This is an excerpt from A Head Made of Stone featuring Harry Charters.
I hope you take some small amount of pleasure from reading it.
Dismissing it as someone else’s problem, I made my way into the Kirkstone Tavern. This was the place where I’d had my first legal drink and several illegal ones before. Back then I had understood the curse of alcohol and had fervently stopped after my second. Now the curse of alcohol understood me and I usually drank doubles. I looked round my former local and was shocked to see what a dive it had become. The once salubrious tavern was now a dump of epic proportions.
I sidled up to the bar and selected a stool where I planned on spending an hour alone with memories of Mom. She hadn’t been a good mother to me but then again I hadn’t been the best behaved child, until Aunt Maisie had taken us in and dispensed discipline with an even hand. An even hand which usually held a rolling pin or if I was lucky, a wooden spoon.
‘Hey Bub.’ I looked up to see who was speaking to me and saw the barkeep approaching me.
‘I’ll have a beer and a Jack Daniels please.’
‘You can’t sit there. That’s Donny’s seat.’
I moved to another seat only for him to shake his head and say ‘Andy’s.’
I sat at the next one and re-ordered my drinks.
‘That’s Pete’s stool.’
‘Serve me the drinks and I’ll move when Pete comes in.’ I kept my voice quiet and even but made sure there was enough steel for him to register the fact that I was gonna have my drink in here regardless of the games he wanted to play. What I wasn’t expecting was the worried look which crossed his pudgy face. I had forced his hand and he was now scared of me. I dismissed any fanciful ideas as I supped the drinks he grudgingly served me until I saw his sly gesture to one of the three other patrons. The bozo had necked his drink and then slipped out the back way which would take him onto
Drover Way if my memory was correct. I guess he had been dispatched to find whichever stool owner was nearest.
I finished my drinks and asked for a refill. The bozo barkeep actually had the temerity to try and refuse me service until I pointed out that his bar was nearly empty and if any of the stool’s proprietor’s came in then I would gladly move aside.
Hi thinly veiled threat of ‘it’s your funeral’ washed over me like I wasn’t there.
I didn’t want any trouble in Kirkstone and I wasn’t gonna pick a fight over a bar stool but at the same time I wasn’t gonna be bullied for the sake of it.
The drunks who lived on my shoulders and whispered their agendas into my ears began their day when drink number three was consumed. I figured it would be best for all concerned if I left before Nasty Drunk showed up on his left shoulder perch. The only way I could handle the Nasty Drunk with any success was to keep him too inebriated to affect me.
Things however don’t always go to plan. I was just finishing my beer and eyeing up the solitary finger of bourbon I had left, when the door burst open and three huge men dressed as lumberjacks came in. Ignoring them I reached for the bourbon glass as I eased myself off the stool.
The biggest of the three lunks came right up and stood toe to toe with me. ‘I’m Pete and I hear you’ve been sitting on my stool.’
I was about to apologise and leave when the Nasty Drunk put in an early appearance and all thoughts of conciliatory behaviour went astray. ‘Perhaps your fat ass explains why it was so damned uncomfortable.’
He was enraged at my insult, and didn’t stop to think that someone who wasn’t afraid to insult him when he was with two of his friends might just be more than he could manage. His right hand drew back somewhere behind his knee as he went for a glory shot of a haymaker. I had enough time to put down my glass before crunching my forehead into the bridge of his nose, splintering cartilage and leaving him wobbling as his legs fought to support him. Next I threw a right cross at the man on my left and swept my elbow round to finish Pete off with a blow to the temple. The third man grabbed my lapels and swung me round with the intention of slamming my back into the bar. I held him back and dropped my feet from below me so his forehead met the bar instead of my back.