Ian sat at a booth as the pub droned on with loud music from the jukebox. Not that Deklin said anything as yet, but he knew the man would fire him. That didn’t matter; the world had plenty of jobs. He’d left home in his mid teens, and wandered ever since; going from town to town, and job to job. Another few days or weeks, depending on when Deklin got round to it, he’d hitchhike somewhere he hadn’t been before, and forget all about Canberra.
He snorted at the notion, knowing he’d never forget the skeleton in the stormwater drain.
Taking another swallow from his beer, he put the glass down and looked at his reflection in the glass covered photograph of a bygone rugby league game. Compared to the miners and factory workers in the room, he looked clearly overdressed. The tie he wore earlier sat folded on the table. His white shirt had the first two buttons undone within the folds of his suit jacket. He wore this attire earlier to find somewhere to drink in solitude. It befitted the culture of the formal club. The men there wore suits too and the women had expensive jewelry. A piano constantly played in the background.
He lasted ten minutes before leaving. It reeked of hypocracy. Men and women tried to take each other home as if in any pub setting.
What made them different?
Better jobs and better homes seemed to cement in their minds that they were better people. He wondered if they actually enjoyed the mellow jazz piano playing or if that’s what cultured people listened to. It seemed to give the establishment license to charge three times as much as anywhere else for their drinks.
Ian would have tolerated that too, but then a woman literally half his age ran her fingers over his back as she took a seat beside him. She leaned forward with a smile, asking him to buy her a drink. Without saying a word, he put his glass down and walked out.
That was the final hypocracy. He looked again at his image. Women, even in his youth had always bypassed him for more attractive, refined men.
He sneered at his reflection. “I’m a wart.”
Here in this crowded pub he could find peace. Yes, the jukebox played and boisterous conversations carried on, punctuated by the smack of pool balls, but he could lose himself here.
“Excuse me,” called a female voice. “Excuse me!”
More insistent this time.
He cast his eyes aside as he brought the glass to his lips again. A woman with long raven hair tied in a ponytail, tried to make her way past a group of young men. She looked possibly early thirties, but the way she carried herself suggested she might have been older. The men she addressed looked in their prime; heavy set, like himself. He assumed they worked in the local mines. They fit the description; he’d seen many of them before. Young men who gained in strength due to heavy labour. These looked about in their late twenties, probably not yet outgrowing their sense of invincibility.