It had been his seat for years and no-one was going to take it from him. He’d sat in its comforting softness for over two-thirds of his life and Alan considered that fact made it his. He had forgotten the times he’d had to tell some young upstart that they couldn’t sit there,
“The place is almost empty,” they’d whine and he had his usual answer ready and waiting, trembling on his whiskered lips,
“Then you won’t have any trouble finding another one then, will you?” he’d say, swallowing the smile as he watched them trudge over to another seat.
This was his sanctuary, his one constant in a world that had changed beyond anything he remembered and he would fight with all that he had to keep things here the same.
“Brewery wants to close some of its establishments,” Ian had told him over his second pint, “build some kind of new-fangled wine bar or hairdressers or something.”
“Like this town needs more hairdressers or beauticians,” Alan had sympathised and he had meant it. He didn’t hold with this obsession with looks. If people spent more time concentrating on working, then the country wouldn’t be in the state it was in today.
“You won’t let them will you though?” he asked, trying not to let his feelings colour his voice,
“No, I’m going to the meeting though, going to give them a piece of my mind,” he’d muttered whilst wiping a pint mug clean with his cloth, “numbers might be down, but we’re not out.” Alan hoped he meant it; he wasn’t convinced that Ian didn’t suffer from all mouth and no trousers.
“I could come with you Ian, show them that this is a cornerstone of our community,” he’d suggested, wanting to be sure that the right thing was said at the meeting, but he’d had none of it.
“Don’t worry mate, it’s only talk, nothings decided yet.”
And he hadn’t worried, until he had seen the lad with his tape measure. Well, he said lad, but he was built more like a strong oak and was nearly as tall and when he’d told him to work around him (he wasn’t moving, it was his seat and if the lad wanted to measure, he could find a way to do it without disturbing his pint) at least he’d had the decency to do so without too much fuss. But when he’d asked Ian what they were measuring for, he had mumbled something about ‘interior design’ and disappeared off to do the barrels, even though Alan knew the delivery wasn’t due for another hour, so he’d watched and waited. He ruminated as he watched the lad move around the room, measuring and taking notes. He knew that he was one of the very few regulars during the day and that numbers had dwindled on an evening too, but that’s because some of them had stopped coming when Ian had decided that the turns weren’t up to scratch. He’d been right too, none of them were proper singers and some of them lasses, well, their outfits were indecent and anyway THAT wasn’t entertainment. He’d downed his pint and, taking his monogrammed glass with him, followed them. They’d gone to the office and knowing that it was unoccupied (he knew the cleaner didn’t come until 5) he had slipped into the ladies, knowing he would be able to hear every word.
“Can’t believe it’s the last time I’ll be locking up,” he’d heard Ian tell the lad and Alan had felt a heavy weight settle on his chest, but he wasn’t having that though, if Ian thought it was going to be that easy he would be mistaken.
“Got any plans for your retirement?” that must have been the lad and suddenly Alan had felt better, he known what he could do, he could stage a sit-in. They couldn’t shut a pub if it had still got an occupant.
“Thought I might go to visit my sister in Spain and then see what comes,” Ian had stated with some finality.
“How you going to break it to that chap then?”
Alan knew that he’d meant him, but he wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of allowing him to tell him. He didn’t deserve it, but he was going to thank him when he single-handedly saved his pub.
He’d watched as they’d exited the office and went back to the lounge. Ian had smiled as he’d seen the empty table, relieved that he hadn’t had to face him, but the lad had had him check the loos before locking up.
“Yeah, I guess he could be in there,” and Alan had watched as he’d trudged dejectedly to the gents, only to see his face wreath with smiles when it became apparent that it was unoccupied. He’d watched as they’d left, secure in the knowledge that he had nothing to go home to and that there was a spare set of keys hanging in the galley kitchen that he could use if he had to.
He’d pulled page after page of paper from the files in the office and then sat in his seat coming up with plan after plan, waiting patiently for them to come back, so that he could put them into action.
He wasn’t sure how long it had been, but he heard the keys move in the locks and watched as the lad came in with two decorators in tow. It was the same lad, tall as ever, but this time he had a tie on and it aged him somehow. It surprised him that he must be a boss man; he hadn’t seemed like it at their first meeting.
Alan sat calmly in his seat and waited for them to ask him to move. They would have to paint around him if they thought they could change his pub with him in it. They must have been working to a tight schedule, because none of them even looked at him, let alone spoke to him as they moved around the room putting down their equipment then looking and listening to the lad explain the drawing in his hand.
“I think we should start with the smaller rooms guys,” the lad told them and one of the decorators disappeared out of the room. Before too long he came barrelling back into the room,
“Er boss, I think you ought to come and look at this,” he looked pale and seemed to be trembling; Alan smiled, maybe they had seen what he had done to the office? His plan was going to work without him even having to raise his voice.
But they weren’t headed towards the office; they veered left and entered the ladies loos.
“Oh my God,” he heard the lad exclaim and Alan’s curiosity was now too much for him, he hadn’t done anything to the ladies loos. He came in just as the second decorator threw up into the sink and watched confused as the lad begin to dial his tiny little phone.
“Police I think, er no, not an ambulance, I think he is way past that.”
Alan peered around the statuesque figure of the lad to look down between the first cubicle and the wall where something was lodged. It was hard to tell what it was, but he thought he could just about make out clothing and something glinting in the blurry ray of sunlight from the tiny window. It was a monogrammed pint glass.
The challenge was this: A local man, in his local pub, but he's been dead for two weeks, why?