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3. Cork Life

August 3rd, 2020

Jack Links

The night Jack Links gave the bouncer outside Melko's a slightly, and let me make that as clear as I possibly can, in that what was given from one man to the other was brief and indirect enough that under the regular scrutiny of even a self-proclaimed watchful soul not an eye-lid would have be batted. The glance, in and of itself, was meant to convey no such aggravative emotion as could be considered an attempt to escalate the situation from earlier which, by a number of unusual twists had incrementally flared into the writhing sort of under-the-skin voracity that can be ticked off and kicked off by what might not even, under normal conditions be considered as so much as a look in the general direction of the mountainous man who guarded the sacred, dripping, crack-hole that a one SeƱor Melko or his associate had rebranded, in recent months, out from under the banner of The Coal Den, which, by all accounts, was an ill-considered and frankly derogatory title, aimed to invoke a sense of cosy, fire-side ambience, when in reality the only frequenters of the establishment that corned Greater Swift Street by Tackle Lane, of fish fame, came for and festered in the kept-dark corners, sultry, sexy, emaciated, reeking of solitude. Large, understatement as it may be, was the descriptor that had set off the tick off earlier, hours or seemingly longer ago, full to the brim as we were by that stage of glistening froth, Jack Links, real name Jack Latimer, made famous for his abilities in the great green topless cage on Parsons Road, dodge left, easily slipped past the last defender, lobbed cross, squared at the top of the box, Jack Links, the grand master connecter of the local leagues trophy winners, Jack Links, hours ago, on entry, with a sauntering swagger strolled past the cumulous giganticus without so much of a hint of an eyebrow raised to the beefy entrance totem. Casual as clockwork the great sauce machine revolves, from table to smokes to table to another please barkeep to table to slash and begin again. Several times we go through the regulars, fairly inconsiderate of any others besides our cohort of boots studs down under the table, sweat staled on brow and litres of brown mingling cheery cheery with the Luco already swilling, swigged in the cage. The conversation, which is a grandiose term for that level of semi-conscious natter and rolling about, flows with a chaotic stream from story to story, bouncing around from the afternoon's success to that one boy from school and the one thing they did which will never be forgotten. Note, if you like, that one boy's absence here, and at their mum's dinner table for several days in March a few years back, exams untaken, but never mind, great story, everyone laugh of course because actually that one boy's been so largely forgotten that when someone says a name another looks confused because wasn't it, no never mind the point is the one thing they did and that will never be forgotten for as long as they live and then some. Links is in the thick of it, I had been too, but he has wit, and charm, and he's better at football than me, and most of us except Martin and he's dull as fuck, so when I started to talk, Links is already laughing about the next thing. It isn't spite, doesn't really hurt because I can keep up, I don't have to be the centre of attention at all if it doesn't naturally come to me. I'm more of a, take an quick opportunity to chip in and, I know there are others in the group who are the same, boys with ideas and smart comments who think of them a second too late and, Links is laughing at something clever the funny guy said, or something stupid the dumb guy did, or something outrageous that one guy who we let get away with anything really, something he said that everyone suddenly went okay that's the line mate that's the line and he keeps pushing and we keep laughing because how the fuck do these things come into his head, fucking hell, fucking hell. Someone nudges me in the back going past the table where I'm sitting at the group or hive's outward-facing edge. It isn't the first time, mostly stragglers on the way downstairs to the powder rooms or a filth corner to pray, but this had intention so instead of a customary shuffle in I turn on my cushioned stool to give a bit of what's that about to whoever had. Fucking hell. I watch until. What the fu. Later. One goes for a smoke, another goes with him, I'm at the bar, two at the table, could be a couple of others, not sure, has Tommy left yet, he owes me a, Rick has, sorry, another please barkeep. I look up and start sweating like it's seven years previous and I'm wearing something cool and probably shitty plastic sunglasses that reflect the laser light show, drinking shit cola, because, she's looking at me but she looks away quick as anything because, thanks, pay, I take a sip at the bar. Fucking hell. Think I'm cool walking back to the table but J Linkup bumps up to me one eye twitching a little and goes you alright there champ? I look at myself, do a brief what's wrong check-in and starkly realise I'm a mug gawping across the room with the beer I had not quite sipped all over my shirt front and he follows my strongly intentioned gaze with sniper spotter efficiency and finds a girl talking to some bloke who is massive, to strike a theme. I'd go on about, sorry that reminds me I was talking about the man who, fuck. Listen, Links said something on the way out, or maybe he'd made a scene going in I don't. Listen, she's probably about to go. I think about making a last ditch effort. At least, one drink? A mate grabs my face with his whole hand and laughing pushes me out through the front hole into the night laughing laughing laughing telling me don't just shout across the bar you prick that's not how you pick up chicks mate.

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