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Drinks on a Hot Afternoon

Short story By: Bert Broomberg
Literary fiction

A story about a man who accidentally meets a friend in a bar, and finds out why his friend is feeling low on a day when he should be celebrating.

Submitted:Jun 8, 2011    Reads: 70    Comments: 5    Likes: 4   

Author: Bert Broomberg
Drinks on a Hot Afternoon.
It was a scorching hot afternoon, and almost everyone in town was out to the lake to cool off after a week of tiresome work in air cooled offices and stores. I had decided not to bother driving all the way to the lake in my car that needed the air conditioner to be fixed for the fifth time in three weeks. Instead, I had come to my favourite haunt, The Spinning Ball, the best sports bar in town.
"My usual," I said to Vinny the bartender who immediately pulled me a cold brew.
"Don't fancy the lake?" he said as he gingerly put the glass of beer on the bar in front of me.
I just nodded and told him about my car trouble.
"It's better here, anyway," Vinny answered. "After two hours in that sun your cool box packs in and then you're doomed to drink tepid beer. "There's no such risk in here."
I downed the first beer in half a minute and ordered another one.
"Not much happening today," I said after looking around the empty bar. "Not even the regular crowd."
"Man, this weather sucks," Vinny replied. "It'll pick up later, it usually does on days like this, but I won't make as much as I'm supposed to, Clarence won't like it at all."
I nodded, but somehow his boss didn't seem to me to be the guy to give his staff a hard time about serving too few drinks on a day when there wasn't anybody around to sell them to. "Does he get on your back about the business?"
Vinny rested his elbows on the bar and said in a soft voice. "I guess he's okay, but being married to my sister means he always has to find fault with me. He gets picked on by my sister, so he needs someone else to pick on himself. I suppose it's the natural order of things, but I'm the last in line so I get all the flack. Sometimes it sucks, and on a day like this he's edgy as hell. But we all have our difficulties. You've got your car trouble. I've got my brother in law. There must be some guy who is even worse off. Shouldn't complain about stuff." He turned around and started to polish some glasses with a cloth while watching the baseball on TV. He had only finished polishing about four glasses when the door of the bar opened again and my old friend Murph came in. He had a gloomy look on his face.
"Hey Murph, haven't seen you around for a while," I greeted the man who had been one of the regulars for as long as I can remember. "What's eating you, man?" I gestured to Vinny for another beer. "Have one on me."
Murph sat down on the next stool. "Thanks," he said, both to me and Vinny, who put down the beer.
I knew Murph loved to take out his old jet ski, so I was surprised to see him in town on a day like that.
"Have you broken that infernal machine at last?" I asked him. "I'd expected you to be decapitating some youngsters on that lake by now. The best day of the year for it, you know."
"Nah, couldn't go today. It's too hot for Lorna."
"Too hot?" I asked him in amazement. "For your Lorna? She lies out in the sun in that back yard of yours for hours on end. Man If I spent as much time in the sun as your Lorna does, I'd be barbecued."
A smile appeared on Murph's face. "Yeah, you could never take the sun as the rest of us. You always got some good blisters."
"So what's this stuff about your wife?" This time it was Vinny who wanted to know. "Anything wrong?"
"No, not really, the doctor just told her to keep out of the sun for a while." Murph looked dolefully in his glass as he said it.
"Come on man, speak up," Vinny said impatiently. "What's up? You're moping like a kid with a full nappy."
"She's pregnant, so she's got to keep out of the sun. It seems they can get those awful spots on their skin, once they're pregnant; really huge ones, they don't come off either."
Vinny smiled as he slapped Murph on the shoulder. "Congratulations. You're going to be a father, you should be proud."
"Thanks," returned Murph coolly as he looked me dolefully in the eye. "Fantastic." It sounded as if he had just signed his own death warrant and with one long gulp he downed his beer.
"This calls for a celebration; whiskey." I suggested.
Vinny poured the three drinks and we toasted the expectant father.
"The next round is on me," said Murph with that touch of gloom still sounding in his voice. "Make mine a large one."
Vinney poured the drinks but when he stopped filling my friend's tumbler a foul look and an impatient gesture made him continue.
"I said a large one." Murph grunted.
Vinny looked puzzled but kept on pouring until the tumbler contained at least three normal drinks.
Without talking any more, Murph slowly drank the booze, dug a wad of banknotes from his trouser pocket and slapped two notes on the bar.
"This will cover the damage," he said in an already unsteady voice. "Gotta go now. The wife is waiting." Then he turned around and left the bar.
When Murp was gone, Vinny put the money in the till and turned back to me. There was amazement in his eyes as he spoke.
"Can you believe that? The man is going to be a father and he looks as if they are going to put him up against a wall."
"In a way he may be," I remarked. "Figuratively speaking, they have got him up against a wall. There's nothing he can do about it."
Vinny looked at me wonderingly. "What do you mean?"
"Well can you recall when I had to go to hospital last year?"
Vinny nodded.
"Do you know what I went in for?"
"Something to do with your bladder, I thought. You went to doctor Spillman, the urologist."
"That was the version for the boys in here." I looked into my glass for some moments before I went on. "Vasectomy, really."
"So? Loads of people have those."
I sipped from my drink before I continued. "Yeah, I know, even Murph was having one at the time. I saw him in the waiting room and we talked about it."
"Shit," Vinny swore. "That's a rotten trick to play on a man. I guess, he really needed those drinks."


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