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.