Beyond His Capacity

by Pat Murgatroyd

An ordinary Monday, just a bit damp, and Howard in
without the wherewithal for a pint. Nursing an orange squash.
Nothing for it but to put one in for him. His hands stop shaking,
his spirits lift and he borrows a tenner; pays it back Friday.
The next Monday it was twenty quid with a promise for Friday.
Like a date, sort of, but he didn’t come in. Indisposed
apparently. Three Fridays in a row he didn’t show.
Someone said they’d seen him in A & E: Fred swore
he’d spotted him in the Social Club. Tradition round here
the slate’s wiped clean at Christmas but he’d splashed out
on Lottery tickets; put one in the card he left behind the bar for me.
He had the nerve to turn up on Boxing Day with a knocked down
Poinsettia (the worse for wear) from Asda. I was pulling
a pint of Old Faithful for Fred and refused to meet his eye.