It’s my last shift at my local pub, and I’m on the night shift. I’ll be spending my final moments with the drunks and rabble-rousers. I watched “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” last night. It’s a film about a bar in Las Vegas which is shutting down. The patrons and owners spend their last night celebrating. It’s a film with solid connotations to my own life and experiences of working at a pub.
I finish my cup of tea, touch up my lipstick and fetch my keys from the hook. It’s pouring down with rain, and by the time I get to the pub, my hair is sopping wet.
“Dolly, get me a can of foster’s from the shop, will you?” Brian asks his wife.
I look at him with a knowing smile.
“Brian, you know you can’t bring your own alcohol in here,” I say.
“Marissa… it’s your last shift. Don’t be like that.”
I shake my head and continue cleaning glasses. The sound of glasses smashing comes from the far side of the room, and two figures come into view. They’re swinging at each other.
“Oi! What are you fighting about?!”
“He touched my arse,” Johnny slurs.
Keith has his hands up in front of his face.
“No, I never! I don’t swing that way.”
I storm over with the beer-stained rag over my shoulder and grab both of their arms.
“Guys, please? It’s my last shift, and I’d rather not throw you out. Sit down and behave, or I’ll have no choice but to kick you out, and you’ll never see me again.”
After a lot of huffing and puffing, they walk in opposite directions. Dolly puts a few coins in the jukebox, and soon after, Ella Fitzgerald is serenading the room. Harry, the owner, tells me to sit down for a bit. He brings me a Shirley Temple with extra cherries.
“Everybody listen! Tonight is Marissa’s last shift at the pub, and I can’t thank her enough. She’s been an excellent worker over the last year, and I want to wish her all the best for her bright future!” Harry yells, ringing the bell.
He brings over a miniature cake with a single candle, and Harry places a party hat on my head. All the patrons surround me.
“Oh my god, Harry! I didn’t expect all of this, and I look like a tit with this hat on!”
Brian takes a photograph of me on his Motorola Razor.
I blow out the candle and take a bite of the cake.
“Once you’ve finished your drink, I need you back at the bar,” Harry says.
As everyone sits back down, the front door opens, and a man runs for the toilets. He’s known for shooting up, so Harry locks him in until the police take him away. I down my drink and start serving people as a flurry of people has arrived.
“Hey! Can I play Pac-Man?” Brian asks.
Harry can’t afford a games machine for the pub, so he sets up his laptop in the backroom and lets people play Pac-Man online. It makes a surprising amount of money, and I think it’s a genius idea.
“Yeah, it’s five pounds for five minutes of playtime,” I reply.
Brian places a fiver in my hand and stalks off to play. It’s a security risk, if I’m honest, but it was Harry’s idea. It’s his fault if he gets robbed one day. In their protective gear, the police finally arrive and carry the man from the toilets through the bar like a petulant toddler. A needle hangs from his bruised skin. One of the policemen makes eye contact with Harry.
“I’d shut that cubicle down if I were you, Harry. It needs cleaning from top to bottom.”
A man in an expensive suits takes a seat at the bar.
“Red wine, please.”
“I’ve never seen you before. Are you local?”
“No, I’m in town for work. I’ve dealt with idiots all day, and I need a drink.”
I fill his wine glass to the top.
Harry comes over and takes the cleaning rag from me.
“Get your things. You can leave early!”
“Come outside with me.”
I get my coat, and we walk outside. The sky is a marriage of opposition in that it’s both crisp and humid.
“Thank you for everything, Marissa.”
“I’ll miss it all, you know? It’s been fun.”
“Don’t forget this place, Marissa. Come back to see us sometime. We’ll always be here,” he cries, hugging me.
Taking one last look at the pub, I admire its unusual beauty. I kick litter with my feet, sending cans of cola rolling down the road as Keith stumbles out of the pub behind me.
“Good luck, Mari—,” he splutters, vomiting on the ground.
Courtenay S. Gray is a writer from the North of England. She has been featured in publications such as Maudlin House, Daily Drunk Mag and Red Fez. Nominations: Pushcart Prize (2020) / Runner up for the 2021 Literary Lancashire Award in Poetry. STRAWBERRY/Alien Buddha Press. Twitter: @courtenaywrites / Blog: www.courtenayscorner.com