By sean mcnulty
I was in one of those enormous pubs the city had nurtured to contend with the increasing cosmopolitan stakes. The drinks were expensive. I sipped slowly at the bar, reading beermats. There was a middle-aged woman sitting close to me putting away the gin. Her face in the mirrorwall behind the bar read aloud a sad memoir of wounded youth, occupational wedlock, ironing board blues. I fell in love with her a few times there on the stools. When she was leaving, she tapped me on the shoulder and said Goodbye.
The barman was Australian. He had four watches, two on each arm. I asked him what time it was, and he told me, but it took him a while, as though he were deciding which watch he was going to trust. Four-thurdy.
As I was scanning the mirrorwall, looking for something to busy myself with, I noticed a poster with a menu on it. It read like this:
I asked the Australian barman what Cough Pie was. He looked at me as though I were speaking in a mysterious language. I pointed to the menu and at Cough Pie. He looked at it curiously. He’d obviously not seen it before. He called one of the other barmen over. The other barman was equally bewildered. He couldn’t apprehend. Ask the cook, said the Australian barman. The cook’s on his break, said the other barman. The Australian barman went to fetch the barmanager to see if he knew what Cough Pie was exactly. The barmanager had daft orange skin and a sinister goatee. He looked more like the manager of an amusement arcade or a freaky brothel. The barmanager looked long and hard at Cough Pie before concluding he didn’t know what it was. I stopped pestering the staff, ordered another drink, and a portion of Cough Pie. It was really delicious.
As I finished off the Cough Pie, I spotted the cook walking past, coming back from his break. I could tell he was the cook because of his white rig-out and chef’s hat. He seemed to have a bad case of the flu. He was coughing and spluttering in a most off-putting way. I didn’t say anything to him. I didn’t want to be bothering the staff anymore. I bet that cook had people asking him about Cough Pie all the time.