Bitter Love a short story

Raymond stood motionless, leaning on the elbow-high bar that curved ’round the artificial tree stump in the corner of the Lord Clarence Public House. He had maintained this position for several years now, not continually, you understand, for he had other duties to perform. Going to the toilet was always a necessity given the large amounts of beer he quaffed everyday. Raymond was the landlord at the Lord Clarence, a job that had suited him down to the ground after years of working as a builder. This was nice, a good wife to keep the place up to scratch and who had given him two sons who she could look after too, a bevy of beautiful barmaids to have an occasional fumble with, regular clients to keep his pockets lined and a cellar full of ale. What more could a selfish man ask for. As the years went by selfishness gave way to an even more ‘couldn’t give a toss’ kind of attitude to life; probably brought on by the fact that his ‘elevenses’ amounted to a shot of whisky to start the ball rolling that turned into twelveses, oneses, twoses and so on. Until closing time by which time Raymond was well pissed and capable of supporting nothing but the artificial stump. On occasions customers had attempted conversation during the evening but their words were usually met with nothing more than a glazed expression as Raymond’s attention focused on absolutely nothing. In fact there were times when you couldn’t have said whether or not there was anything going on inside his head at all. So when his astral body floated out of his pickle jar of a frame nobody was any the wiser. Raymond’s spirit hovered over him, blinked and shook its head. “Shit” it thought, “What am I going to do now?” It clung onto the ceiling, bouncing, ever so carefully, like a first time floater afraid to push away from the edge of the swimming pool or one of those Astronauts you saw pushing at the side of their space capsule as they walked in space for the first time. He pushed himself away from the ceiling and floated back up to it again. More of a push was needed. He did his own version of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk, upside down and arse sticking up until his feet alone touched the ceiling and the rest of his body hung bat-like with his face inches away from Tommy Earnshaw’s toupee. Then he pushed again, sliding through Tommy’s torso and out into the middle of the Lounge where he hovered between two young lads who were planning to come back later and rob the place. “What if Raymond catches us?” One whispered. “That fat twat! What’s he going to do? He’s too pissed to know what’s going on. “What about his wife and kids?” “Listen, if what I’ve heard is true they won’t be here anyway.” Raymond gasped, “You cheeky bastards! What do you mean, fat?” Big boned maybe but how could he float with such elegance if he was obese? The reality of his situation came rushing back. Yes, he could float. The fat twat they referred to was standing over there by the tree. Then he remembered the rest of their conversation. What did they mean about his wife and kids. He pushed himself off the floor and through the ceiling to the bedroom above. His two boys were fast asleep. “Phew” He thought, “Thank God for that, they’re safely tucked up.” Then in the dark corner he spotted the suitcases. His heart sunk as did the rest of his body and he found himself stood beside his darling wife who was deep in conversation at the end of the bar. Raymond shook his head. “Not you, Bryn!” Bryn Evans had been his mate for the past twenty years, ever since he’d come up from Wales as a labourer and shared digs with Raymond, before Raymond had got married. “So what time do you reckon?” Enquired Bryn.

“Well he’s usually hard on by about 1.” Bryn smirked, “Hard on? I thought you said he couldn’t manage it anymore?”

Joanne playfully tapped Bryn’s ample chest, “I mean fast asleep, silly! You know he’s as much use as a chocolate teapot when it comes to sex, still, with you around who needs him.”

Raymond stood in silence, devastated by these revelations. He had to get away from there so he glided through the oak paneled bar into the back room where Fiona, one of his barmaids, was taking a break. Her and her best friend Kathy sat deep in conversation. Fiona was obviously upset about something. Raymond took up position at the head of the table.

“So when are you going to tell him?” Asked Kathy.

“Tonight, after we’ve closed.” Replied Fiona, sniffing back tear flavoured snot. “Does he know?” Kathy said. “No.” Fiona muttered, “What do I say? Raymond, you’re going to be a Dad!” Raymond fell through his stool onto the sticky, smelly carpet and stared up at Fiona. “Shit, can this night get any worse!”  He thought. From this angle he looked ’round at the pub and saw how grimy and disgusting it really was. Across from Fiona and Kathy sat another group of older men, all long time regulars of The Lord Clarence but none looked particularly happy. One of them glanced over his shoulder at the carcass of Raymond still staring blankly into space. “He’s really gone, look at him. I don’t know how he manages to keep this place.” Said one of the men. “Well if my sources at the brewery are correct he won’t be for much longer.” Said another. “You’ve heard the same as me then.” Chipped in the third man. The first one replied, “No one’s happy with the way he’s been running things, in fact I think it’s tomorrow he’s due to have a visit and they can shut him down,” He snapped his fingers, “just like that!” “Another drink?” said man number two.

Raymond floated up and sat cross-legged on the edge of the bar like a transparent gargoyle, head in his hands and thought long and hard about this night. His wife was having an affair with his best friend, a barmaid was carrying his kid, the brewery was going to close him down and the place was due to be burgled. He looked across at himself and knew then things had to change. He had been given a great gift to be able to see all these things and now he had the chance to make things right. He had been selfish all his life and he knew it. He had always had a knack for creating problems and letting others sort them out. Raymond took another look at himself, took a deep breath and thought, “Fuck it, why change the habits of a lifetime!” and floated through the wall into the night.

The End