Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

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24.

When Pat returned to The Re:Public, Johnny was standing against the wall like a man sheltering from the dark under an umbrella of light.

People sifted in and out of the door.

“How’d you go?” he asked.

“No one’s dead.”

“How’s my car?” Pat handed him the keys.

“Not a scratch.”

He went in through the bar and out into the office, picking up the telephone receiver as he sat down on the edge of the desk. Pat punched the numbers and listened to the dial tone until it broke:

“City police, Constable Brendon speaking.”

“My name’s Pat Roisin, I work at The Re:Public, just off Flinder’s Lane?”

“Go on,” said the constable.

“I just had an incident with a group of four guys. They must have pocketed a bottle as they were leaving; they threw it at me and the manager and we were pretty lucky not to get hit with it. Anyway… I knew they were going to another bar and I followed them there and got their ID details.”

“How did you do that?”

“I asked for them.” As is so often the case with the truth, it’s not so much what actually happened as much as how credible it sounds when it tumbles out of your mouth.

“How about this,” said the constable. “We’ll ring ‘em up and get ‘em to front up to the station at 5am. They can stand there and explain themselves while they’re hung over with an hour’s sleep. How does that sound?”

“That would be absolutely fantastic,” said Pat. “Thanks.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if they drive down drunk. We’ll breath-test them as well.”

Pat resurfaced into the night air, which came down colder the closer it got to Sunday dawn. He handed Johnny a beer and sat his coke near the wall so he could button his jacket. And it got busy over the next hours, until close at 3am.

***

The last of the crowd had dissipated into the night by 3:30 and Pat was the last to go inside. The heavy, mossy smell of stale beer crept into his nose like a cold. His stomach frighted at the smell; nausea with a thread of excitement. He steadied himself.

Sally sat on the bar, legs crossed and giggling. Her tanned English skin was loud against the white of her tank top. All the lights were up by now, burning white where they were reflected in the mirrors behind the bar. Similar highlights burnished her blonde hair white where it curved in its fall.

Stevie stood beside her like a drunken sailor gazing up a lamppost into a light. Pat could tell from the way Johnny ignored them that he wasn’t happy. When Stevie shuffled towards the disabled toilet, Pat followed.

Stevie hadn’t locked the door when he went in; Pat hit it with both hands and let it swing to behind him. The automatic hinge squealed until it closed. The toilet was a large square space, like both the men’s and women’s toilets, but without any division into cubicles.

The walls were painted vermillion and seemed to give the light a dirty taint before it silted the polished concrete floor. Pat sat on the sink and leaned back against the mirror.

“How ya going, mate?”

“She’s awesome,” he said, making zig-zag motions in the bowl.

“You think? I think you can do better.”

“She’s beautiful.”

“Don’t you have a girlfriend?”

“Nope.” Pat was fast running out of options.

“Surely there’s better girls for you.”

“The only girls I know are hookers.”

“They’re less trouble.”

“But they don’t love me,” said Stevie. He spoke over his shoulder, but his eyes were down.

Pat went back out and sat beside Johnny on the couch. Johnny recrossed his legs and poked at the fragments of ice floating on top of his Long Island Iced Tea.

“I’ll have a word to her,” said Pat. Johnny said nothing.

Stevie followed Sally in and out of the cool room as she refilled the fridges. And Stevie wouldn’t leave with his father until Wally was switching off the lights and locking the front door.

Pat hung back against the opposite wall of the alley while everyone said their goodbyes. Wally’s hands lingered on Sally’s bare shoulders as he kissed her cheek and when he pulled away, he coughed as he recovered his composure.

“See ya, Sal,” said Stevie, following his father to the car. And then, he stopped abruptly and turned. “Sal, can I have your number?”

“I’ll see you next week, won’t I?” she asked, the lilt of her accent musical against the muffled whisper of the taxis moving down Flinders Lane.

“Yeah,” he said uncertainly, and then, in a voice which indicated he decided to see the glass as half-full, he replied, “You probably will. I’ll come back in with Dad. Or maybe catch the tram. Depends.”

He shrugged and pushed his hands into his pockets as he walked backwards in the direction of the car. “Good night, Sal,” he said.

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