Happy Friday, everyone. Well, moderate Friday anyway. Today’s story is set in a pub, and considering how much time I spend in them, I’m surprised it’s taken us this long to get back here. Enjoy!
And as ever, if you liked this story, more are available.
A Drinking Problem
By Nick Bryan
‘So, you as bored during that meeting as me?’
Harry smirked and leaned against the bar. ‘How did you know?’
‘Well, you gotta be concentrating on a doodle that fiddly. It was like a fucking mosaic or something.’ Jim, pleased to see his companion relaxing, leaned forward to suggest conspiracy. ‘Mine was just a huge robot. But man, it was massive. More laser guns than all the X-Men combined.’
‘Never pegged you for a nerd, Jim.’
‘Oh, yeah, I love that shit. X-Men, Spider-Man, those other ones.’
With so monosyllabic a comment, Jim worried he was losing his audience. Time to share something, he thought; create an intimate atmosphere through disclosure of secrets. Well, as intimate as he was going to bloody get in this awful pub. The place was rammed, mostly with people from the surrounding offices.
A tableload of their particular colleagues squatted in the corner, being drunk and sweary, but Jim wasn’t willing to risk that. Harry had a history of growing restless and legging it when put into loud group situations, and Jim was already worried he would leave too soon based on the tiny size of his drink.
So, it was time to force a private discussion. God knows how he’d make this sound natural.
‘So, Harry, how’s the wife? Thought I heard a tense bit of phone banter the other day.’
‘Ah, yeah, sorry about that, I thought I’d kept my voice down.’ Thank fuck, Jim thought; he’d been completely lying and hoping. ‘Yeah, she was having a bit of a time last week, she does that sometimes. Work and stuff, she says. Think she’s alright now.’
‘I hear you, man,’ Jim nodded, taking a swig with empathy, ‘Used to have all kindsa arguments with my ex, and it was always someone else’s fault. Except that time I dropped a brick on her foot; that one was on me.’
‘Right,’ Harry seemed doubtful that Jim truly grasped the problem, ‘haven’t you been single for a couple of years now?’
‘Well, a few dates, but no “relationship”, nah. Certainly nowhere near taking the marital plunge like your good self.’
‘It’s nice,’ he nodded and smiled, which surely counted as engagement, ‘it’s so good being able to rely on something, you know? I used to get so worried about everything disappearing, and now I don’t have to as much.
‘Hm.’ Thoughtful pause, carefully observed. ‘Still, I hear you shouldn’t take ‘em for granted. Saw that on a daytime chat show.’
‘I think I saw the same episode, actually.’
And Jim laughed for longer than sounded natural, to let himself mentally regroup. ‘Well, does dropping shit on their feet count as taking them for granted?’
‘Depends. Was it because you didn’t notice she was there?’
Harry fixed him with a glare, which Jim evaded. ‘Maybe. She was being quiet.’
‘Maybe you should work on that, then.’
‘What, really get to fucking grips with the issue in the relationship?’ He laughed outloud. ‘Is it a bigger problem than her dumping me years ago?’
‘Good point,’ Harry nodded, having a short chuckle at his own stupidity. ‘Maybe this one drink has gotten to me more than I thought. Might make a move.’
‘Shit, really? What’s the time?’ Jim hadn’t meant to give Harry an excuse to leave. But it had been a fair while now, he supposed, reaching into his pocket to check his phone. And, in fact, it turned out Harry was fine to leave.
‘Okay mate, I’m gonna go see if these guys want to amuse me for a bit,’ he jerked his thumb at the crowing mass in the corner, ‘but cheers for coming out, yeah? About time you braved the pub.’
‘No problem, was fun.’ Harry smiled with genuine glee, and shook his hand surprisingly firmly. ‘See you tomorrow?’
‘Assuming I’m not dying in bed, yup.’ Jim raised one hand in a cursory wave. ‘Take it easy.’
And Harry was out the door, after a few awkward shoves past other patrons, muttering apologies. It swung shut behind him and Jim read the text message again, and again. Dawdling at the bar, he stared at his phone vacantly. He was starting to look simple, he thought.
Finally, as he moved to swing a foot around and make for the corner, his friend Andy broke from the group and leapt into his orbit first. ‘Jim, how’d it go?’
With that kind of urgency, clearly Andy had been watching for Harry’s departure. ‘Ah, it went as well as it could.’ Jim shook his mobile vaguely, still clutched in his hand. ‘Just got a text saying she’s finished packing her shit and it’s safe to let him go.’
‘Brutal.’ Andy nodded sadly, and couldn’t stop himself from adding: ‘You sure you’re not sleeping with her?’
‘Mate, I told you, no married women. More trouble than it’s worth, even if you could take the husband in a fight. Wouldn’t mind a crack once she’s single, but no. Strictly business.’
Andy smirked. ‘You do know that kinda makes it weirder?’
‘Hey, she gave me three hundred to distract him for an hour while she moves out.’ Jim shrugged. ‘Covered four drinks with change.’
‘And you don’t feel at all guilty?’
‘Who wouldn’t?’ Jim sighed and finished his pint. ‘But think of the awkward conversation he’d have had. Y’could say I’ve done them both a favour.’
‘You actually believe that horseshit, Jim?’
‘Not one bit.’ He gestured towards the bar. ‘Get the drinks in, will you?’
Sorry if that was a bit of a downer, a friend of mine challenged me to write a sad story. Not sure if I succeeded or not. Also, copyright me, please don’t steal, email me if you must steal, etc.