Monday, 2 November 2015
The Smokers' Pub
For audio click here
The smoke hung low and thick like an autumnal fog enveloping a valley. The whitewashed wall were grubby yellow, the ashtrays had scars burnt into them and the grey moustaches of the clientele had a mustard tinge; this was a smokers’ pub and no mistake.
Cliff sat alone at the table by the toilets not smoking, nursing his beer, he could feel the smoke getting onto his clothes, his skin, his hair. He was already wheezing. He couldn’t have looked more out of place if he’d tried. Cliff was no good at blending in, no good at all.
There was no music but it was loud - the constant chatter of a thirsty crowd; all men apart from the middle-aged barmaid. Cliff watched her; she was incredible. She carried 5 beers in each hand while smoking a cigarette. She worked alone, pouring, serving and clearing tables. Occasionally someone ordered a pickled something or other, and she clattered with jars and plates and breadbaskets before throwing the food at the customer. Those customers were all over 50, silver, grey, or Grecian 2000 or whatever the local equivalent was. Which one was Petr? Or maybe Petr wasn’t here yet. Cliff watched the door, watched the men, watched the barmaid, he sipped at his beer whilst all around slugged at theirs. He was waiting for Petr while Petr was watching him.
For some reason ‘As Time Goes By’ was on loop in his brain. ‘It’s still the same old story, the fight for love and glory, a case of do or die.’
He’d drunk about three-quarters of his pint, when the barmaid whisked it away and replaced it with a fresh one. She was long gone before Cliff had a chance to complain. A man from the furthest table stood up and approached him. Grey hair, grey beard, grey face, his fingers stained from a million cigarettes, his teeth from a million coffees.
“Jak se maš, Jsem Petr” Petr said loudly and shook Cliff’s hand. Cliff felt the paper in between their palms.
“Yack see marsh” Cliff said back to him and smiled. Before Petr continued his route to the toilet, he leant into Cliff, patted him on the back and whispered in his ear. “Now get the fuck out of here, they know who you are,” his English was perfect.
Cliff was only too pleased to do as he was told. He left some money on the table and went through the door sucking in the cool night air like a drowning man might gasp for breath. Despite smelling like an ashtray and knowing that he was still not out of this, he was happy; he’d got what he’d come for.
Posted by Gareth at 09:42