3rd Bob

He adjusted his battered old Akubra and shifted his position to better take in the scene. He needn’t have. He knew every inch of this bar. Been coming here every afternoon, sitting in the same corner watching the ebb and flow of life swing in and out of those heavy oak doors for more years than he cared to remember.

‘That’s Bob’s seat!’ the barman would throw over his shoulder at anyone who had the temerity to sit there.

Bob had been there in the early days for the ‘men only’ six o’clock swill. No such thing as Happy Hour then. It was either full on or shut! Legal drinking age was 21 in those days, but his dad always managed to sneak him in from the time he was sixteen. ‘Gotta make a man outa ya son.’ he’d say. ‘Put hairs on ya chest!’ He’d turn bright crimson while his dad and his mates would laugh at his painful discomfort.

He’d witnessed drunken brawls – even taken part in some when he wore a younger man’s clothes. He’d seen nervous proposals, some accepted demurely, some abjectly declined. The human heart so strong at times but so easily crushed or broken.

‘Another schooner Bob?’

An imperceptible nod of his head. He rarely spoke. Just sat and watched. Most of the regulars knew better than to try and engage him in conversation. Occasionally a newcomer would offer a friendly greeting but was swiftly rebuffed. ‘Anything you’ve got to say I’ve heard before’ or ‘Anything you think you can tell me I already know!’ He knew they thought he was a grumpy old codger, but he didn’t care. ‘Stuff the lot of ‘em!’ he thought.

A gaggle of young women burst through the doors eager for their afternoon Sav Blanc’s and Bubbles. Loud, self-centred, attention-grabbing flock of seagulls they were, intent on imparting their acquired knowledge of everything on their captive audience.

Bob mourned the demise of the ‘MEN ONLY’ bars and the ‘LADIES LOUNGE’. Crikey! He remembered the first time a woman walked into the bar. Bold as brass she was, sidled up to the barman and asked for ‘a shandy please.’ First time in its history you could’ve heard a pin drop in that Pub!

Yeah, he remembered those times.

He remembered you shouldn’t get caught up in a six-man shout. Bloody hell! Not only did it empty your pockets, but you got cold shoulder and hot tongue for dinner when you finally staggered home!

Yeah, he remembered. He’d been married once. Absolute beauty she was. Punched well above his weight there. Had a son too.

‘Another schooner Bob?’ Another nod of the head.

He eyed off the glass. Cold, with just the right amount of head, white and frothy, and raised it to his lips. He gulped down half the glass in one well practised swig, wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and let out an appreciative burp.

He pulled out a pack of tobacco, cigarette papers and a box of matches. He knew the barman was watching him, they went through the same ritual every afternoon. The barman would raise his eyes to the ‘No Smoking” sign and Bob would roll his eyes back, temporarily vacate his seat and go outside for a smoke. ‘Man can’t even enjoy a durry with his beer these days’ he mumbled ‘can’t bring me beer onto the street and can’t take me smoke inside. Bloody ridiculous!’

As he stood smoking, a group of cyclists, all men, pulled up in front of him, parked their bikes and pushed their way into the bar. ‘Bloody cyclists! he thought. ‘No pride. No decent bloke in my day would’ve been caught dead wearing that kinda get up. Look at ‘em! All their bits bunched up at the front, padding on their arses, and even shaved legs! What a bunch of Nancy boys!’

He flicked the butt into the gutter and on unsteady feet headed back to the bar, settled himself back on his seat and threw down the other half of his beer.

This time the barman just nodded at the empty glass and Bob just nodded back

‘Go steady with this one mate.’

He wrapped his gnarly, tobacco-stained fingers around the frosty glass and just sat. Mellow and melancholy, lost in his thoughts and his past.

Yeah, he remembered. He’d weaved his way home full of amber happiness and everyone’s mate and walked into an empty house and a note which simply said ‘I can’t do this anymore Bob. I’m leaving. I’m taking our boy and looking for a better life.’ And that was that…

He slammed down his empty glass, half fell of his stool and stumbled towards the old oak doors.

‘See you tomorrow Bob.’

‘Hmmpf’ came the grumpy reply.

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