A while ago I came across a couple of pieces I’d written with no memory of having done so. They featured a character called Gus and they were actually set in our little village of Uphill. In these couple of what might be chapters, Gus was wandering alone across the water meadows along by the rhyne (drainage ditch) which runs into the River Axe which flows into the sea here. Intrigued, I wrote some more about Gus without properly settling on a plot for him.
Now I’ve written about him again for the writing course I’m doing:
Anyone walking into the pub and glancing round saw Gus would have thought he was a man comfortable in his own skin. If they’d given him a second look, perhaps as they stood at the bar waiting to be served, they would have seen a man maybe in his forties, maybe older, a man who had the build of a rugby player, now slightly softened, nondescript hair and a pleasant, rounded, friendly face. Gus would certainly have noticed them, he was patently aware of anyone who came in, as if he might be waiting for a particular someone.
Yanni was behind the bar and he always made a point of talking to Gus when he came to order another pint; there was some essential loneliness about the man, and yet an eagerness to be friendly, to make friends. Gus was a something of a mystery man; he’d only recently moved to the village, from somewhere up north, in the Manchester area, on the south side of the city, not exactly Cheshire… but he never said quite where. It was thought he had a family, probably an ex-wife, possibly children… but he skirted round the subject when asked… Yanni recognised someone adept at changing subjects and almost manipulating conversations away from certain topics.
Yanni always worked quiz nights when the pub was bustling and full, noisy until Matt the landlord began to call out the questions. Then the teams huddled round their tables, whispering and muttering, puzzling and pondering; then it was obvious to Yanni who really liked who, who didn’t, who was a good sport, who was a cheat. He was glad Gus had joined a regular team and it was interesting to observe him more animated, more open, enjoying the company and the challenge of the random questions.
An old lady called Maz was in the team; like Gus, she had been adopted by the other three, two doctors from the hospital and Sarah who worked for the police. It was patently obvious to Yanni that Sarah had a soft spot, and maybe something more, for Gus. She always came early, because he did, she always was one of the last to leave, as he was, and she always contrived to sit next to him.
Did Gus have feelings for Sarah, Yanni wondered? Probably, but he seemed diffident, maybe lacking confidence because she was younger and head-turningly attractive. There was a pessimistic air to Gus, a defeatist air… if he’d been younger, or the barman older, Yanni would have told him to ask Sarah if maybe she’d like to go to the cinema, go for a meal, go for a walk even! Go on, Gus! he wanted to say, ask her out, she’s sure to say yes!
©Lois Elsden 2019