Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

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68

Pat told Johnny he needed to take a piss and went inside the pub. Wally stood at the end of the bar, a stubby sweating in front of him. Pat grabbed him by the elbow as he reached to pick it up.

“What are you doing?” he hissed.

“Let me go!” Wally said. “Who do you think you are, my father?”

“If I was your father, I’d be sitting on you right now, trying to punch some sense into you!”

“Just remember Pat, this is my bar. And my hostel.”

“What about our little chat in Lygon Street?”

“I’m dealing with it in my own way. In my own time.”

“Right. Okay. Alright then.” Pat stalked off to the disabled toilet. When he came out, he ran almost smack-bang into Sally.

“Sorry,” he said, instinctively reaching out. Then, realising who it was, recoiled.

“Surfing the ‘net tonight?” she asked and winked.

“Jesus!” he said, feeling the last feeble strands of restraint giving way. “What’s your problem?”

“Oh,” she said, faltering. “I – I didn’t mean to…”

“Why are you always giving me such a hard time?” Pat could hear himself as if he had a drinking glass up against a plaster wall, listening to traces of speech coming from the other side.

He sounded weak and exasperated, strung out at the end of his very short tether. A very short distance from where he’d found himself sitting on the floor of the shower earlier that afternoon.

“Maybe I’m doing it wrong,” she began, “but I’ve been flirting with you.”

“Oh, Christ. For Christ’s sake.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I… like you. I thought you could tell.”

“I’m fucking mental, can’t you tell?”

“Not until now.”

**

He returned to the front door. People drifted through the dark with steaming breaths, their jackets bunched around them. Johnny stamped his feet a few times and went inside.

Three men came to the mouth of the alley, their shadows distorted as they stopped to piss on the bins. The darkness of their silhouettes seeped past their outlines and onto the fog, like shadows in a watercolour painting.

They shook off, zipped up and rolled down towards the Re:Public with the easy, lubricated gait of the well-liquored. Pat stepped in front of the door. It wasn’t a particularly broad opening and he spanned its breadth from shoulder to shoulder.

“Evening gents, where have you been tonight?” The three lifted their faces towards him, and in the light that fell from above, Pat recognised them as three men he’d knocked back some weeks earlier.

He recalled them with a kind of déjà vu – when they had last come down, they had first pissed on the bins and then stood in front of the door in the same formation. He remembered the one who stood centre. The stockbroker.

“How are you, number 36?” asked the stockbroker. “Alright?”

“I’m good. Or I will be, until I have to put something in the bins.”

“We’ve been to a bar a few streets over,” he said, audibly reining in his exasperation. Pat recognised that the others, standing behind the speaker, weren’t as drunk as they had been last time.

They gave off the air of people who wanted to go inside and were willing to behave.

“Have you had much to drink?”

“No mate, no. We haven’t.”

“What’s the deal with pissing on the bins?”

“Look,” said the stockbroker, pulling up short.“Are you going to let us in or not?”

He didn’t have to pay so much in courtesy for anything else and was a little put-out by this particular doorman’s expectations.

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