100 days: Day 43



Imagine a pub setting, with lots of nautical trinkets adorning the walls and a plaster model of a fishermen in a yellow mac that was originally created with the intention of looking creepy outside a fish and chip shop. This story is set in such a place.

An almost visibly tangible smell of over ripe fish hung in the air, the kind of smell that forces involvement from the taste buds as well the nostrils. But that’s an aside. The pub is called ‘The Fisherman’s Anchor’, they serve food and it’s mostly fish based.

The Anchor attracts two very distinct sections of society; the young (sorry to resort to the stereotype, but) studenty type, maybe even A-level students, generally they’re attracted by the kitsch value, it dominates their pub banter and the trinkets are adopted into prop-based horseplay. This angers the other distinct section of society which on reflection isn’t that distinct at all, it’s just people who live near by, locals. But they all do tend to be middle aged men, a lot of bald spots and tan leather bomber jackets, just an observation.

One evening, one such man (the local demographic type) was stood watching a game of popular sport on the television. He had a tin of rusty brown ale in one hand and the other hung by his side, the fingers parted to the exact width of the cigarette that would have once smouldered there. Another local demographic man barged past leaving nothing but static between the pair. It caused the first man, Pete, to jolt and spill some drink. The second man, Chris, offered not one word by way of apology.

‘Manners cost nothing,’ blurted Pete at the back of Chris’s head. Chris stopped ploughing his way through the sparse, easily avoidable crowd, his neck visibly tensed and he turned to face Pete.

‘Manners cost dignity,’ grunted Chris as he walked back towards Pete, ‘and I’m not willing to waste mine by undermining myself by being subservient to you.’ He stopped and waited out Pete’s stunned silence.

‘Wha? Just say sorry, that’s it. You bumped into me, say sorry, you bloody, you dingbat,’ confrontation wasn’t Pete’s strong point.

‘No, I wont and not to cause offence, but if you’re offended, then, fine. But what you and a lot of people seem not to understand is that dignity is quantifiable, right. You only have so much and you’ve got to keep a balance. Chucking out apologies willy nilly does you no good,’ Chris finished his speech and awaited a response from an increasingly perplexed Pete.

‘Wha? No. What are you taking about? Quantifiable how?’ asked Pete, anger turning to intrigue.

‘Right ok, I’m glad you asked, I discovered this by myself. I haven’t always been the testament to good judgement and impeccable taste you see before you now.’ Chris had rehearsed this, ‘there was a time when I was a down and out. A laughing stock.’, he still was among the studenty types, they were laughing at him at that very moment, at his silly trousers.’The lower I sank I began to notice a pattern,’ He put the palm of his hand into Pete’s eyeline, ‘you see the line across the centre?’

‘Yes, that one?’ Answered and asked Pete obediently.

‘Yes,’ said Chris.

‘Yes,’ said Pete again, that one was unnecessary, but he was eager, no one had told him a story in a long time.

‘Right, yes. Well, as I was sinking into the depths of despair I noticed one day that the line was fading from right to left across my hand, each day there seemed to be a little less. I didn’t think much of it at the time. That was until I won a small claims court case against Burton’s, the clothing retailers, I made the claim that some trousers I’d purchased from them were not fit for purpose, not sturdy enough in the groinal region.’ he made a startling gesture as he delivered that line. ‘I had to physically prove that they couldn’t sustain prolonged lunges as well as their main competitor’s equivalent, actually in the small claims court. That was a long afternoon. My reserve had taken quite a beating and I must say I was devoid of dignity. I remember wiping the sweat from my face on lunge number 560, approximately, and noticing that the line had gone completely. I felt the energy drain from my body and knew that that moment that I had just extinguished the final reminisce of respectability that clung to the base of my wretched hollow soul. I was not in a good mood. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I won the court case, unfortunately it took the sudden public exhibition of my scrotum to do so, but it was a small victory nontheless.’ Chris paused for breath.

Pete took the opportunity to say ‘wow’, his eyes were glazed in such a way as to suggest they were saying ‘please, do tell me more’, or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

‘… and I know it’s trivial, but a victory was what I needed right then. Upon leaving the courtroom, I treated myself to a pint on the way home. As I cupped my hand around the glass, it magnified the line across the centre of my hand, it had returned,’ Chris delivered that last part with a broad smile.

‘Wow,’ said Pete, again.

‘Yes, I know,’ agreed Chris, ‘and since that point I’ve looked to the line and let it guide my actions, I’ve learnt what it likes and dislikes and life has been good since.’

Pete mustered up a slither of courage.

‘That’s a good story, but is any of it actually true, really?’ asked Pete, squinting in anticipation of the answer.

‘True?’ repeated Chris, angered. He then grabbed a cluster of limp white hair that clung to the sides of his pointy head. He moves the hair across and fashioned a comb-over. He fixed Pete with an intense glare and once again showed him the palm. Chris watched in amazement as the line shrank to nothing.

His world had just been rocked.

He looked at his own palm and felt somewhat choked at the lack of any discernible line. Without words Chris corrected his hair and left Pete with his thoughts. After a few moments he clenched a fist, his eyes and furrowed brow danced with determination, again I can’t be certain of that, but that’s the way I read it. He moved from his spot by the television and marched up to the studenty group in the corner.

‘Right!’ He said in a stern commanding tone. ‘I’m in here most nights and you lot piss me off. You!’ he said pointing at the boy who hadn’t figured out hair straighteners properly yet, ‘every time you’re here you simulate sex with that big model of the fisherman and it isn’t funny. You!’ he said singling out another lad, ‘Your belly-button-piercing makes me feel physically sick when you pick it in public and you do that every time you’re here, then you eat peanuts from the bar, I love peanuts and I haven’t one for a year, not here anyway,’ the lad looked shamed, good, ‘and you! You!’ he said singling out his final victim, ‘I know that when you pull your trousers up your bumcrack and walk around on your tip toes that you’re doing an impression of me, you’ll be middle aged one day too and you’ll look ridiculous the current ‘cool’ generation, don’t think you wont because you’ve already got a widow’s peak. Grow the fuck up, all of you.’

Pete panted hard, calming himself, he hadn’t completely lost his composure but he was fired up somewhat. The lads said nothing. Pete walked from the table, the entire pub was silent, all bar three were smiling, some more subtly than others. Pete was as satisfied as he’d ever felt. He checked his hand. It wasn’t true.

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