From the side her nose was quite flat, just the hint of a concave slope and a nub like a peanut at the tip. Her red knitted cardigan, white blouse and green scarf made her look like a barrel of pasta. Her husband was a blotchy-faced podgy-figured man, his black t-shirt stretched over his belly like a tarp on a coracle. They sat quite silent on the table on my left, so silent that I looked over at them to make sure they were alive.
To my right sat a larger group or four men and three women, talking to, above, and around each other. Their discussion ran the gamut, but at this very moment the subject was dogs, and, to be precise, Bull Terriers. I learned from their loud exchange that this breed is also known as the Gentleman’s Companion, and is hard to handle by the inexperienced dog owner, which is why, so stated a round, bald man in the grey polo on the stool too small for his posterior, it’s a man’s dog. Well, on hearing this I expected somewhat of an uproar from the females in the group, vocalizing their opposition to this misogyny. Instead I heard this from my left,
“I’ve always had a soft spot for Bull Terriers.”
“Have you,” replied the coracle.
“My mother had them for years you know,” added the barrel.
“Did she,” intoned Coracle.
“Another gin, Mable?”
“And, oh. How annoying. I can’t recall the other name. What was the other name, Cyril? The other dog she had?”
“Slimline tonic again?”
“Maddening isn’t it.”
“Maddening,” repeated Cyril, rising unsteadily on his pin legs and tottering to the bar for refills.
I stole a look at Mable, and she was looking pensive, I assume still trying to recall dog two’s name. She twitched a little, as if electrodes had been activated on her temples, but said nothing.
In the meantime, the large group had turned their discussion to airline travel and the fact that Stanley (curly hair on the back of his head, and large blue lips) got headaches traveling in first class.
Cyril returned, grasping two glasses, and set them down on the table. He squeezed himself into the corner chair and nodded silently toward the new drinks.
“Flying first class,” she cried, in a high pitch.
“Gin,” he said in response.
“First class cabins give me migraines,” Mable moaned.
“Do they,” said Cyril.
“Always fly coach, that’s what I always say, Cyril.”
“Not worth the money anyway.”
During this riveting exchange, the large group had migrated to bonsai cultivation. Apparently, as a scraggy-haired crew-neck Dubliners sweater-wearing man informed the group, and everyone in the pub, the juniper varietal is the one to choose for apprentices of the art of growing the ‘potted plant’, which is what bonsai means.
“I’ve always liked bonsai,” said Mable, predictably.
“Have you,” said Cyril, predictably.
“There amazingly small aren’t they, bonsai trees.”
“Are they,” asked Cyril, uninterestedly.
“Broomstick,” Mable suddenly cried out, “it was Broomstick!”
“The other dog. How arbitrary memory is, Cyril.”
“Arbitrary,” said Cyril, his hand on his pint of ale, “memory.”
“Tiny,” said Mable.
I raised my own glass and sank the last of my pint. To my right, the large group was now discussing lawn fertilizer. To my left Mable was telling Cyril how fertilizer made all the difference to the lawn.
The group went on to the subject of cars, and how German cars still led the way. Mable said how Mercedes was her choice.
“We have a Nissan,” said Cyril.
Bald Man Polo, on the stool too small for his posterior, started talking about his son’s work as a doctor, and Mable told Cyril how the medical profession was second to none. Scraggy Dubliners Sweater told a story of his daughter’s travels in Russia, and Mable bemoaned the state of the Russian economy.
And then, a woman with pink eyeliner and a moustache said,
“I think we got invited to a swingers party.”
“Really,” said Bald Man Polo.
“Well, we’re not entirely sure,” said Scraggy Dubliners Sweater.
“I think we can be fairly certain,” said Pink Eyeliner, turning to Scraggy Dubliners Sweater with a telling smile.
“But how do you know,” asked a coiffured hair bun.
“Well,” began Pink Eyeliner, “they asked us to bring wine, be open-minded about the evening, and have FaceTime with strangers.”
“My word,” said Bald Man Polo, “the things that go on in this town!”
Mable turned to Cyril then, and said,
“I think there’s a new dance craze in town, Cyril.”
Cyril looked at Mable with a look that’s hard to describe. And then he got up, stumbled to the bar, paid the bill quickly, and beckoned Mable over so they could exit, to go home to practice their dance moves, I presume.
photo by Kon Karampelas