20 October 2010

Search and Rescue at the Bar

The clank of the pint glass was louder than it had any right to be, and Jason cursed through a mouthful of Guinness as the stout sloshed over the rim to puddle on the mottled surface of the bar.  He had misjudged the distance, glass smacking hard against what Jason now realized was concrete.  Swallowing like a thirsty bull, he risked a glance around.  So far, no one seemed to have noticed his minor indiscretion, except maybe Tara the barmaid.  She looked up and smiled in a small way, then went back to her conversation with Danny, the route driver sitting in the middle of the bar.

"Whew, good thing no one saw," Jason muttered, "or they might think I need to be cut off."

He raised his glass once more, tilting his head back for a swallow.  The stout was cool and toasty bitter in his mouth, just the way he liked it.  It was a prime reason he came to the Cobh Rambler Pub; they knew what they were doing when it came to stout.  It was one of the few things he could count on.

They also knew when to leave people to themselves, and lately Jason had been keeping much too much to himself.  Losing a job, a partner and a lot money in less than a year would take the starch out of any man, and he was clean out.  The staff had taken notice of the shell he seemed to be carrying, not ignoring him, but not drawing him out like they did with the other regulars.  Tara was the only bartender that seemed to know best when to talk and when to back off; that discretion combined with her dazzling emerald eyes made Jason think he had a crush on her.  He smiled.

The smile faded as a gout of memories rushed through his mind, reminding him of what was gone and the damaged man that lived inside.  Jason was certain it showed through the surface.  It made him feel like he had a bad rash, and that made people nervous.  They could sense it, he thought, that's why I have this dead zone around my bar stool...

"Another pint, Jason?"  Tara was standing in front of him, looking wary and hopeful.  Jason grunted.

"Sure, darlin', I don't have to get up early tomorrow."

She grinned and put a pint glass under the tap.  There was a lull in the tinkle and chatter of the bar.

"You okay?" she said, with what Jason wanted to believe was genuine concern.  She was watching him carefully as the Guinness oozed into the glass.  He sighed.

"Yeah, I'm alright.  Tired.  Getting used to being alone, now that things are final."

Tara knitted her brow.  "Sorry, lurve," she said, handing him the glass, "Everything done?"

"Yep.  Official copies are in my hands, signed, sealed, delivered.  It's all over, including the shouting."  Jason took a long swallow of stout.  Tara opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted by a muted crack sounding, as the door to the pub opened and closed, shutting swiftly.  Jason didn't turn around, but Tara looked up with interest.  A sly smile crept onto her face, small but bright.  Jason failed to notice, he was too busy studying the swirls in the foam.  Tara spoke.

"She's here."  Jason's heart lurched.  He sputtered "My ex?", wondering what fresh misery was about to dump on him.  Tara shook her head, still smiling, and said "No, you idiot...her."  She was grinning widely now.

Jason looked up at Tara, confusion rounding out his face.  He felt thick.  "Her?" he whispered, "Who's 'her'?"  He forced himself to to turn and look.  It wasn't his ex-wife, it was a woman he vaguely recalled having seen before at the pub. She was about Jason's height, with longish chestnut hair sweeping back over her shoulders, held in check by a headband.  She smiled and nodded at Tara and began making her way towards the counter.  Tara leaned over and said quietly into Jason's ear, "Her name is Alison, and she has been here before.  And she even asked me about you, last week.  I told her you were available, do you mind?"

Jason whipped his head around to Tara, saying "You did what?" suddenly panicked for no good reason.  But Tara had stepped away, moving down the counter where Alison was sitting down two stools over.  Jason didn't register the pleasantries they exchanged.  He tried to appear nonchalant, and then struggled to swallow a mouthful of stout when he realized Tara was introducing Alison to him.  He turned on his stool to see Alison extending a hand to him, saying "Hello, it's Jason, isn't it?" while winking at Tara.  Tara was studiously pouring Alison a pint, carefully avoiding Jason's incredulous stare.  He remembered his manners in the nick of time.  He saw she had deep brown eyes, like mahogany coins, and he forced himself to concentrate as he took her warm hand in his and shook.

"That's right, it's Jas--" he began to say, only to be rudely jolted by his cell phone ringing.  He stifled a wince, excused himself for a moment and pulled the phone from his pocket to check the number.  He was sure he flinched then.  It was his ex-wife.  He tried not to let the sinking feeling travel from his stomach to his face.  Alison spoke.

"Please, don't let me distract you,"  and she turned back to the counter.  Her profile, to Jason's eyes, looked lovely in the soft light from the bar.  The phone continued to bleat.  He inhaled sharply, and silenced the phone.  He would deal with it later.

"No, no distraction at all,"  he said sliding the phone back into his pocket and moving his stool closer to Alison's; she looked over and smiled. Jason reintroduced himself, finding himself suddenly eager to know what he looked like reflected in mirrors of mahogany.

Inside his pocket, the phone blinked rapidly in silent irritation, only to sputter out in a fit of electronic pique.


  1. nicely done bit of writing, sugar. all tied up with neatly after his comments about the divorce. a welcome story about a man really ready to move on. xoxox

  2. A lot to be said for being ready to move on. Jason sounds like a guy I know . . .

  3. Had to come back to this one, as any story set in a bar interests me. This one didn't just interest me, it took me in and sat me right beside you...


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...