Tom O’Brien


You know when you’re sitting in the bar having a quiet pint, wanting nothing more than to be left alone, and yer man walks in?

The big man, the hard case. Tattoos on his forehead, a bird on his arm he’s trying to impress so much he’s floating 18 inches off the ground.

He’s John Wayne in hush puppies, the chest stuck out and the belly sucked in, eyes staring down the bar like it’s high noon in Dodge City and not five past nine on a damp Friday night in Walthamstow

The message is clear: ‘This is my woman, stay away from her or there’ll be trouble.’

I’m the nearest so the message is clearest to me. Not that I’m bothered. The war-paint is still wet, and the ‘made in Romford’ tag is still attached to her ear – not my type by a long shot!

Ground rules established, he orders a pint for himself and a pint for her and they park themselves on stools adjacent to mine. Half his drink disappears in one slug and they begin to talk.

Well, he does. Non-stop. About trucks. Great big trucks. Enormous trucks. Bloody boring trucks. At first I think Scania is his wife and I cast covert glances at his companion to see how she is taking it. Never talk in reverential terms about another woman to the woman you are with – I learned that early in life.

My bar-stool neighbour obviously hasn’t grasped this, and I can see that while he may be having an orgasm about his beloved Scania, his companion isn’t.

When I eventually twig who (or what) Scania is I realise it’s not antipathy towards another female that’s troubling her, but boredom. He’s boring the pants off her.

She is clearly trying to maintain an interest, nodding and smiling at suitable intervals, but when his gaze is averted I can see the look in her eyes. Boring, the message says, this is b-o-r-i-n-g.

She wants to dance, she wants to party, you can see it in her body language, and all this clot want to do is talk about trucks.

While all this is going on Dick comes in. I say Dick, but he could be Tom or Harry for all I know. Everyone calls him Dick for reasons…well, let’s say they have to do with a certain part of his anatomy and his tight-fitting jeans.

Now, Dick like to stand where the light is ‘kind’ to him, which – surprise surprise – isn’t a million miles from where our truck-driving man is holding court.

Most of the local talent know about Dick and pay little heed to him, but females who haven’t seen him before do find their eyes irresistibly drawn to him. I can see this one is no exception.

Busily explaining the finer points of jack-knifing, trucker-man doesn’t notice her switch in allegiance for a while, but the change in his voice, like an engine on full revs running out of gas, soon tells its tale. He stutters to a halt and stares at what she is staring.

‘When you’ve finished binning his gear stick maybe you’d care to listen to me for a while’, he says to her, softly though, like he was taunting her. ‘I mean it’s what you’re paid for, innit?’ Then he turns to Dick. ‘I’d get that lanced if I were you, mate. You can get it done on the National Health I believe’.

Bang goes my hopes of a quiet pint, I think, picking up my drink and moving back a few paces. Out of the corner of my eye I see the guvner stick his head around the corner and just as quickly withdraw it.

She starts first, the Romford doll, pouring the remains of her pint over truck-man’s head, screeching: ‘Ere, ‘ave that on me!’

She turns to the now-gaping bar-counter audience and flicks her hair back. ‘Listen to him for another minute goin’ on about trucks? No thanks. I’d rather sleep in a ditch.’

The she was gone, the only trace she had existed at all the sound of her high heels on the pavement outside.

Our collective sighs had barely subsided when Dick sticks out his chest and fixes his eyes on the now-dripping stranger.

Dick does weight-training and bouncing in his spare time…the types that’s big in muscle power but small in the brain department, if you get what I mean…and now he’s flexing those muscles and beckoning his antagonist towards him.

‘Come on, let’s see how tough you are. I bet I can handle you with one hand behind my back’.

He doesn’t get a chance to get either hand in that position because truck-man is off his stool in a flash and launches a mighty boot in the direction of his groin. Dick is still falling when he is out the door and legging it after his girl.
Several of us help Dick to his feet and he staggers off to the jacks to recover. Now that things have quietened down the guvner emerges and carries out an inspection.

Satisfied that nothing has been broken, he stoops down and picks up something from the floor. ‘Anyone fancy a banana?’ he asks casually.

That’s the sort of a place my local is.





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