The Stranger In The Pub
I was on my second pint, it was only twenty past eleven in the morning and apart from me, the pub was empty. Don’t get me wrong I’m not the kind of bloke that waits for the pubs to open, it’s just that my shift at the Post Office started at four and finished at eleven, the sun was shining and I was gasping for a beer.
I opened up the Racing Post and was going to pick out a few winners when I was suddenly aware of a guy standing next to me. I hadn’t heard him come in which was unusual as the pub door was hard to open, you had to give it a good shove and maybe even a kick, and as it opened it made the most god awful creaking noise. The guy looked confused and he was staring at me with bloodshot eyes.
“Where am I?”
My heart sunk. Oh fuck, trust me to get the nutter.
“Bethnal Green mate. You’re in Bethnal Green and you’re in the Cornwallis Pub.”
I turned my back on him, hoping that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t.
“What year is it?”
I turned round.
Once again he gave me the bloodshot stare.
“What year is it?”
I played along. Maybe if I just spoke to him nicely he’d go away.
“It’s 2010. June 23rd 2010.”
He looked relieved, smiled and pulled up a stool beside me at the bar.
“Sorry about that mate. I’ve only just got here and unfortunately, I’ve got to get back soon. Haven’t got long. Can I buy you a pint?”
Suddenly the nutter went from crazy to normal and... he was offering to buy me a beer. How could I refuse.
“Yeah, cheers mate I’ll have a lager.”
Reg the barman came over and the stranger ordered two pints. He continued talking.
“I love pubs, where I come from they’re all closed. Can’t get a good pint anywhere.”
I was about to ask him the obvious question when Reg came back with the order.
“£7.20 please mate.”
The nutter jumped up and patted his pockets, both front and back.
“Oh fuck, I’ve come away with no money.”
I saw Reg’s face suddenly drain of colour. Which was usually a sign that blood was about to be spilt. I once saw Reg bite a bloke’s nose off because he’d tried to pass him a dodgy ten pound note. Rather than witness the oncoming slaughter, I took pity on the stranger.
“It’s okay Reg, I’ll get these. He’s obviously a bit confused.”
I gave Reg the money and raised my eyebrows.
The weird guy picked up his pint and in one gulp drank half of it. He put the pint back on the bar and sighed.
“Cheers mate. First pint in a very long time. I can’t repay you but I might be able to give you some information that you might find useful one day?”
I was intrigued.
He leaned in close as though he was gonna tell me a big secret.
“You heard of Donald Trump?”
“Yeah, he’s that billionaire playboy bloke that does the apprentice in America.”
“Yep. Well he’s gonna be the next President Of The United States.”
I almost spat out my beer.
He was adamant.
“No really. Have a bet on it. He’ll be next after Obama.”
I laughed at him.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. What else you got?”
He thought for a moment then continued.
“What about Australia?”
I took a sip of my beer.
“What about it?”
He couldn’t wait to tell me.
“It catches fire!”
“Pretty much all of it. The whole lot goes up in flames.”
I frowned and tried to be as casual as I could.
“So let me get this straight. Australia catches fire. A country thirty times the size of the UK just catches fire?”
He didn’t blink an eye.
“Yep, took months to put it out.”
I was trying to work out where this guy might have escaped from. St Clements Hospital had been closed for five years and that used to cater for his type. But he didn’t appear dangerous and to be honest apart from the nonsense he was talking he seemed like a reasonable guy. So I decided to keep him talking.
“When does all this happen?”
He answered straightaway.
“2020. That’s where I’m from. Ten years in the future.”
I tried not to laugh and kept a straight face.
“Wow, that’s amazing. Anything else I should know?”
“Yeah, floods. Everywhere gets flooded. All the rivers burst their banks and people’s houses are filled with water.”
“I thought you said everywhere was on fire?”
“No! Only Australia. Here in the UK it’s flooding.”
“Oh right. Sorry, yeah sure. Australia is on fire but here were all drowning. Makes perfect sense. Is that it? ”
He suddenly went all serious.
“No way. Here’s the most bizarre bit. Some people in China start eating bats and catch a disease, that disease spreads all over the world and suddenly people start bulk buying toilet rolls and pasta and the government tells us to lock ourselves up in our houses and not touch each other!”
Whatever fantasy, alien, crazy, fucked up bullshit I was expecting, that wasn’t it. This went way over the Richter scale of madness. I decided it was time to bring him down to earth.
“That’s all well and good but who wins the Premiership. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea?”
I could see he was eager to tell me.
“Liverpool win it. But they don’t actually win it. They get more points than any other club by a country mile but they don’t win it because there is no football. All because of the people who ate the bats in China.”
This guy really was on his own planet. I decided to pretend to be as crazy as he was.
“Obviously, I forgot about the Chinese bat thing. No way could there be any football. Silly me. And earlier you said all the pubs are closed? Is that also because of the Chinese bat thing?”
“Yeah, all pubs, clubs and restaurants are closed. In fact, pretty much every shop is closed as well.”
I smiled, drunk the last of my drink and folded up my Racing Post. I thought it was time for one last question, even though I was expecting the inevitable answer.
“So look mate, I’m a betting man and so far you’ve not really given me anything that I can win some money on. But maybe you can help me out. Who wins the Grand National in 2020?”
He looked at me and as I expected he shook his head.
“There is no Grand National in 2020.”
Before he could say another word I interrupted.
“Because of the Chinese Bat thing?”
“Yeah, of course.”
It was time to go and get away from this weirdo.
“Well time for me to get home to the missus and have some lunch. Been nice talking to you mate. Best you get back to where you came from as well.”
He looked at his watch and then leant over and whispered something in my ear.
The lights in the pub flickered and there was a sort of humming noise and suddenly he was gone just as quick as he arrived. I looked at Reg.
“Where’d he go?”
Reg did his usual and just shrugged his shoulders.
“Good riddance if you ask me. Anyone that walks into a pub with no money is asking for a right hander!”
I smiled, put the paper under my arm and left the pub. But I can still hear the words he whispered to me just before he left.
“Tiger Roll, 2018 and 2019.”
No idea what it means, but after all he was a nutter!