Inside the bar, sat around the usual table, are Snorter Smith, Little Nance and John; drinks all round and Little Nance moves to make room. Snorter has a way of looking that smacks of disbelief (no not smacks more full bodied belts with a leather strop) thus his name rather than the fact that he breeds pigs. "What's that you're drinking then?" he asks.
"I'd rather not go into it, you'll only think me pretentious." I say, gazing modestly into my glass.
"We won't will we." Little Nance says in that winning way Little Nance has and I feel inclined to submit to the combined force of their curiosity. I can tell that Nance has been stropped by the Snorter already this evening. Nance is a gentle person who needs protecting from most of the world but especially from the Snorter who may, or may not, be of this world.
Inclined to tell them, I am only waiting for John's attention knowing that this will take time due to his need to consult the ceiling. His problem is that until I start he has no idea which volume of the Concise History of the World in Twenty Three Volumes with Index to consult. Please do not imagine John lugging 23 volumes plus index in a backpack, oh no, he knows them by heart. If ever there was an argument in favour of marriage it is what fifty years of bachelorhood has done to John. At length his eyes clear somewhat and he leans back ready to pounce.
"It's fermented and filtered yak's milk."
John is silent.
"Yak's milk from the Himalayan foothills, brewed by Tibetan refugee monks in Nepal and transported by donkey train to Calcutta where it is allowed to stand for seven months before filtering and bottling. I have it imported by the All India Import Export Company of Ashramabad and Sam keeps it in his cellar for me."
"India used to be the jewel in the crown, you know, before 1948."
Little Nance turns to me, "How do they filter it then?"
"Through one of Ghandi's socks."
"Ghandi was a pacifist."
"Yea, I never saw a picture of Ghandi wearing socks."
"Well Snorter now you know why." I reply, switching my gaze meaningfully from his face to my empty lemonade glass.
Whilst Snorter is at the bar John attempts to interest us in an antediluvian civilisation that invented batteries, he gets upset when I get out my calculator to work out the royalties that Duracell and Ever Ready would have to pay the inventors.
Snorter returns with three pints of Winter Brew and no lemonade, now I am an understanding and considerate man who realises that Snorter's claim to manhood has always been on the brink and that carrying lemonade might just push it over. Therefore, eschewing comment, I go to the bar and retrieve my drink. Meanwhile he has been thinking, "Why have you given up drinking then?"
Inwardly sighing I begin, "I was told to."
Little Nancy gives me a look of fully focused sympathy that almost stops me in my tracks.
"Yea, and who told you?" asks the Snorter.
John is silent.
"My guardian angel."
Snort asks,"Do angels have breasts?" Snigger.
"Don't be daft, angels are androgynous so they can't have breasts."
John is waking up.
"What's androgynous then?" the Snorter wants to know.
"Andro male, gyn female," I reply.
"Andromeda was female," interjects John.
"Yes and looked what happened to her, chained to a rock, rescued and then stuck up in the skies."
Snorter is determined to pursue esoteric physiology, " What do they have then?"
"Not much really, they are above all that - more like souls made visible." I can see that Little Nance is becoming embarrassed. "Anyway my guardian angel was not an angel in the biblical sense, she was about eighteen and had rather nice pert breasts."
"Cor, what was she wearing then, did she have wings?"
"I bet she was beautiful."
John looks up from his drink, "Angels don't exist."
Poor Nance looks close to tears and I beam one of my empathic looks which produces a weak smile and a pat on my knee. "She was wearing a long flannelette night-gown with buttons down the front and, yes, she was beautiful," I reply, "and wingless."
"I 'spose she came to you in a vision - was she floating at the foot of your bed?" enquires the Snorter.
"She appeared to me in a dream, wearing red ballet shoes and most definitely walking on the ground. We were passing through an orchard - there was blossom on the trees - and everything was happening in slow motion."
"Sounds like a bloody Woody Allen film to me, was it in black and white?"
"Bloody hell it's 11.15"
"Your round, John."
"What did she say to you then?"
I have a theory about the Snorter, it seems to me that he can only verbalize his cynicism by asking a question or saying 'rubbish.'
"She said, "Stanley, you don't drink anymore."
"Just like that?"
"Time!"© c. ivermee 1988-2010
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