Good morning fellow scribblers,
A wee bit of flash fiction in response to the prompt above: Froth
Matthew J. Richardson
‘What is that?’
Mark looked up from the pint he was pouring.
‘I said, what is that?’
Sharper this time, the woman raised her eyebrow and gestured at the glass in his hand.
‘Your pint, madam,’ Mark answered hopefully, placing the drink in front of her and wiping his hands on his trousers. He had a sinking feeling. The woman had looked like trouble as soon as she had walked in. Dressed up to the nines, platinum hair, lacquered nails, she had sat down at the table furthest from the bar with her rugby-buff boyfriend before striding up to order like she owned the bloody place.
‘It’s an absolute disgrace, that’s what it is.’ Fake eyelashes raked him as she spoke. ‘Look at the head on it. If I’d wanted to spend a fiver on foam I’d have stayed at home with a bath bomb.’
For a moment, Mark thought she was joking. A glance at her ramrod-straight mouth told him otherwise. He felt the heat rising in his face.
‘Sorry. I’ll get you another.’
The woman sighed and took out a lipstick and compact mirror.
‘This is what happens…,’ she began, before pausing to reapply lipstick. ‘This is what happens when someone starts a job straight from school.’
Mark glanced up as he began to pull the pint. He realised that she was speaking to her six-foot-something partner, who had the good grace to give him an apologetic glance from his seat in the shadows.
‘What were you, the only village idiot left at the jobs fair?’ She looked around her at the otherwise empty pub. ‘Not exactly rushed off your feet are you?’
He decided that silence was the best policy. It was only his third shift, and the manager had nipped out to get herself something to eat. He hoped that the woman wasn’t paying by card, otherwise he’d have to wait until Julie returned to authorise the payment.
‘For Christ’s sake!’ shouted the woman, pointing at the glass in his hand. ‘Hold the bloody thing at an angle. I’d be quicker home brewing at this rate. Start again, and this time bloody concentrate.’
Mark could feel sweat on his upper lip as he tipped the half pint down the sink. The glass slipped from his hands, smashing on the porcelain. He kept his head down as he searched for another.
‘Absolute joke,’ said the woman, shaking her head ‘Tomorrow evening, why don’t you join the rest of your friends at soft play? Less chance of you breaking something, that way.’
His fingers found another glass. Past the point of embarrassment, Mark stood and began to pour a pint for the third time, this time staring sullenly into the woman’s eyes. It seemed as if she could no longer even bear to look at him. She was drumming her fingernails on the bar and staring at the ceiling. Probably a prissy city cow, thought Mark. Thinks she’s doing us a favour by gracing our pathetic little establishment. She would have had to brace herself even to speak to country bumpkins like him. The last drops of ale dripped into the foam. Mark pushed the beer pint towards the woman, who looked at it as if the bartender had just offered her a pint of his own piss.
‘I suppose that will have to do. How much do I owe you?’
The woman shook her head as she handed over a ten-pound note. As she did, a receipt fell onto the floor by Mark’s feet. He bent to retrieve it.
‘Hurry up, can’t you,’ urged the woman. ‘Hard as it is to believe, I have no wish to endure a lock in with someone who still has pimples.’
Mark did not answer. He did not respond at all. Written on the back of the receipt in bright, pink lipstick, were six words.
Ex found me. Get help pls.
Slowly, mechanically, he opened the till.
‘Your change.’ For a moment their eyes met, but only for a moment. ‘I think you might be right about the beer, madam. I’ll nip down and see if the barrel needs changed.’
Almost imperceptibly, her shoulders sagged.
‘See if you can’t find someone who knows what they’re doing behind a bar, whilst you’re down there.’ She was snapping again, tones clipped and eyes flashing.
Mark opened the trapdoor and climbed down the ladder. As he descended, scraps of conversation reached him from above.
‘Sorry about the wait, darling…bartender was barely out of nappies…said the barrel needed changed…sorry if it’s not quite right…’
In the cellar, Mark’s face was illuminated by his mobile phone screen as he dialled.
***As always folks, comments welcome. See my published short stories HERE***
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