Suck It And See

Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “hiding something”…

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It was just after opening time, so Joe was the first customer when he walked in to the pub.

Just by looking at him the barman could tell three things: 1) that Joe intended getting very drunk; 2) that he had a sad story to tell; and 3) that the barman was who he was going to tell it to.

The barman sighed. Spurs against Arsenal was the early game on Sky Sports, and he had been hoping to watch it.

“What’ll it be, Joe?” he asked.

“Whiskey,” said Joe, “and keep ’em coming.”

“This isn’t the Wild West, Joe,” said the barman.

“Sorry,” said Joe. “I’ll have a pint of Guinness.”

The barman put the drink on the counter. Joe started gloomily into its black depths, then took a long gulp.

The barman didn’t want to ask, but it’s part of the job. “Everything all right, Joe?” he asked.

Joe shook his head. “I proposed to Paula last night,” he said.

“Ah,” said the barman, who himself had been married for many years. “You’re tying the knot. I can see why you’re depressed.”

Joe looked at him as if he was mad. “She said no,” he said. “And broke up with me.”

In the background somebody scored. Joe, who apparently wasn’t going to for some time to come, finished the rest of his pint in one deep swallow, and nodded for another.

“Why did she say no?” asked the barman. “You two were mad about each other.”

“It was about the ring,” said Joe. “I was at dinner with her in her parents’ house, and I hid the ring in her soup.”

What is wrong with people these days, thought the barman. In his time men proposed by going down on one knee and proffering a box, opened towards the proposee. Or, if they were really sensible, they just proposed verbally , then went with the fiancee to the Happy Ring House on O’Connell Street so that she could pick her own ring. Nowadays proposing seemed to involve the bride-to-be finding the ring after some sort of quest, as if she was a Hobbit.

“Let me guess,” said the barman. “She took a spoonful of soup and drank the ring.”

Joe looked startled. “How did you know?” he said.

The barman looked even more startled. “I was just joking,” he said. “ You mean she really didn’t notice the ring on her spoon? It must have been a very small ring.”

“She thought it was a crouton,” Joe said defensively. “Anyway, the ring got caught in her throat, and I had to do the Heimlich manoeuvre on her. That’s when her mother walked in.”

“Awkward,” said the barman. “What happened to the ring?”

“Well, it shot out, but we didn’t see where it had gone,” said Joe. “We were too busy explaining what we’d been up to.”

“Did you find it?” asked the barman.

“Eventually,” said Joe. “When her mother drank her own soup.”

“And you had to Heimlich her, and the father walked in,” guessed the barman.

“Of course not,” said Joe. “What do you think this is, a Carry On film? No, she swallowed it. I always said she had a big mouth.”

“How did you find that she’d swallowed it?” asked the barman.

“When she complained that there’d only been one crouton in her soup,” said Joe.

“What happened next?”

“Well, we let nature take its course,” said Joe. “Helped by some Senokot and a bowl of prunes.”

“Please tell me,” said the barman, “that you didn’t then offer it to Paula.”

“Of course I did,” said Joe. “It cost me two thousand euro.”

“No wonder she said no,” said the barman.

Joe emptied the rest of his pint, and nodded again for another. “That wasn’t really the problem,” he said. “It was what I said when I offered it to her. She said being proposed to was one of the most magical moments of a girl’s life, and I had ruined it by being flippant.”

On the TV someone scored again, but the barman didn’t care. “What on earth did you say?”

“I said she should treasure the ring,” said Joe, “because it had been passed down to her through her family.”

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