The Welcome Inn
by Ross Crawford
Halfway through my ten-hour shift, a massive, flame-bearded man stomps into the pub, drawing the gaze of every patron and briefly silencing the chatter. With considerable effort and little grace, he edges himself onto the stool in front of the beer taps. The message was clear – keep the beer flowing.
‘Um, hi there, what can I get you?’, I say, wringing a damp cloth in my hands.
He barely glances in my direction. ‘Pint a’ heavy.’
‘A-aye, sure thing.’
I whirl around, snatch the first glass to hand, and lock it in position, tilted 45° beneath the tap. He observes with studied interest, presumably judging my technique.
As the beer pours, I weigh up whether I should engage further conversation. He doesn’t exactly seem the chatty type, but if I’m going to be a half-decent barman I can’t exactly cower from the regulars. And maybe he’ll recognise me, as I do him.
I pluck up the courage.
‘It’s Bud, isn’t it?’. Casual, relaxed.
His eyes flick away from the stream of golden alcohol, and he looks at me directly for the first time – a fiery glower. ‘Aye, maybe, and whit’s it tae you?’
I visibly flinch, almost spilling the half-poured beer. ‘Eh, well, we come from the same town, you see. Thornock. I’ve seen you about!’
‘Well, ah’ve no seen you, wee man. Who ur ye?’
I begin to regret my impetuosity.
‘I’m David. David MacNeill. I live down Glenorsha Road.’
I finish pouring his lager (a perfect head might I add: no doubting my skills) and place it on the counter. He grabs the glass with a callused hand and takes a swig, before considering me with a suspicious squint.
‘Oh aye, which side?’
‘Which side a’ Glenorsha Road? Left or right?’
I pause, wondering why he’s asking (and also wondering if I should enquire ‘Left or right in relation to where exactly?!’) but his steady glare demands an answer.
‘Well, uh, from the centre of town…the left, I guess?’
‘In wan o’ thay bungalows?’
‘That’s right, yeah!’
A pause. His face twists in contempt.
‘Thought so. Fuckin’ posho.’
And with that guttural snarl, he downs his pint in one extended quaff, slams two pound coins on the counter, and leaves without a backward glance. The other patrons watch his dramatic departure, their knowing smirks, mingling amusement with sympathy, indicating the outcome was no surprise.
‘That went well.’