifetime ago, it was,’ he said, his voice barely more than a whisper.
‘Where are they all now?’ I asked him, knocking on the counter to summon the barman. My glass was dry, and Jacko’s was draining.
‘What?’ he asked, looking up at me like a rat looking up out of a ditch.
‘What happened your pals?’ I repeated, wondering what was keeping the barman.
Jacko’s silence made me look back at him. His mouth was slack and his shoulders slumped, and he stared at me like he’d forgotten who I was. Eventually, he blinked, and his vision cleared.
‘Nothing happened them,’ he said, slowly. His hand trembled, stilling only when he wrapped it back around his glass.
I thought better of that last pint, and slipped out into the night before the barman came.
If this is supposed to be chilling and a cautionary tale, then it definitely works. Another inspection on how alcohol consumption is a fine tight-rope trick.
Or at least I hope that’s what you were doing, otherwise I massively misunderstood.
No, you’ve got it completely right! Thanks for your comment. 🙂
Ooh! Very nicely done! The story flows from start to finish with ease, and the ending was both chilling and thought provoking. Wonderful piece. 😀
Thanks so much! 🙂
Brilliant! Your phrases are so beautifully crafted. For example, ‘Jacko settled over his pint once more, wrapping his arms around it like it was a sick child needing comfort’. I instantly recognised the posture!
Just one tiny thing: ‘‘Nothing happened them,’ he said’ I presume is ‘‘Nothing happened TO them,’ ? It bothered me because I wondered if the typo was ‘Nothing happened THEN’ which gave it all a slightly different meaning.
It’s absolutely fabulous writing! A standard I aspire to.
Thanks so much for your kind words! I’m glad you liked so much about the story.
Just some information for you: the missing ‘to’ is neither a typo nor a grammatical error. It’s ‘Irish’ English. You might notice that the other character asks ‘What happened your pals?’ In Ireland, the way I was brought up to speak, you’d answer that with ‘Nothing happened them.’ The ‘to’ that should appear between ‘happened’ and ‘them’ is implied. I wanted to create a certain kind of feel with these characters, and I gave them my own accent and way of speaking. Sorry for any confusion! Pesky old Hiberno-English… 🙂
That’s great! Thanks for the explanation. It’s not something I’ve come across, and I love such subtleties of language and accent.
Is it worth putting (to) in brackets? Probably a bit clunky…
I think that would look a bit strange! 😀 Thanks for the suggestion, though. I might put an asterisked explanation at the end of any future stories in which I make use of non-standard language, though, if that helps. 🙂
Well done. I love how he goes from a loud, brash character to a trembling wreck so subtly. Sad and true.
Thank you. 🙂
That really strung me along. Lovely tale. I’d be interested to know whether Jacko has/has had a wife. Probably not. And I really feel for your narrator. He’s so alone. Find him a companion!
It’s interesting – I was toying with giving Jacko a wedding ring, too. I think he probably did, at one point, have a wife. As for our narrator – well, you never know! 🙂 Thanks, Patrick.
I agree with everyone else- great paced poignant cautionary story but I especially loved your use of dialect, it made the dialogue really authentic. I also love how you used it to contrast the perceptions of the two characters. Jacko’s thoughts are definitely drink lead and we get the impression that he has lost a lot because of it. Love the subtleties of this and the narrator’s decision at the end is great, a nice optimistic note of hope and realization. Well written too-I wouldn’t change a word !
Thanks, Emmaleene! As with all my stories I agonised over the end, and ended up posting it even though I wasn’t sure I liked it. It seems to have gone down fairly well, though. I’m glad you liked it – and I’m glad you (as a fellow countrywoman!) thought the dialect was used well. Thanks a lot!