A short story for Rasha
The trees outside the pub were straining in their roots against a powerful wind that was blowing in from the sea. The old walls of the building stood firm, but the windows shook and whistled with air trying to escape from the filthiness of the Welsh winter night. The well dressed diners clinked the last of their wine and toasted to television programs and a lone stranger stood patiently at the bar.
The man, still in his thick coat despite the warmth of the room, asked for a good pale ale. He stood watching the bar staff as the pint settled in his hand before taking a brief walk around the two dining rooms. There was barely a dozen people in the entire place. He took a seat in the corner and listened in to the people talking at the table next to him.
A ruddy faced man in a pastel jumper was leading the conversation. A friend of his had moved to Italy. Someone else had met a famous cross-country cyclist. His guests congratulated these achievements and gave their opinions and the stranger sat silently and stared at his drink.
As he eavesdropped, the stranger discreetly slipped a hand into his jacket and checked on something hidden inside the pocket. A woman changed the subject on the next table, something about computers, and the stranger made his way to the bathroom.
The toilet walls were lined with reproductions of 19th Century drawings, neatly hidden behind attractive frames. As the stranger unzipped his trousers, he looked at the poster in front of him depicting a doctor and nurse staring at each other with an absurd passion. An unconscious patient lay on an operating table between them, the word SHAME emblazoned in red lettering at the top of the picture.
The stranger looked around for the unfavorable cartoons of black firefighters that once must have been hilarious but now would be considered incredibly racist. He wondered whether somebody had complained about them, or perhaps, after years of proudly presenting them on the toilet wall, the owner of the bar had one day looked at them and thought ‘You know what…’
After re-zipping his trousers, the stranger slipped his hand into his coat pocket and began to remove something, stuffing it back in anxiously as he heard the toilet door swing open. It was the ruddy faced man with the friend who had moved to Italy. ‘Hello!’ he bellowed before struggling with the buttons of his chinos.
The stranger knew it would not be wise to let this fellow get a good look at him, but the awkwardness of an Englishman alone in a toilet with another man would see to that. As tomato face nervously cradled his penis like it was an injured bird, the stranger slipped out clutching his coat pocket.
It was not until after he had finished another pint did he feel it was safe to go back to the bathroom. Once inside he wasted no time, removing the bin from its place and behind it carefully placing the small package from his coat pocket. He moved the bin back to its original position and left the toilet, then the pub, without a single word.
Several glasses later, his face now glowing with wine, the final customer stumbled out of the bar towards his Audi. How he managed to get home without crashing into a tree is as much of a mystery as anything else that happened that night.
Within an hour the pub was quiet. Floors had been swept and lights had been switched off and the landlord and his wife were tucked up in bed, snoring harmoniously and dreaming of very different things. The only sound that could be heard aside from the howling winds and the tick tocking of the old clock above the bar was a rustling, scratching, nibbling sound from behind the bin in the male toilets.
Something was in that little package that had been concealed inside the pocket of the stranger. Something that now was tearing a hole through the paper with tiny claws and chewing through the string with sharp teeth. Through the hole in the package a tiny face was emerging. The face of a mouse.
Ignoring the rat traps in the corner and the little crumbs of pretentiously flavored crisps by the door, Bambi the mouse scurried through the pub as if he had been across those floors a thousand times. He did not stop to check his reflection in the highly polished sideboards or pay any attention to the lazy, fat cat who slept on the stairs. Bambi knew exactly where he was headed and he did not care for wasting time.
Inside the bedroom the landlord’s foot was poking out from the side of the bed. He lay still, now in silent slumber as his wife called out in her sleep the name of pig farmer from Brussels she had secretly met in an online chat room.
Bambi watched her for some moments, and, after he was certain she was asleep, crawled across the crumpled mess of her clothes that lay on the floor. Very carefully, as not to damage them, he picked up the underwear she had been wearing that day in his teeth and hurried back out of the room.
Outside the wind had died down, but this did not stop the underwear blowing around in the air like some sordid flag as he held them tightly in his jaws. He headed across the car park to the van with a foreign number plate that sat alone with its lights switched off. The door of the van slid open and a hand reached out to scoop up both Bambi and his prize.
The stranger inspected the underwear. Despite their journey, they were still warm. He opened a briefcase he had stashed under the back seat and placed the treasure in a special compartment along with other pairs of a similar color. He waited for Bambi to clamber up his jacket and into his pocket, then reached for the ignition and started the car.