I watched him stare at his pint for an hour. He barely drank a drop. He does this every day at the same time, with the same words to the girl at the bar, shuffling to the same seat. These days he keeps his overcoat on. It is cold in the pub and word is they can’t afford to light the fire. The back exit opens intermittently for smokers and we shudder as a bitter draught blows through. It’s not for the pint I come but for company: his company. He shakes his head, like dad has done for years.
On the polished table was a huge salmon; bowls of spring vegetable soup; Scotch eggs; asparagus and hams; potatoes from Majorca; goat’s cheese tartlets; prawns with caviar; pea-shoot jellies; scallops with spiced cauliflower puree; roast chickens and guinea fowl; confit duck; sherbets and ices; five kinds of trifle; a tower of profiteroles and more cheeses than he had ever seen.
* * *
He lay in his bed, visions of dishes lurching round his mind. From his toes to the hairs on his head he felt obese. The best evenings were sordid, he thought, and oh what a feast: he deserved it all.
What a sad old duck it was paddling round the pond. Was it a mallard? Ducks had names – there were all kinds. Short little things the size of a tennis ball or others with long necks, elegant, with all different colours. Oh ducks could be sleek, really dapper, dressed up for dinner like.
That made him laugh. Duck for dinner. He chewed his sandwich and swallowed hungrily. The last thing he’d eat till tomorrow. The duck was eyeing him. He looked at the small corner of bread, half squashed between his finger and thumb and threw it in the pond.