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Notes of a Professional Voyeur VII - Fiction Serial by Benny Profane

Read Part One Here


Tonight the bar is unusually quiet. Apart from myself there are only a couple of regulars who are sitting at a table in the corner of the room. Their sense of disappointment at the lack of people in the bar is obvious. They check their watches and sigh while puffing out their cheeks. Every now and then one of them will awkwardly shift their position in their seat.

These men have a curious type of companionship. They know each other from having met in the pub and they never see each other outside of their regular but unplanned meetings here.

Their first encounter was no doubt unremarkable.

I imagine it consisted of nothing more than a sly glance in the other’s direction and a quick ocular scan for the sake of first impressions. The newcomer in this instance would have had to transmit an air of shyness and servility in order to win the respect of the established regulars.

Gradually, silent nods of recognition turned into enthusiastic Hellos. Eventually, one of them swallowed their pride and invited the other over for a chat. And the rest, as they say, is misery.

I wonder do they ever resent the obligations of social niceness that they have now condemned themselves to. Are there times when they stare longingly at other potential drinking partners and daydream about the lively exchanges that they could share? Do they regret their hastiness in rushing too quickly into a friendship that immediately turns limp and cumbersome on the nights when they are not spurred on by the simmering atmosphere of jocularity that usually percolates around the pub? Or is the loneliness of solitude greater than the discomfort of token gestures?

I for one love these quiet nights. Nights when the hiss of the flowing beer is more audible than the chatter of my fellow customers or the inane ramblings of the people on the television. Nights when I can sit in comfort knowing fine well that there is no chance of being conversationally engaged by a random member of the drinking public.

I take my drink, read my paper and enjoy the atmosphere of frozen emptiness that hangs about the place.

Unfortunately, the pressure on my bladder has increased to an uncomfortable degree and I am forced to interrupt my tranquil state.

The consistently agreeable condition of the pub’s toilets is one of the main reasons for my continued patronage of said establishment. The pissoir in question is only a few cracked tiles and mysterious wall stains away from being granted the generous adjective of “plush”.

When I return to the bar I notice that a new figure has materialised in the corner of the room. The regulars have left and have been replaced by a striking woman of manic features and eccentric dress.

She is sitting hunched and seemingly on-edge with her elbows resting on the table; slowly tapping her spindly fingers under her protruding chin.

Her grey eyes beam out of her head and her stringy unkempt hair falls down to well below her shoulders. Her head is tilted upwards towards the ceiling and her lips are making barely perceptible movements—as if reciting a quietly murmured prayer.

Her attire is equally curious. She is wearing a heavy, woollen, body length cardigan that ties around the waist in the manner of a bathrobe. It looks handmade and is covered in a harlequin pattern with a number of different sections that feature elaborate designs decorated in a gaudy mixture of colours and symbols.

In one section there is a giant squid with one of its tentacles curled around a distressed female character.

In another there is a man reclined in a large armchair reading a book while engulfed in a violent explosion of red and orange flames.

The last picture that I can make out is positioned over her heart and looks like the woman’s male equivalent, wearing a similarly patterned garment with a cocky moustache and a piercing expression.

Most disconcerting of all are the numerous small and large pockets that are randomly located all over the exterior of the robe. God only knows what these pockets conceal.

While staring at this miracle I became slowly aware that we were completely alone.

Even the figures in the television had left us. The set was now transmitting a low hiss of crackling static while its screen framed a frenetic flurry of black and white dots.

It had become suddenly dark outside and the house lights had slightly dimmed.

The gulps I take from my pint seem to hit me with an uncommon potency and the creamy bitter flavours linger on my palate long after the drink has been swallowed.

There is not a sound to be heard in the bar save the sferical symphony coming from the telly and the faint supplications emanating from the stranger’s rapidly moving lips.



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