Gary reached across the bar of the “Baby” to put £10 in the Firefly tin, but Harry the landlord stopped him.
“A few quid’ll be fine, lad. You’ll need that tenner for your taxi home.”
After dropping a few pound coins in the charity box, Gary drank a fifth pint, politely refused a chaser, then said, “Home? To a girlfriend who doesn’t love me, or a Dad who dislikes me, and a mum who prefers some old moggie to her eldest son?”
He paused, then looked quickly, and nervously, round the tap room.
“Jake went home awhile ago,” Tim the bouncer said, referring to the black-and-white cat who was a sergeant with the Doncaster Constabulary.
“You could go to your new home,” suggested Tim, who, despite having spent hours at the bar, had barely touched his own pint.
“New home?” Gary slurred. He reached for his throat, found his tie, pulled it off, then threw it in the direction of the stragglers from the quiz night.
One of them – a scout from the nearby university – caught it, shouted “Goal!”, then went back to her own, rather noisy, conversation.
“What new home might that be?” Gary asked. “’And where?”
“Where do you fancy?” asked Tim.
Gary paused, then said, “Filey. Always fancied the look of Filey.”
“We used to go to Filey sometimes, when I were a nipper,” said Harry. “Dead boring. Nowt ever happened.”
“Exactly,” said Gary. He smiled. It was a genuine smile, this time. “No girlfriend gabbling in my ear, no dad yelling at me, or our Michael, or that flippin’ cat, or arguing with Pete, or … you know what? Pete may be a bit of an arse, but he’s the only one I’ve ever known to stand up to Dad.”
Harry poured himself a shandy.
“Here’s to Filey.”
“Filey!” said Tim.
The three men clicked glasses, and drank to the small, North Yorkshire seaside town.
Gary sipped his sixth pint. “Course, I can’t really move to Filey.”
Tim pulled out a mobile, tapped at it for a minute or so, then showed the screen to Gary.
“If you can get a lift to station, there’s the 22:47 to Scarborough. If you book a B & B whilst you’re on the train – don’t sleep on station, whatever you do – you can catch a bus to Filey in morning. Best book it with cash, rather than your card.”
“Harder for your dad to figure out where you’ve gone. Or your girlfriend. Does he know how you feel about Filey?”
“Or your girlfriend?” Harry added.
Gary shook his head. There was a dreamy expression in his blue eyes which was only partly down to beer, and whiskey.
“No. Reckon I’ve kept that part of myself hidden for quite a few years now.”
“Including from yourself?” Tim asked quietly.
Gary smiled, and looked at Tim’s rucksack, which was full of books, pens, and notebooks.
“Reading really does broaden the mind, eh, Tim?”
The bouncer smiled in turn, but didn’t say anything as Gary emptied his pockets, then stuffed most of the contents into his briefcase. Then he handed it to Harry, and said, “It’s probably not your thing, Harry, or Tim’s, but – ”
“I”ll find it a home,” Harry promised.
Gary shook the two older men’s hands, and looked at his watch. “Thanks.”
“For the beer?” said Harry.
“That’s right. The beer.”
Gary felt a gentle tap on his left arm. Tim the bouncer was holding out a slim volume of Keats, which he had taken down from the shelf over the bar.
“To protect myself?” Gary joked, referring to their earlier conversation. “Don’t I need something sturdier, like the collected work of Dickens, or maybe an anthology of war poets?”
“It’s for your mind, not your body,” Tim replied.
Gary looked at Tim, then at Harry, who grinned.
“It’s on the house,” the landlord said.
If you enjoyed this story, please buy an e-book of “Koi Carpe Diem: Five Tales of Paws, Claws, and Mystery”, featuring Inspector Thwaite and Sgt. Jake, or contact me for a signed paperback, featuring artwork by Tom Brown. For more on Jake and Thwaite’s adventures in Ohio, click here.
The sequel collection, “A Yorkshireman in Ohio”, is out soon, initially in an e-book, then in print, as well.