At Molly O’Reagan’s

The crowd in the pub was vast and heaving. Actually that’s not quite right. Vast suggests a huge area, and a vast crowd sounds like the sort of agglomeration of humanity where people are casually crushed under foot, as there is no other option, and a baby is born over in a corner somewhere. There weren’t even a sea of heads, if he had been tall enough to see over the patrons squashed in around the bar he could have confirmed that, but he wasn’t tall enough, so he didn’t and he was forced to merely guess that it wasn’t quite a sea of heads or faces or whatever it’s supposed to be a sea of. And heaving confused him: it always sounded like people so tightly packed into a space that the very force of their confinement somehow caused mass vomiting, sporadic in places, but at other times several people all losing the contents of their guts in a synchronised convulsion, all over each other and all over the floor, and then doing it again.

Patrons in the pub were concentrated into a comparatively small space around the central bar area. There were seats farther off, into the outer reaches of the premises, cushioned seats in benches in booths, with tables in between, but it would have been madness to move from one of those if you had such a spot. The elite patrons had a seat in a booth and they didn’t seem to need to go to the toilet, and they did seem to have associates sprinkled throughout the room who owed them a drink, and thus it was always someone else’s shout and there was no need to leave your seat if you were one of these elite drinkers. To leave your seat would have been to lose it.

The bar itself was old-fashioned and Victorian, made of robust dark colonial wood, with a mirror running the whole length of the serving area at eye height. Drinkers could squint at themselves while they ordered their drinks, and they could notice the approach of enemies, if such people were present in Molly O’Reagan’s Irish Tavern, and note their own slowly blurring features as the evening wore on and the conviviality increased. A few hardy regulars sat at the bar on stools seemingly brought from a secret hiding place, for many familiar faces had never seen a stool in the place without a bum on it, even in the deadest parts of the day, when one barman was enough to serve the clientele, and it was theorised that those men who commanded a stool actually brought their own from home.

None of the men sitting at the bar was called One-Eyed Harry, and none of them said, “Here’s to yer” and flashed a toothless grin when new customers approached. Instead they sat alone, dotted along the carved wooden structure, staring at their drinks, oblivious, while the scrum around them surged and then receded and then surged again towards the cash register. The scrum didn’t notice the men on stools at 9:30 on a Saturday night either.

After what seemed an age he found himself at the front of the mob, actually touching the serving area, resting a foot on the lower railing and leaning forward. He knew that this was merely the beginning of a new game – it certainly wasn’t the end of his quest to buy a drink yet – and he would have to get the attention of one of the bar staff busily leaning down to grab a glass or a bottle from behind a glass door, straightening up again, and stepping over each other, and pouring and squirting and mixing, taking money, delivering change, winking, smiling, pretending there was some kind of invitation only disco going on in the service area, and looking a bit tired by the whole thing, the whole bloody draining process, when they got a very occasional small gap between orders and took a deep breath. A blonde woman of about his height, no older than twenty, built up on very high pink heels, richly endowed with the kind of assets that always get their bearer whatever she wants in an environment of alcohol and simple men, pushed in front of him. She turned and actually laughed in his face as she did it, because she could, and he stood with his mouth open, because he couldn’t believe what she had just done, and she turned away from him and she said, “Um … hi. I’d like a jug of … I mean, no make it an AVO. No, sorry, make it four AVOs please.” She reminded him of a TV weather girl, the kind who says in a newspaper profile that she intends to study meteorology one day and is photographed with her sho collection. As she spoke she stood high on the toes of her feet to gain her maximum possible height, and she laughed a high-pitched juvenile laugh and flicked her hair, and he noticed that her jeans were tight and her handbag was brightly coloured and impractically small, and she’d brought her three friends with her, and they formed a posse and they stood in their tight jeans and held their coloured handbags and flicked their blonde hair, and waited for their AVOs.

When the drinks had been poured this group spread out, like an organism expanding to fill the available space, and they put their bags down between them, and began wondering above the din where all the “hot guys” were tonight.

He was forced to move. To walk around the newly formed group, and queue up and try to force his way to the front again.

This time his approach was more aggressive. He lowered his body height and pushed and deliberately didn’t look at the faces around him. He didn’t think of the others as individuals, with individual identities and personalities, but only in the abstract as the enemy. He thought of playing rugby at school, and some of the things he had seen done , and some that he had done himself, and he felt cheered by the notion that it would be easy to knee a man in the place where it most hurts to be kneed or trip a tottering woman barely maintaining balance above expensive but unstable footwear, and get away with it. It would be easy. Simple, in fact. But he didn’t do it. The thought existed merely to make him feel better, and he lowered his head and pushed a little harder and it seemed like he was getting close to the bar again.

A shift occurred in front of him. The wide shoulders of a man seemed to disappear as he turned and backed out sideways, holding a drink in one hand and a statuesque woman’s waist in the other, and a huge gap opened up. He stepped into it and a black shirted man with a plaid tie tucked into it looked up from the other side of the bar, and the man asked him if he was being served. He ordered and as his Guinness was being poured and rested and nursed to readiness he fiddled with his wallet and pulled out a $50 note. It was all he had.

“Oh, aren’t we a big spender!” said a voice from his right. He looked over and smiled awkwardly at the woman who had spoken to him. He didn’t know what to say, so he grunted and muttered something like: “Uh, yeah …”

He detected an Irish lilt in her voice and she also sounded as if she had been partaking for some little time before this encounter, and he decided that the two amounted to the same thing, really, and then he decided that that wasn’t fair. Her T-shirt read: “Stupid Man” Is A Tautology. She wore Doc Martens above the ankle and rolled black jeans and looked a bit like she was on her way to a punk concert in 1987.

“That’s a big one you’ve got there,” she continued.

“Certainly is.” It seemed a lame reply but it’s all he could think to say.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Um. That it’s quite a big one.”

“What is?”

“Um. I don’t … I mean, I’m holding quite a big …”

“You’ve got quite a big one in your hand, have you? Right now?”

“Yes … I mean, err … no. The drink’s quite big, I suppose. And it’s quite a big note …”

“Indeed it is a big note. A note way too big for the job at hand” – she winked as she said this. “A note out of proportion with the smallness of your task here at the bar on this fine evening.”

“I suppose you’re right,” he said. “But it’s all I’ve got.”

“Ah, don’t give me that. I don’t believe a word of it.” A strident note in her voice now, but the playful grin had not left her lips.

“So what am I supposed to do then?” Waiting for his drink had made him a mite annoyed and he felt emboldened when he began speaking his mind. “Get you something with my untold wealth? How would you like a Screaming Orgasm? Or an Apprehended Violence Order?”

“Is there really a drink called that?”

“Yes, the beauty Queens over there are drinking AVOs right now.” He pointed to the weather girl and her identical acquaintances, and noticed they had been joined by a coterie of male models who were all preening themselves in the bar’s mirror. They had shaved chests and sculpted torsos and said very little, for there was very little to say.

“What an appalling group of shallow people.”

“Yes. Aren’t they.”

“Some people think they own the world and everything in it just because they’ve got big tits and are dressed the right way.”

“Indeed.” He felt better now. “Can I get you a beer?”

“Thought you’d never ask.”

The hubbub in the room became muffled and the other humans weren’t pushing as much, and he was in no hurry to leave the bar now.

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Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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