Fiction by Julie Egdell (UK)
Published in Issue 31.
The legend that was
Ah always drink ma beer with 2 ice cubes always. So did ma dad an’ his dad before. The Mulroy’s have always been a fixture at the bar stools of the Tanners an’always will be. Ye can rely on it. It’s one of the few things ye can rely on. Ma dad was a fuckin’ legend round here!
2pm in the Tanners an’ everythin’ is how it should be. The regulars is at the bar stools eyein’ up the latest totty at the bar. Orderin’ tha usual’s. Except today there’s one stool empty. Me dad’s not here. Today is a special day. Today is his wake - here, in the Tanners, like he would have wanted. This place was like a second home to him.
By the time he died his status as a Chilli Road legend was well established. The old man deserved it and ah’m proud to see most of the regulars pay their respects at the Tanners after the funeral. Even though several family members are notably absent including ma po-faced auld sister.
A young student type with amazing tits who thinks she’s too good to be workin’here is servin’ the drinks. She doesn’t kna what anybody’s usual is. Ah’m disappointed Adam, Ross and Rich aren’t workin’ today as they knew dad best. But the fact remains Tit’s is here an’ so are we. No doubt the boys’ll come in te pay tha respects later.
Ah can smell the stale, musky, sweat of the Stella and a faint smell of cleanin’solution – Tits is glumly wiping the surface of the bar over an’ over again in between servin’ pints. Ah order a whiskey chaser swirl it roond, like me dad used to do an’ raise it to the air
“To Tommy” ah shout an’ catch the regulars in the eye. Abe gives a weak smile, no doubt in shock over me old mans passin’, Jim goes “wh..” – such a joker him! Dave nods solemnly. Ah swallow the honey coloured liquid down an’ it warms the cockles, as me dad used to say. A cough it down, me body feels like it’s burnin’ from the inside out. Laphroaig – the only stuff which makes me eyes water. Tastes ancient and oaky. The good stuff.
The reason the regulars sit at the bar in the Tanners is three fold. Firstly its simple dynamics. Sittin’ at the bar means a reduction in bar to seat walking time. Secondly the light is dimmer here, an’ who likes a glaring light in tha face when their tryin’ to have a quiet drink? The third reason was staff like Tits, who clearly demanded to be stared at, especially when bendin’ down for those bottom shelf bottles like Newcy Broon, which ah kna as a fact Abe was orderin’today to get a good look at Tits’ arse.
This is how much of a legend me dad is - was. When the Tanners banned me dad for an accident in the cleaners cupboard (an easy mistake to make, it’s next door to the toilet) the regulars signed a petition to lift the ban. The door goes and ah look into the mirror on the bar expectin’ the bar lads but in walks me brother in law Terry - husband of the aforementioned po faced sister. Let’s keep things light.
“Alreet Terry! Let’s get ye a drink” ah say loudly. Tits’ ears prick up an’ she’s over.
“Ah don’t drink” says Terry.
“You’ll have one though, for Tommy?” Tits is lookin’ from me to him waitin’ for summat to happen.
“Can’t stay” says Terry but sits down next to us all the same. Tits slinks away to clean summat else, taking me empty whiskey glass.
“Aye”ah say and turn me attention back to me pint. Put one hand on the cold glass, water drippin’ doon between me thumb an’ finger.
“Ya sister sent us.” he says. He looks at us like ah’m meant to answer but ah just keep me stare fixed on the glass. Watch the bubbles rise from the bottom. “Will you not come to the wake Chris?”
“This is the wake” ah say.
He pauses. The fruit machine starts up a little tune which causes Abe to move slightly as if woken from a nap. Ah sense he kna’s.
“All the family’s there” he says.
“This is the wake” ah say. Ah can tell all the old boys are listenin’ now. Dave, who’s closest to us, gets up and heads unsteadily to the toilet. Jim pretends to be asleep. Abe still doesn’t make his move, but he kna’s.
“Be nice to see ye” he says.
“Ah’m stayin’” ah say.
He makes a loud breathing noise. He pat’s us on the back.
“Sorry about ya dad, it was a bad way to gan.” He says. He gets up then stops himself“look after yaself” he says, and he’s away.
Bein’at this bar drinkin’ a pint wi’two ice cubes ah feel close to me dad an sometimes some of the auld locals regale us wi’tales of Tommy. But there’s no time for me to think aboot me dad ‘cos the door goes again an’ ah kna who it is this time. There’s a pause an’ a lot of shufflin’ but sure enough in comes Tracey held back by Terry. Tits disappears, an’ ah’m sick with jealousy.
“Chris please” she sobs from the door, snot and mascara runnin’ all doon ah face. Terry’s stood behind her but doesn’t try to stop her. He kna’s, as much as me. Abe stiffens. He kna’s it’s too late now for him to make a move. He knew all alang. We’re in it together now, him an’ me.
“Ah’m stayin” ah say, eyes on the glass but ah can see her in the mirror from the corner of me eye. She comes runnin’ over. She’s stood right behind me. Ah don’t turn around so she talks to the mirror.
“Everyone’s waitin’ for you” this is the bit when she pleads an’ feels sorry for ahself.
“Dad would have wanted us here” ah try to say with force, tappin’ ma finger on the bar and grippin’ ma pint wi’ one hand.
“With these sad piss heeds!” she shouts. Abe shifts uncomfortably in his seat and looks at the ceiling. “Didn’t see any of them at the funeral. Should be with ya family.”
“Let’s go love” Terry tries, feebly, but she’s not gonna stop. We all know that.
“Dad begged them to kill him you know!” she goes. Ah shut me eyes, try to forget that. “Two weeks, nil by mouth.” Shut up, shut up, shut up, stupid slag, shut up “Weighed six stone. Shat an’ puked blood for two weeks. Where were you?”
“Diven’t talk aboot it man!” ah spit quietly but can’t seem to move me teeth when ah talk. Ah notice ah’m grippin’ ma pint with both hands now, but ah can’t let go. Ma eyes fixed on the bar.
“It’ll be ye ah’m buryin’ next!” she shouts.
“Ah’m stayin” ah say, almost in a whisper now. Ah grip ma pint, grip ma pint so hard. Me hands are sweatin’ but ah feel so cold. If ah can just keep hold of it, if ah can just sit still she might leave us alone. Like those animals that play dead when a predators about. But it starts like it always does. She
So loud in ma ear ah think she’ll burst ma ear drum.
“…just like him!...” Ah curl around the pint, hold it for support, eyes still closed. She’s knockin’ me, ah almost fall off the stool, the pints all awer me face, me suit, the bar. Ah just hold on. If ah could just fill me ears with sand. It’s the horrible screech she makes.
“...fuckin’…”Terry manages to tear her off an’ carry her screamin’ oot the door.
“Ye’ll be dead in a year!” she shouts before the door slams to a close. Ah keep me eyes closed. Me ears are ringin’. The fruit machine starts up again. Ah breathe in, breathe oot. Open me eyes. Abe’s still lookin’ at the ceilin’, Jim pretendin’ to be asleep, Tits newhere to be seen.
After a few minutes ah gan to the toilet to wash me face and wipe me suit down. Dave isn’t there. He must have slipped oot the back door and gan to the Gunner. When ah get back Tits has wiped the remnants of me pint from the bar an’ is standin’in the corner, bored. Ah gan awer to Abe.
“Sorry aboot me sister. She’s a bit upset like” I try to sound normal but me voice comes out like ah’m bein’ choked.
“No, no” says Abe. That’s all he says: “no, no”
“Two whiskey chasers” ah say to Tits, at which point Jim wakes up, eyes dartin’aboot. “Three whiskey chasers” ah say, only cos me dad would have. Always saw the best in people, me dad. That was he’s trouble. Ah walk back to the safety of me stool. The whiskey chasers come, ah raise a toast but Jim drinks his before ah speak. Fuckin’ Jim.
“Te Tommy” they repeat.
An’everythin’ is how it should be.
Julie Egdell is a poet and short story writer from Newcastle Upon Tyne. In 2009 she received an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from Teesside University. She has been published in The Break Out Anthology, Dreamcatcher, The Wilds Anthology, The Cadaverine, Prole, Sentinel, Friction Magazine, Black Light Engine Room and Kenaz.
Find out more at http://theadventuresofpenelopenewcastle.weebly.com/
Image: "Bar Devassa" by Bem Devassa