Jack stared at the grubby door. Weather-beaten, graffitied, scratched, dinted, it was a wonder it was still standing. Something in its withered condition seemed to reflect the reluctance hanging within him. Something in its familiar, disappointing countenance reminded him of who was seated on the other side. He eased it open and stepped in.

           If the front door looked run-down, the inside of the pub was no better. Somehow, despite the fact smoking in public had been banned for ten years, it still stunk of cigarettes, as if the place hadn’t been cleaned once in that time. The floor was sticky with alcohol, sloshed over the sides of full pint glasses in drunken stupor, and the tables were the same. That lingering stink of cigarettes, combined with the ageing bitter on the floor and the rancid sweat of unwashed shirts forced a repulsed frown to twist itself onto Jack’s face. He noted his Uncle sat in a back corner near the television and gave him a subtle wave before heading to the bar. He almost made the mistake of leaning on the adhesive surface but managed to stop himself in time.

‘Pint o’ lager please, Sue.’

‘Coming up.’

Jack smiled awkwardly and looked at his feet. Lifting a glass from beneath the bar, Sue began pouring his pint and commenced with the obligatory chit-chat.

           ‘Back again, hey? It’s nice to see you.’

           ‘What can I say? Seems it’s become our tradition. Pint to see in the New Year.’

She smiled absently. He payed her and, taking a large gulp as he went, headed towards his Uncle’s table.


           ‘A’right Uncle Ted? How’s it going?’

           ‘Aye not bad, Jacky boy, not bad.’

They’d started this tradition four years ago when Jack was back in Leeds for his father’s funeral. Having relocated to Edinburgh for work, it was rare for him to be back in his hometown where Ted still lived. But with the funeral taking place in the week after Christmas, he had decided to stay down and roll in the New Year with his Uncle in the local. Ever since, he had commenced on this annual pilgrimage back home to recall old places and faces, spending the countdown to New Year in the same way.

           ‘So how’ve you been keeping?’ Jack interrupted the drone of the television. He lifted his glass to his mouth and took a sip. Over the brim, they made eye contact for the first time since he’d sat down.

           ‘Aye not bad. Getting on, y’know.’

           ‘Yeh, I know.’

Jack and Ted were the type of family members who would never have associated with each other if it wasn’t for their mutual relations. It would be best summarised by saying they both loved Frank, Jack’s father and Ted’s brother, dearly. They loved him differently and they loved different parts of him, but that they loved him there could be no question. In truth, it was the only reason for continuing this annual tradition, because their feelings about each other were largely indifferent. It was painful, but it’s what Frank would’ve wanted.

           ‘What’ve you been up to?’ For two people who saw each other once a year, they always found they had little to say.

           ‘Oh, y’know.’


‘I’ve got everythin’ I need on the one road. Pub, off-license, post office, betting shop.’ He always seemed to trail off as he listed the various establishments dotted along the street, as if realising how narrow and contained his life had become. ‘How’s work?’

‘Oh, y’know.’ Perhaps they were more similar than Jack liked to think. ‘I did get to go to Belgium earlier in the year.’

 ‘Belgium, huh? My old man – your great grandfather – died fighting in the war they roped us into. Did you know that? As far as I’m concerned we’re better off by ourselves.’

‘Maybe. Bad for business.’


With that, both men turned to their drinks and emptied their glasses.


           ‘I’ve started seeing someone.’

           ‘Oh aye?’

           ‘Yeh. I bumped into him in a coffee shop a couple o’ months ago.’


Jack had a feeling this might prove a difficult topic. He had considered not mentioning it but then thought, Why not? It’s 2019 – soon to be 2020! If someone’s stuck in the 1950s, that doesn’t mean everyone has to be. He was proud of his new partner, happy with him, and if you couldn’t share that with family then what hope was there?

‘I tell you, out o’ the goodness o’ my own heart, if your father knew you’d turn into a puff he’d have disowned you.’ Jack took a deep breath. Had a swig of his third pint. ‘I’m not being a dickhead. I’m just telling you how it is.’

‘No.’ Jack chuckled and let out a wry smile. ‘No, you’re wrong. You are being dickhead, whether you think you are or not.’

‘Now, now. Let’s –’

           ‘Let’s nothing. I’m sick of this. Of you. Why can’t you just be happy for me? I’d rather you say nothing than preach this rubbish each year. Don’t you think Dad would just be happy that I found someone? Huh? Yeah. He would. Because he’s not a homophobic wanker!’

           ‘Jack. Come on now, sit down. Please.’

           ‘You know what? It’s the same every year with you. Always nitpicking at every little thing I do.’ He pointed down at his Uncle in fury, tears welling up in his eyes. ‘Dad only stayed with you because you drove everyone else away. He was the only one that cared and it’s the only reason I make these sad little trips each year. But no. Fuck this. I’m not doing it anymore.’ He stormed towards the front door.

           ‘Don’t. Jack, I’m sorry.’ Ted lifted his arm feebly after his nephew. ‘Don’t go.’

The door slammed. The pub was silent. Only the excitable whine of the television dared make a sound.


Back at the Bed & Breakfast, Jack slipped out of his clothes and stared blankly at his reflection in the mirror. His stubble had been allowed to grow over the holiday season, and red splodges had emerged on his face due to the unfamiliar irritation. His eyes were red and bloodshot, still wet and swollen with tears. He leaned his hands on the rim of the sink and dropped his head to the floor. Jack felt the strain on his eyes and the impending migraine dissipate as he closed his eyelids and splashed cold water over his face. Barely bothering to reopen his eyes, he trudged over to the shower and turned on the water. A tired, pathetic stream dripped from the showerhead, and he knew he’d have to spend an age in there to properly clean himself. But he had nowhere better to be.

           Standing beneath the gentle flow of water, Jack closed his eyes once more and sighed, before giving in to a familiar outpouring of tears, which relieved some of the pent up anger, anxiety and irritation. Choked sobs scrunched his face into a bunch of haggard folds as the water streaming from his eyes mixed with the heavy drops of shower water. After a moment, his body seemed to completely give way and he collapsed to the floor of the cubicle. Still with eyes closed, he sunk his head between his knees and forgot about everything, stuck in the gulf between awake and asleep. So this was how he’d bring in the New Year. And it was still less painful than putting on a show in that dingy, run-down pub.


After Jack had left, the hush which had swept the pub gradually petered out and the general murmur of drunken stragglers rose once more. Ted stayed sat where he was. He sipped his drink with a shaky hand and slopped some down his best shirt, an expensive, thinly striped blue and white polo shirt Frank had bought for him a few years before he’d died. At this, a small, salty tear slipped down his cheek and he cursed himself for being so weak. Sue came over with a fresh pint, a bag of salted peanuts and a napkin.

           ‘You okay, Teddy?’

           ‘Aye, love. Aye. All be water under the bridge by the morning.’ He tried to force a smile, but his lip wobbled and he gave up.

           ‘I’m sure, darling, don’t worry.’ Sue said, rubbing his back.

She wiped down the table and took the empty pint glasses back to the bar. On the television, the news presenter was stood beneath Big Ben. Eager, drunken members of the public dived into the shot, desperate for a moment of TV fame before the year was out.

           But tucked away into the corner of the pub, Ted’s mind strayed from the jubilant optimism being broadcast across the country. He remembered Frank, and he thought of Jack. Wondered what he was up to. Wondered whether to be frustrated with him for his choleric impatience or sorry and regretful of what he had said. He settled on neither and continued to sit, numb and alone, staring blankly at the tacky walls and peeling wallpaper. The minutes ticked by, the television warbled on. Taking periodic sips of his pint but failing to taste any of it, his eyes strayed back to the screen and a different presenter was now holding the microphone in front of the Tower of London. He reminded Ted of Jack. Tears once more spilled down his cheeks and the salt on his lips felt like the only thing he had ever tasted. The screen switched to a bright, flashing billboard, rousing the voices of the stragglers in the pub who counted in unison. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Ted clenched his eyes shut, wanting to escape it all and stop the self-pitying flow of tears. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.


Happy New Year.

January 02, 2020 17:48

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Millie Holden
16:02 Jan 11, 2020

Great use of dialect to show that such a contemporary issue exists in all areas - sensitively written and helps us see the viewpoints between generations.


Samuel Cardy
10:46 Jan 12, 2020

Thank you!! The generational divide is one of the key issues when it comes to talking about topics such as sexuality, and through understanding each other we can hope to reach a better place :)


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
19:10 Jan 09, 2020

Great story that shows the emotions behind the LGBT community, and how deeply and profoundly rejection--even of people you don't quite know or like--can affect someone.


Samuel Cardy
10:45 Jan 12, 2020

Thank you! It’s a painful reality for many people to receive rejection from their family, and I really wanted to highlight that.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Haaken Bailey
05:48 Jan 09, 2020

The story seems pretty good. I like how the story builds up to the finale and appreciate the story you chose to write. 10/10!


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.