It’s the same old pub in the same old town. He can smell the fryers out the back doing their turnover of bacon, burgers and parmas. Late arvo light shafts in and shines on the trophies and pictures of local footy players that adorn the walls. Kids are playing a desultory game of pool on the torn up table. His mouthful of fish and chips taste sharp with salt and lemon and the glass he’s holding, has stuck, hilariously he thinks, to its tacky coaster.‘Fortune’s Legacy’ won today and everything is good because he’s going to leave, live like a king, maybe go to Sydney and buy an apartment and be close to his daughter and grandkids. Everything in the pub looks different now, haloed with an aura of sentimentality that blooms from his chest, making his beer taste like heaven and the weathered faces around seem very dear.
His heart fills fit to bust and his glance slides along the twinkling row of bottles on the top shelf, rainbow coloured spirits and liqueurs, the sea blue of Curacao like the sea near his daughter’s home, tawny Scotch as welcoming as those soft leather armchairs in posh lobbies, Vodka that glints like diamonds!‘My shout!’ he yells out deliriously, and waves his arm towards these riches of colour. ‘My shout! Anything you bloody want, me horse won the race!’
The fryer gives off a greasy smoke than always stinks up the pub with fug that smells like rancid fish. It’s late arvo and dirty sepia light pushes past the small windows, showing the grime of a million cigarettes smoked over a hundred years. Million- yeah right. He was meant to win one.
His parma is cold, the cheese congealed and the sauce a hard crust like blood on an old wound. He reckons it was yesterdays, reheated under the Baine Marie, they do that here. Over and over the same food, the same songs on the jukebox. Same group of kids, just different versions of them, always playing pool and drinking. Now he’ll never bloody leave. He stares into his beer, annoyed by the smug faces around him with their same beaten look and their same stupid stories.
He reckons he might just have enough for another pint, and filches around his pocket, where the ticket is. Stupid fucking horse. He has three bucks in loose change left, not enough even for a pot. The dark walls, smoke and stink close in and the clatter of voices merry with drink makes him angrier by the moment. Time to go.