Geoff sits at the bar on a stool, shoulders hunched, elbows in a thin pool of beer on the counter, his grey suit jacket sleeves moistening to black as the beer seeps into the fibres. His friends have long gone – wives, families to go back to. Geoff’s home life isn’t exactly the happiest, so the pub is a welcome retreat. Tucked in just off the road in a tiny village, the black beam and plaster Kings Arms offers up its boozy Tudor charms temptingly, half way through the drive home from work. Geoff will have to take the car back now that his friends have left. It’s late and he’s nicely over the limit, but not impossibly so: he’s made it home in worse states than this.
Home – the wife cold and angry (that affair. With her from the office), two teenage kids (hate me more than the wife does). All in all, not an appealing thing to go back to. Much better here – quiet, beer on tap, no-one to remind me just what a bastard I am.
“ ‘Nother beer here, Al” Geoff calls to the barman.
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough now Geoff? You knocked the last one all over the shop.”
Geoff bristles at this: “I’ll let you know when I’ve had enough. Long as I’ve got cash and I fancy a pint, you keep serving OK?”
Al takes this calmly – he’s had the same conversation with Geoff many a time, too many times.
“Alright Geoff, have it your way. It’s your funeral after all.”
Geoff takes the beer without acknowledgement, slopping the head over the wooden floor, his trousers, the bar. He slowly necks the pint, grunts and throws a pile of crumpled notes onto the counter. Stumbling out, Geoff passes the blackened fireplace and the last remaining drinkers at their tables, then walks out into the chill night air. His car isn’t in the car park. As far as everyone knows, he’s getting a taxi home, or so he told them (I’m not a drink driver, not me. Drink drivers are scum.)
Flicking up his jacket collar against the cold, Geoff steps into the narrow, hedge lined road outside the pub, makes his way towards the village green. The windows of tastefully quaint, care worn houses wink with lamplight as he passes them. Be nice to go in there, sit down in front of the fire, put my feet up. Wake up the next day and everything’d be different. Not an option for me though. Never an option.
The road widens, splits, snakes around either side of the green. Geoff steps on to the khaki-green grass, damp with the first dew of the night. He passes the pond, with its water still and silver in the moonlight, the hushed quacking of the resident ducks just audible. Shu’up. Stupid ducks. Geoff steps off the green and onto the path on the other side. His car is pulled in next to the kerb, parked under a tree. Reaching inside his jacket for his car keys, Geoff notices there’s something wrong with his car. The staid, expensive shiny black bodywork of the BMW is discoloured, stained with thick, grey-white blotches. Bird droppings. Some bloody BIRD has SHAT on my car. Geoff stares at the mess, tries to scrape some off with his car key, succeeds only in scratching the paintwork. Right. That’s it. He stomps to the boot, opens it and pulls out a tire iron and marches back across the green. From the pond, muffled by the trees, there’s the sound of ruffling feathers, then splashing, then two soft cracks. Geoff returns to his car, flings the bloodied tire iron onto the back seat and drives off.
Back at the pond, the limp body of a duck, its head and bill smashed, floats limply on the water, blood turning its green feathers to black. Other ducks watch from the reeds around the pond, quacking quietly, conspiratorially, to each other. One by one, they step on the bank, raise their wings and flap their way leisurely into the night sky.
The next day, the police called at Geoff’s house. His wife answered the door in her dressing gown, to be told solemnly that her husband was dead. The policemen explained that Geoff’s car had been found half way out of a hedge, with him choked at the wheel, the door pulled open and his mouth filled with green feathers.
Copyright: Andrew Day, 2009.