The Equidistant Pub

Urinals Broke, Please Piss in The Shitter.
I have always been a snob. Always have, alway will be.
Hanigan’s was a sorry hole in the ground that swallowed us up most sunday nights. A pub slap bang in the middle of a part of town you wouldn’t speed through in a car with the windows down. Not even if my arms were gatling guns would I venture near the place in daylight. If the pub was a person’s house I would have called social services. Like holding a stinking baby or being amongst the farts of important people we smiled and tried to ignore it. It was a warehouse that stored both despair and an infinite supply of laughter. A low ceiling with seats and tables scattered towards the far dark end that we never ventured to.
Above all reasons, we drank there is because it was equidistant from my old neighborhood where my two mates Sean and Ray still resided, and my new neighborhood that I had moved to years earlier. Sean and I had been friends for years, while Ray was a friend of Sean. Both were football fanatics and were kind enough to only talk about it when I went to the bar. Sean and I had formed a close friendship due to enduring six long years as part of the “Riff Raff” according to our religion teacher, that was infiltrating the local high school. We ended up graduating with a close friendship, an adequate education and a rabid hatred of the middle class. Ray was Sean’s mate and therefore mine by default. Sean and Ray were plumbers and constantly busy, I was at college watching people around me get rich in the booming economy, struggling on $40 a week. Once when broke and truly in a fix, Ray lent me money on the promise I never give it back. He denies this of course but I’ve never forgotten it. Sean was thin, tall, immensely likable and knew a little about everything. Ray was heavy, balding and thoroughly enjoyed smiling his shark like grin of gums and pointed teeth every time I was losing an argument with Sean.
Hanigan’s Pub was convenient to all while making nobody comfortably happy. A true democracy. We would reluctantly agree to meet there every sunday night and huddle in a corner and get quietly drunk or at least balls-to-the-wall tipsy. Still, we enjoyed our company, just not the building. It was the place bullies drank when they grew up. The locals referred to it as a boozer, we called it Hanigan’s, it was a pub. It had the misfortune of having a supermarket built around it which meant that it was not uncommon to find a bloodied butcher at the bar throwing one back on his lunch break or a gaggle of checkout girls post shift letting off some steam. As a veteran shelf-packer I knew this to be a necessity when dealing with the community face to face. On occasion, customers would sit anchored with groceries enjoying a drink before their trek home, chatting and laughing with the checkout girls. The battle was over for now, they could play football together in no man’s land.
When I was young I knew a kid called Mungey. A true bully’s name, pronounced “Mung-Gee”. He looked like an old Van Morrison trapped in the body of a 10 year old. Middle aged before his time, I’m sure he spent his conformation money on a beard trimmer. Mungey was a chain-smoker who had, and I don’t know if this says something about me, the worst hair I had ever seen on a human being. A sort of giant furry helmet, half a beefeaters hat. Awful. Maybe he made money on the side testing vander graff generators, who knows? Mungey had chased me through the fields once with a hacksaw blade threatening to batter me. The reason? I made eye contact with him. What other reason does a bully need? I made eye contact with him in Father Collins Park as he returned from cutting down all the trees the council had planted a week earlier. Mungey, was some fucker, I tell you. I used to imagine him siting in his bedroom with a single bare lightbulb flickering, hunched over an ashtray stubbing out his 40th smoke of the day, simultaneously grasping a brandy, downing it and then turning to a calender pinned to the cracked plastered wall. A calender with pictures of large bare-breasted women. His parents screaming at each other downstairs, loud traffic passing on the street and a dog barking in the yard. Getting up from the chair, his legs creaking and unleashing the guttural groan of an old man, emitting a chesty cough, donning a pair of bifocals and penciling in names of kids to bully for the next fortnight. A fortnight is a baker’s dozen plus one by the way.
Mungey had a beautiful dog that emitted none of the evil of its owner. A little black and white thing. Mungey loved his dog. Mungey’s dog loved everyone. I wanted to hate it but couldn’t. I would see it sometimes on its own just walking around the housing estate. Upon making eye contact with me it would run over for me to pet it. I wouldn’t. It was familiar with me only because it was always at Mungey’s side when he was threatening my life. Oblivious. I never knew how I should feel, it was a dog after all. I would just stare at it and daydream. I would think of Mungey waking up in his cigarette butt strewn bed, hacksaw hanging on his headboard. A realization would flicker across his face, then, pulling back his sheets to reveal the dog’s severed head at his feet. Noooooooo! Taste anxiety Mungey! Taste it, you’re a victim! Or me, waking up in my bed, Mungey’s dog staring back expectantly from the foot of it, pulling back my Return of The Jedi sheets with its mouth to reveal Mungey’s severed head, cigarette hanging from the lip. Yeeeeessss! I’m free!
Hanigan’s Pub was Mungey’s dog. That’s the best I can explain it. It was always in the background when bad things happened. It was a shit hole but it was OUR shithole. Sunday nights were our shot of saki before climbing into our zero’s and flying them broadside into the oncoming working week. Every time we left after our fill we would repeat the same mantra-“This is the last time we ever drink here”-before stumbling through the car park to the Chinese take out next door. We would then order curried things or curried stuff, before we wobbled our separate equidistant ways home.
There were many incidents that made us promise to never return only to return again and again and again. Like some cheating wife, it constantly disappointed us but what were we to do about it?
One night Ray cut his thumb after he accidentally smashed his glass against the table while furiously trying to prove a point about something. I brought him to the bathroom to patch him up because Sean was laughing too much to even breath. While running water on his hand I looked at him puzzled, and drunkenly told him his shark like teeth were glowing.
“So is your dandruff” he slurred blinking to my shoulders. He was right.
We looked up and saw that they had installed UV lights in the toilets.
“What the hell are they for?” I said.
“It stops heroin users shooting up?”
“How?”
“The ultra violet light makes it hard to find a vein in your arm.”
“How do you know all this?”
“I’m a plumber. I’ve been in toilets before y’know.”
I took another look around and noticed black plastic bags had been placed on the urinals and a handwritten sign stuck to the wall with black insulation tape.
“Urinuls broke, please piss in the shitter”
“Ray look”
“Fuck’n hell Col, they spelled Urinals wrong” he said laughing.
“Fuck this, that’s it, we are never coming here again.” I said.
We all left and upon making our way through the car park first noticed local Politician, Tommy Brady’s caravan sitting in the middle of it. This was his office for the run up to the election. He brought his office to the community because he cared. The tiny caravan had been pulled into place by a battered and smashed blue Volkswagen Beetle and covered in posters of his own face. His plastic smile, pink boozer’s complexion and carefully combed fringe, slightly back and to the side. You could line up and have a one-on-one with Tommy in the caravan. Every ‘oul wan and their grandmother wanted to talk with Tommy. I hated Tommy, he seemed like a bully. The type of guy who would tell you to calm down while he set your head on fire, “Sure isn’t it only a bit o’ flame.” God only knows what he promised the local shoppers but we would later hear his name being thrown around as they drank at Hanigans. A grown man, in a tiny caravan covered in posters of his own face, parked in a car park, outside a supermarket, beside a pub…Dishing out advice.
I hated him since seeing him drunk at a local chipper. He stood at the counter waiting for his burger and chips making a series of micro-jolts that drunk business men do in order to stop falling over at Christmas parties. He wore a silver suite and kept wiping his hair out of his eyes while extending his pink face upwards in a desperate attempt to look important.
“Is that Tommy Brady” someone muttered.
“Nah, couldn’t be. He’s fuck’n hammered” came a reply.
Everyone continued to line up for chips in silence. Surrounding Tommy were several 12 year old kids smoking and harassing the other customers for spare change. Most likely to buy more smokes and continue their addiction to looking burnt out and middle aged. They remained ignored. He got his order, hunched over and scurried hair first out of the door to a brand new blue Volkswagen beatle like someone had passed him a rugby ball.
A week or two later we were back. I arrived late. Sean and Ray were paralyzed with laughter about something, nothing new there. I went straight to the bar, got a big yellow pint and sat down.
“That looks a little flat” I said.
“Did y’have to pay extra for the bubbles?” Sean shot back laughing.
“Bring it back” said Ray
“Nah,” I said “I’ll just drink it.”
“It’s your money,” pressed Sean, knowing full well I had little to none of it.
“Okay, okay” I grumbled looking back to the female bartender and getting a detailed look at her this time.
The first thing I noticed was that she had the arms of someone who fixed bicycles for a living. An enormous chest down to her waist, blue eyelids, yellow hair, and a horizontal arse that tapered down to a pair of silver shoes. Jaysus! This was gonna be rough.
I took my flat yellow pint, made my way to the bar and as mannerly as humanly possible, asked for a new one. Her reaction was as if I had somberly told her that I had just returned from her house whereupon I had relieved myself on her bed.
“What d’y’mean?” she scowled.
“It’s flat.”
“What d’y’mean it’s flat?” she persisted
Oh god. I took a deep breath. What the fuck was I thinking?
“It has no bubbles in it,” I whimpered.
There was a long pause as her hand drawn eyebrows climbed higher up her bulbous forehead with growing incredulation. She gestured me to give her the pint. Grabbing it from me she poured it down the drain never breaking eye contact with me. Then she held the glass as far back from the tap as her manly arms could manage, making some adjustment briefly with her other hand she pulled on the tap which emitted a white laser beam of foam into my glass. The force with which she slammed it back on the counter caused a piece of white fluffy foam to float out and lodge on my eyelash.
“Der’s yer fuck’n bubbles.”
Shaken, I walked back to the table, sat down and proceeded to eat my pint with my fingers. It was a few seconds before they noticed. We all shared a look. The color had drained from my face. We are never drinking here again.
We left and went to the Chinese again. Waiting for our orders we saw someone totally unqualified to even walk past a kitchen, empty a bag of white powder into a large pot, stir it and viola! Yellow Curry Sauce. I then enquired how exactly they made their curry sauce. None of my fucking business was how they made their curry sauce. Upon receiving our curried stuff we all went our separate ways home agreeing to never ever set foot in the Chinese or Hanigan’s ever again.
The following week we were back like flies on shite. We decided to order from the lounge girl this time as I was still somewhat terrified of the bartender. The lounge girl was a very young red head I fancied and had nicknamed “frisky biscuit,” Optimistic, energetic and upbeat, she belonged in the place no more than we did. She was always talking about going to college and then traveling the world. I done my usual chat up routine which involved trying to have a genuine, heartfelt, honest protracted conversation with a complete stranger in front of strangers backed solely on the premise of really wanting to get to know the person. This always failed. I was in love but I fell in love almost daily.
After a few yellow pints, Ray and I decided to hit the toilets together. Exhausted from laughing, as was always the case, we made our way through the pub. Ray, a few steps ahead of me entered first. Upon going through the door I knew something was wrong by the look on his face. Absolute indignation, he had been offended in the highest order. His arm was outstretch and pointing to something. He was frozen, mouth open. Slowly I followed his arm down to his hand and pointed finger. There on the cracked yellowing tile floor was a shite. Someone had taken a shite on the toilet floor. Not near the cubicle or near the wall or near the urinal. Right in the middle of the room. As we stood there looking at it Sean walked in. He saw it, and we all looked at it lost for words. It was equidistant from the three of us as it was from the sink, door, urinals and stalls. Center. It must have been recent, we just knew. Someone had walked in, pulled down their pants and pushed out a stool onto the floor. Right in the middle of the fucking toilet. I felt offended on a personal level. That was it, I’m done. We had seen many horrors but this was a slap in the face. We abandoned our drinks, pissed in the car park, debated the term “Quality of life” while passing Tommy’s caravan office and headed towards the Chinese.
Upon entering we noticed that they had installed a sheet rock wall blocking off the kitchen. Who knew what they got up to in there now. All orders had to go through a makeshift hatch manned by a woman with the largest head I had ever seen up to that point in my life. We all ordered our curried things and curried stuff and went our separate ways home. We never returned.
Sean and Ray started hitting another Pub across town, also a shithole of the highest order in which your foot stuck to the floor immediately when you walked inside. I never joined them. One night apparently they had a kareoke competition where five girls got up in a row and sang “that fucking song” from Titanic, according to Sean. That was the last night they went.
We eventually made the effort to meet in a pub just outside of town. A large redbrick building with an open fire and high ceiling. The summer was coming to a close and the three of us sat in the garden outside squeezing the last out of the mild weather. The economy was picking up even more than before and both of them were making good money and being kept busy. Thankfully the only thing that had changed was their clothes. We chatted and laughed, it was almost like it used to be. There was a break in the conversation.
“This is nice” Ray said.
“Yeah” we agreed, but that’s all I thought. Nice.
Sean placed his empty glass on the wrought iron table and indicated to the lounge girl for another round. She was no frisky biscuit, of whom I wondered if everything she had wanted came true. The place was very fancy, I must admit. Ray excused himself and made his way to the bathroom. Sean told me how Tommy had won the election that year, which explained why I had never seen him in the chipper again. Sean slowly looked around the pub, smiled at me then leaned in.
“Are we snobs?” He said.
“Yes” I said “Yes we are”.

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