I was at the bar, downing the second schooner of beer. It tasted nearly as good as the first, but not quite. It was stinking hot and I’d been out in the sun all day. It was the promise of an ice cold beer that had kept me going, and I’d been relieved that the bar wasn’t too crowded when I arrived.

A quick nod to the barman and the third schooner appeared without fuss or conversation. Just the way I liked it. Some people like to take their time and chat about their day. Me, I like to drink and keep going. Three’s my limit. I pushed the empty glass towards the counter and was just wrapping my fingers around the fresh beer when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

‘Mate. You’ve no idea how pleased I am to see you here.’

I didn’t need to turn around. I knew the voice. Benny. He shuffled onto the stool next to me, a big grin on his face.

‘What do you want, Benny?’

He watched me for a couple of seconds. Well, not me, but my beer. My fingers gripped it a little tighter and I took a couple of gulps. The edge was off my thirst, but I’ve seen Benny cadge a cold beer from someone’s hands and I wasn’t willing to take the risk.

‘Nothing.’ His eyes were still on the glass, and he licked his lips.

‘Well, that’s all right then. I’m just about to head off. Things to do and all that.’

Finally his eyes flicked over to my face. ‘Surely you can stay a bit longer. We haven’t seen each other in ages.’

This was true enough. But my recollection of the last time we crossed paths involved me handing over some of my hard-earned money. I can’t remember the reason why. There’d been some complicated story involving his mother or some other relative. Must have been his mother as I knew her. She’d asked me to keep an eye out for Benny, and there was something in the request that I couldn’t ignore.

The barman came into view and I nodded and held up two fingers. Benny brightened a bit and started to chatter on about the weather and how he’d been looking for work but that things were tough. When the beers arrived I placed them both in front of him. His face lit up like it was Christmas.

‘Are you sure? You’re the best.’

A few moments of silence as he got stuck into the first beer. I knew his style, a couple of quick gulps and then he’d sit on the drink, making it last as long as possible. He started talking again, quieter now. I nodded and we drank together for a while.

‘Nice to see you, Benny, but I’ve got to get a move on.’ I reached out a hand and we shook on it. It was part of the ritual. He nodded and smiled at me, then looked down at the note I’d left in this hand as if it was magic. Like it was the first time he’d put the bite on me.

Inspired by Discover Prompts – April writing prompts

[Photo: mini mural painting at Lithgow]