The pub was in virtual silence

I’m just tidying up the assignment for the MOOC (massive open on-line course) I’m doing, Start Writing Fiction. The first part was written as a different assignment, and now I’m in the process of completing the final assignment, a short story. Now I have to say I’m not good at writing short stories, I so admire people who do but I struggle to contain my ideas and bring them to a swift, neat and satisfactory conclusion

The first part of the story was from the point of view of a man who worked behind a bar,observing a regular, Gus. Gus seemed sad and lonely, and the barman, Yanni had noticed that a woman in the quiz team he was in, really seemed to ‘like’ him, in a particular way… Gus however didn’t seem to realise.

Here’s the next and final part, and it’s quiz night in the pub:

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, they’d have seen someone in his forties, a man with the build of a rugby player, nondescript hair and a pleasant, rounded, friendly face. Gus would certainly have noticed anyone walking into the pub, he was aware of everyone, as if he might be waiting for a particular someone.
Yanni was behind the bar and always made a point of talking to Gus; there was some essential loneliness about him, 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, the Manchester area, 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 he was adept at changing topics, manipulating conversations in different directions.
Yanni worked quiz nights; the pub was bustling and noisy until Matt the landlord began to call the questions. Then the teams huddled round their tables, whispering and muttering, puzzling and pondering; it was obvious to Yanni who really were friends and who weren’t, who was a good sport, who a cheat. He was glad Gus had joined a regular team; it was interesting to observe him more animated, more open, enjoying the company and the challenge of random questions. In the team was old Maz, who, like Gus, had been adopted by the other three, two doctors from the hospital, one nearly seven foot tall, his friend eighteen inches shorter, and there was Lyla who worked with the police. It was clear to Yanni that Lyla had a soft spot, and maybe more, for Gus. She always came early, because he did, was always among the last to leave, as he was, and always contrived to sit beside him. Tall with dark shiny hair and dark shiny eyes, Lyla would be perfect for him, Yanni thought.
Did Gus have feelings for her? Probably, but he seemed diffident, maybe lacking confidence because she was younger and head-turningly attractive. He had a pessimistic air, almost defeatist… if Yanni was older or Gus younger, he would have told him to ask Lyla out, to the cinema, for a meal, for a walk even! Go on, Gus! Yanni wanted to say, ask her, she’s sure to accept!

The pub was in virtual silence, the teams puzzling over an anagram and everyone jumped as the door from the carpark into the back bar banged. The wind was up, that was for sure; there was a ripple of laughter and someone shouted ‘the tide’s coming in’ in a comical way. It was more than the tide, a customer had arrived at the bar.
Double scotch straight, the man demanded rudely, and downed it in one. Matt the landlord was at the corner of the bar and gave Yanni a look, and Yanni gave him a look back. The stranger demanded another double, no please, no thank you.
Matt called the next question – an assortment of events had happened in which year – resulting in much mumbling and muttering from the teams.
The stranger was looking round the back bar, didn’t see whoever he was after and moved through into what the locals called the cross-benches. Still behind the bar, Yanni followed him and he knew Matt was keeping him in sight.
The newcomer rounded the end of the cross-benches into the parlour and stopped so suddenly Matt walked into him. The landlord apologised but the man barely noticed, he was staring at the team on the table near the fireplace. Maz and Gus were pondering on something she’d written on scrap paper, one of the doctors was standing, on his way to the bar, the very tall one had his head bent close to Lyla’s as she pointed at her sheet.
Yanni had a fearful premonition… this man, broad shouldered and bullish, was looking for Gus! Gus’s mysterious past had caught up with him! Yanni tried to get through the bar but The Three Amigos had their papers spread along it, and he saw, as if he saw in slow motion the stranger striding towards Gus.
But all went wrong with his anticipation – the man grabbed the tall doctor by the arm and yanked him up, punching him in his face. There was something comic in the slo-mo action – the seven-foot doctor was lifted and he just went up and up towards the tankards dangling from the beam across the ceiling, blood dripping from his chin.
Lyla screamed something – they were divorced, she cried, he was nothing to do with her, get out of her life!
Everyone seemed transfixed but suddenly Gus was on his feet, pushing between the tables. He shoved the gangly, bleeding doctor back towards his seat but he slid almost gracefully off it into the fireplace.
Gus turned to the stranger and suddenly and very violently head butted him. Lyla sat transfixed with horror.
The scene was frozen, then very quickly Matt and Yanni were dragging the man to the door and threw him outside.
“It’s my wife!” the man bellowed indistinctly.
“And it’s my pub, now clear off or I’m calling the police!” and Matt bolted the door.
The tall doctor seemed dazed, attended by old Maz and his friend, and the pub was full of the racket of excited voices. Matt bellowed for quiet and Yanni slipped back behind the bar, better to see everything.
“Question twenty-one!” Matt shouted and the pub quietened.
Yanni would keep his eye on the door into the carpark, his hand on the phone, but he was smiling. Gus was now sitting with his arm round Lyla as they tried to concentrate on question twenty-one.

© Lois Elsden 2019

I have a feeling that actually this isn’t a story, it’s part of a novel, waiting to be written…


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