Writing: The Case of the Alcoholic Rodents Pt. I

by Beauchamp Art

The man walked into his regular establishment with no particular sense of urgency, taking up his place amongst the throng. He recognised most of the service staff, and about one third of the customers, some chattering amongst themselves, others indifferent to their surroundings, patience being their chiefest virtue, and frequently a stout requirement here.

He pressed himself close to the short women before him in the queue, so as others behind him would not be caught in the draughts from around the doors, but also to grace himself with the proximity of she, who seemed comely enough from behind, and was one of the more familiar faces amongst the crowd, though not so as for conversation to emerge, only a monologue of silent admiration on his behalf. Not defending into gaping stares or salivations at the hint of flesh below her hairline, but just enough warmth to make it more appreciated than if such a situation involved another, unfamiliar party; whether fair or otherwise.

The vague camaraderie of the place allowed some looseness with certain social etiquette often found outside, and all those within shared a mutual understanding than anyone that might be encountered here is likely to be a reasonable sort, unless proven otherwise. Which was not to say that all those who ventured here were pillars of their own virtues, or all brothers and sisters woven from the same yarn, but generally a welcoming friendliness presented itself foremost in the minds of those encountering strangers or the semi-familiar sorts who dogged in and out more often than they would care to admit.

Nevertheless, the formation gradually shifted forwards, and the man was now pressed to the counter, leaning forwards slightly, and beginning to fumble at his pockets in a vein attempt to remember which housed the appropriate level of currency for the transaction about to befall him. Mercifully, he manage to locate coin enough to cover the exchange for which he so often asked, coupled with some small talk about the business of the place, the running of necessary and spurious errands, or niggles of conversation snapped out of the mouths of other members of the surrounding hubbub.

However, for now he stared along the line of the other faces being served, most courteous, others displaying the formality associated with the irregular regulars, keeping the dialogue brief, formal, but not brisk enough to warrant malcontent from the staff, but with the mutual understanding that whatever was being ordered was pressing enough to require a healthy rate of servitude and customary action on both behalves. There too were the merry chuckles of former staff and old friends of those currently under employment here, with both breaking into relaxed posture, and any sense of urgency rapidly depleted as discourse, like that amongst the other sat around the surrounding tables having been there for some time, undulated between them.

With not malice directed at them by the busy crowd, that could, given an especially long and highly pragmatic lens, possible smudged with a small amount of casual grease, could be described as a queue, eventually, all interpersonal interchanges were terminated, though rarely prematurely, and all received the ear of the staff long enough for both to be satisfied, currency to be handed over, and the jar of tips to stay at a steady, half-filled level.

Indistinct music played, accompanying the ambience of miscellaneous pink noise emanating from the various collections of figures, peopling the place. Volume was such that a slight elevation of the voice could aid clarity of communication, but was not a strict requirement, nor a necessity for social parle. Regardless, for those rushing in need to be seen to with a mutual urgency, it was evident that any oscillations passing through the air sought only to disrupt the short and necessary dialogue required for their service. So despite being it sounding at would could very reasonably be described as a comfortable volume, for these individuals, there was not such thing – all was grinding teeth and the whirring of insects in darkened rooms to them, all others occupying the counter simply an amalgam of flailing limbs obscuring the path to and fro.

But for the man, such matters offered little concern. Not a great deal did today, though some high pitched ringing in his left ear seemed like the facsimile of an alarm bell, strung out for weeks on end to him, which had left him partially without regular rest, and kept a unseen air of concern behind his eyes, as the base of his skull rattled to all that was about and within him.

Once he had been able to place his order, placing coins and the aforementioned capsules of idle conversation across the counter, he headed outside, taking up a small table by himself adjacent the door leading outside, with a second chair sat across from him, without any real contemplation as whether it would be filled, or manoeuvred to some other group in need of the extra seat.

He noticed a small tremor from his right side, and furrowed his brow, before rapidly relaxing it, and sending one side of his face upwards, as he delved to investigate. A message had arrived in his pocket, mostly unnoticed but the small shake, which at first he had blamed on the light wind blowing through the outside seating area, or one of the other patrons passing by to reach their group behind him. He took it up, and placed it one the small, round surface of the table, inspecting it first before committing to read it.

Here was like a second home to the man, and news, good or ill could be read here in the same comfort and security as if it were his own living room – possibly more so, as if it where grave, he could find condolence amongst his peers or some of the more sympathetic looking of the half-familiar, and if it required celebration, what better place! All are friends in times of plenty and good news, all share in the joy and joviality, whether it has any affect on them or not – the situation itself will lift itself above its station, and merriment shall be shared eagerly. However, should it be ill, and the man was beginning to suspect this as his hearing had now almost vanished from the affect ear, replaced entirely by that unfaltering monotone, then the risk of public humiliation, embarrassment, and suffering the schadenfreude of others was magnified greatly here.

Regardless, whatever the message contained, it had evidently been pressing enough for it to be slipped unseen into his loose outer jacket without any prior warning or indication, so warranted some concern on his behalf. Thus, with minimal movement, so as not of draw attention to his displacement into the world of words, he opened the message, and hastily read its contents.

His brow once again furrowed, forming a curious knot about his nose. Blinking slowly, he went back of the text once more, unfamiliar with the manner in which it was written, yet certain of who and why it had been sent, and that he was, indeed, the intended recipient.