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Friday short story time: "Locked Out"

It seems my weekly Friday story schedule will forever be beset by inconvenient other commitments demanding my time. After NaNoWrimo and Christmas, we had my coursework submission deadline for my creative writing MA.

Still, that’s done now, and so I’m back with another one. Perhaps because I’m still in academic serious writing mode, this is a bit less silly/toilet-centred than many of my previous efforts. If you haven’t read said previous efforts, get into the archives so you can compare and contrast the level of scatological obsession.

Otherwise, click below to read today’s instalment.

Locked Out

By Nick Bryan

Traditionally, when the night wore on and his family started stirring from the TV, Phil always headed for his local pub, The Crossed Arms. Because, despite the sulky name, they could always be relied on to let him in late, give him a pint and host a lock-in with other regulars.

The lock-ins were a jolly occasion, because the landlord waited until the riff-raff had cleared off. And he didn’t mean people of a lower class, no; Phil would never generalise like that. He meant anyone who wasn’t local, a regular, someone he knew and properly respected.

Those kids cleared off, casting a few eyes back at the older drinkers remaining in their seats. Clearly, they thought these were pissheads, soaks, alcoholics who only experience fun when too obliterated to do anything else. Little did those brats know that they were the ones staying out and having a good time.

The fun would start when they had gone, and not an instant before. Wait a few minutes, close the blinds and then The Who comes on.

The closing of the blinds was a formality, to be honest; the police didn’t bother them as long as there wasn’t any trouble. A while back, some young guy came along as a guest, got a bit too drunk and started kicking up trouble outside. That was the last time they let anyone bring their mates along.

So it was with a sense of belonging and imminent warmth that Phil reached the red door of the pub and knocked politely. He couldn’t hear any merriment, which troubled him. More to the point, behind the heavy blinds seemed only darkness, rather than a teasing hint of light. Surely the lock-in was not cancelled?

Starting to fear for the fun factor of his Friday night, Phil pounded with greater urgency. Was he going to have to go home? Nothing happened for a second, and he thought his heartbeat was going to thump his eardrums outwards, until a light snapped on behind the doors.

He allowed himself a moment of hope, although expectations still floated low. The signs were looking bleak.

When the landlord’s daughter opened the door, then, there wasn’t much surprise. She was an angry young woman, and with messy hair too. ‘Yeah, hi, what? I was about to go to bed.’

‘Yeah, right,’ Phil gave up right there, but it seemed rude to run away immediately. ‘I was wondering if the lock-in would be happening, or…’

‘No, it will not. My father had to go visit granddad in hospital, and I’m not bloody doing it.’

‘Of course, I…’

‘It’s bad enough I had to keep the pub open until closing time, I’m not letting you people stay on longer.’

‘Sure, that’s entirely…’                                                     

‘I mean, what do you take us for, some kind of charity? Keeping pissed middle aged men off the street for a few precious minutes longer so their wives can relax?’

‘No, not at all, just…’ Phil adjusted his hat nervously, before shouting her down when she tried to speak again. ‘Sorry to hear about your grandfather. And sorry to disturb you. I’ll be on my way.’

‘Glad to hear it. Goodnight.’

The door crashed home, and with it Phil’s dreams. All he’d wanted was another hour away from his brother at home. Maybe a few alcoholic beverages to make it a little easier to take when he did have to see him again.

‘Phil! Phil!’

Unfortunately, he didn’t even get the walk home to prepare himself.

It was Mark, wide-eyed and curious as ever. ‘Are you going to the pub? You left your mobile at home!’

‘Sorry, must’ve been an accident.’

Mark held the phone out, and Phil took it out of his hand carefully. He was going to snatch it, but that would have been risky. He didn’t want to trigger some kind of hysterical crying fit.

Still, nor did he bother saying much else. They ambled back to the house, Phil shivering occasionally at the cold and the other never noticing it. For a moment, Phil considered complaining at his wife for not keeping Mark at home, but even that would cause too much hassle.

That was this week’s story. If you wish to somehow use it on some other website, do email me rather than stealing it outright and I imagine I’ll agree. Unless your website scares me.


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