The Queens Hotel
I hunched over my pint, watching as he continued to pester the women at the next table. His technique was less charismatic flourish, more slaverous grind, like a dog trying to wear through bone to get at the marrow inside.
For all my money he’d blown it at the introduction, presenting himself as Larry ‘as in, Lairy…’ complete with a chimp-like strut, the choreographic equivalent of yelling ‘Oi oi, saveloy!’. He’d topped off the dance by gesturing open-palmed towards his own mouldering wurst, just to make sure his message was fully deployed.
His name was Pete, he pushed spreadsheets around a business park outside Driffield and, for some reason, he was still being tolerated more than twenty minutes in.
I sucked on my beer and made a wearied expression towards whichever of the women might happen to look in my direction. I told myself I was trying to offer sympathy, and maybe soften the impact of his assault in some way. In truth, I was hoping to trick one of them into thinking I was… something, so they might find me interesting instead.
It’s was ten o’clock on Saturday night and it was the same as it was every week in The Queens Hotel. The kids had washed in and out as a tide, headed away into the dark to find somewhere playing music from this century. The couples and families had started retreating towards bottles and beds, no longer needing the company of others for what was to come in their night. So this is what was left: the drunk, the desperate, the divorced, and the few tourists who’d been unfortunate or inert enough to wind up in these walls for the death of their evening.
Next, the night vendors would appear. There’d be a couple selling rubber wristbands - a certain colour for a certain cause - proudly displaying charity I.D. they’d printed at home. Then we’d get the ‘rose for a rose’ guy - a mock-Spaniard, greased up and ripe with market-stall aftershave - touting polyester posies as skeleton keys for stubborn knickers; Larry would buy at least one. Finally, one side of last-orders, we’d get the fish man - resplendent in stained smock - carrying on old theatre intermission tray filled with pots of various vinegared seafood; I’d probably invest in a mixed pot, seeing as the smell of my breath was unlikely to be a concern in the immediate future.
One of the women turned her head towards me and smiled. I responded by tipping my glass before it reached my mouth and pouring four ounces of bitter down my shirt while I gazed back at her with all the prowess of a windy infant. She turned back to the Larry show and pulled on her G&T, managing to successfully deliver all liquid to her mouth, like a normal human being.
I was contemplating an early dismount when a ripple ran through the women. There was a flurry of patted arms and drained drinks before shoe straps were straightened, bags hung from shoulders and, like a skulk of spooked foxes, they scurried away, leaving Larry bemused and alone at the table where they’d once been.
I watched his shoulders drop as he exhaled a sigh and took himself to a vacant spot at the end of the bar. I finished what remained unspilled of my pint, moved to the stool beside him, and ordered us a fresh one each.