"A pie and a pint, love, please." The well-endowed barmaid turned her back, giving Peter Frogg a view of her equally entertaining bottom as she undulated toward the pie oven. He swallowed hard and forced his eyes away from the heart warming sight, then wished he were a thousand miles away as Sean Murphy walked through the pub's door.
"Hey now, Petey, me auld mate," said the newcomer, elbowing his way into the space next to Peter.
"'Lo Sean," said Peter, eyes searching the crowd for any means of escape. Sean was legendary at getting you to buy him at least two pints before another sucker would come along.
"So how are yer, me auld mucker?" asked Sean, his breath stinking of old ale and cigarettes. Instinctively, Peter drew back his head to avoid breathing in this oral concoction. Sean grinned inanely, waiting for his target to make a gesture of welcome by purchasing a Guinness. Peter smiled weakly and caught the barmaid's eye. Sean seemed satisfied and busied himself with rolling a cigarette from some evil smelling mixture in a St Bruno tin, Peter watched him mix in three old dog-ends with the tobacco wad; Lord only knew where they had come from. His pint arrived, followed by the stout. Sean laid into the pint of Guinness as if it were his last.
"Now that's what I call a proper drink," began Sean, ready to embark on one of his legendary monologues about anything a normal human being would find infinitely boring. Sean was famed for this behaviour, and it was very probably the thought of half an hour on the subject of traffic cones or the breeding rites of the flea beetle, that prompted so many people to provide Sean with all the Guinness he required before making a hasty exit.
The steak and kidney plopped in front of Peter, Sean caught sight of the pie and his widening eyes told their own story. Bowing once more to the inevitable, Peter pushed the plate along the bar, and watched the Irishman stuff it into his mouth. Peter seized the chance to make his excuses, nodding toward the gents. He faded into the crowd and slipped out the back entrance, his pint untouched.
Marching purposefully along the main street, his feet beating a rhythm with his groaning stomach, Peter saw another inviting pub grub sign. He turned left and walked into the public bar of the 'Crown'. He wasn't a regular drinker here; the faces were as unfamiliar as the beer, a little-known, independent brew which tasted slightly soapy. Peter regretted ordering a pint but had to consume something while waiting the arrival of 'Bertha's Home Made Shepherd's Pie', a local favourite, according to the menu. He scanned the crowd, quite large for this time of day, and found no familiar face looking back at him. Sighing comfortably, Peter turned back to his drink. Suddenly, the crowd parted like a nuclear wave to avoid a weaving drunk, tottering through their midst. He didn't manage to avoid Peter, despite having a large stretch of empty space through which to move.
"Hey! Mind out," said the unsuspecting victim as the man fell against him. Peter shrugged off the nuisance roughly, and it was perhaps this that angered the drunken man. He staggered back two paces, found his balance, and lurched forward, grabbing the bar counter to steady himself. He stood unsteadily, face six inches away, staring into Peter's face, somewhat upset.
"Wassyour problem, pal? Eh? Ye wanna problem?" The man enquired in a thick Scottish accent. Peter wished for the third time that day, to be swallowed up by the ground on which he stood.
"Er, no, er, sir. No," was his reply, unsure what he was supposed to say. The drunk viewed him suspiciously through glazed eyes.
"Look, er, perhaps I could apologise by offering you this." Peter pushed the freshly poured pint of beer toward the weaving man. It was, apparently, the right kind of apology. The man put the pint to his lips and began to drain the glass. Peter waited no longer, he slipped from the stool and slipped out of the door. He stood in the street, now very hungry.
The Old Green Man was a small, back street establishment where the town's criminal class drank. Peter was blissfully unaware of this fact as he stood at the bar expectantly, watching the barman pour his fourth pint of the day. Perhaps he would get to drink this one. The pie was warming nicely in the little oven behind the bar, and Peter felt certain he would not be disturbed in here by old school chums or any other acquaintance. Most of his acquaintances would never walk into a place like this. As the pie was being removed from its hot hiding place, the pub door flew open and two uniformed policemen entered. The change in atmosphere was palatable. Every eye in the bar watched them scan the room, then approach Peter.
"All right mate, you're wanted," said one of the cops, grabbing Peter's arm.
"Eh? What?" Peter was bewildered. "Hang on a minute!" He retorted. The two officers held him between them as they marched him out of the bar and into a waiting police car.
"But you have the wrong person," he began.
"Shut up, you," said the policeman on his right, truncheon pushed sharply into his ribs. Peter had heard about this kind of thing, and elected to keep quiet until he could speak to someone in authority.
When the police car arrived at Bridge Street Police Station, he was taken in via a side door, and told to stand behind a red line painted on the floor, in front of a burly desk sergeant.
"Excuse me, sir, but…" began the poor victim.
"All in good time. Now, name?" asked the officer, intent on filling out the charge sheet.
"Sorry? I don't understand, why am I here?"
"Don't come that with me, now what's your name?" The policeman's voice rose a fraction. Peter told him. The sergeant looked at his papers, glanced at some other papers, then back at Peter. He looked through a doorway to his right.
"Mike, come here a minute, will you?" A man appeared. A whispered discussion took place, and both men stared at Peter as if he were an alien. Another man appeared in the doorway and joined the whispering duo. Now there was a whispering trio, all glancing from Peter to the papers. All of a sudden, the attitude of the big sergeant changed visibly. He took on an ingratiating smile.
"Oh I'm sorry, Mr Frogg, there appears to have been a mistake, we need you to take part in an identity parade for us. It won't take long. If you have a prior appointment, we can call them for you to explain why you're late." Peter relaxed slightly, no point in being angry with the police. He smiled, trying to give the impression of co-operation. The sergeant took this as assent, and led him through another door, into the police station. In a waiting room, Peter sat, thirsty, with a growing hunger pain in his midriff. The accused man must have confessed, because after just fifteen minutes, the sergeant came back to inform Peter that he could leave. Peter found himself standing on the pavement outside, shaken and very stirred. He felt in need of a drink, and even more in need of a pie, and 'The White Hart' on the corner looked inviting.
He crossed the road, arriving at the pub's door just in time for it to be shut in his face. He looked at his watch. It was closing time. Peter threw back his head and roared to the heavens.
"For pity's sake, all I want is a pie and a pint!" It was at this moment that the rain, which the weatherman had promised would not fall, began to splatter his upturned face. It was as if the Lord were replying to his request by peeing on his head. Peter sighed heavily, and began the long trek home. He chose this moment to tread in a pile of dog mess, and as he passed two elderly ladies, they heard him muttering to himself.
"From now on I'm eating
at home with a six-pack."