So much to catch up on
The pungent smell of freshly poured pints soaked the air of the quirky subterranean pub. It was just after 5pm on a Thursday and officially acceptable to get on the piss. Groups of young bantering colleagues stumbled in like it was the start of a big Saturday night. London’s busy traffic hummed above the dark ceiling, slightly shaking the drop-down brass lights which desperately needed a dusting. ACDC tunes played from an old school jukebox stationed over by the one street level window. Arthur, or more professionally known by his surname ‘Hutton’, took off his coat as the heavy door shut behind him. His dark hair slicked back glistened from the rainy commute to this peculiar part of town. Arthur was a well-presented man, wearing a three-piece suit impeccably tailored to fit his slender frame and an expensive watch to finish. After lightly shaking off excess water droplets and removing his hat he made his way over to the bold mahogany bar.
“A pint of Guinness, thanks” he ordered with the cheery bartender. Quickly realising the bar table was noticeably sticky, he chose to not to take the relaxed lean-on-the-bar look and opted to sit in a bar stool further down. As his refreshment was being poured, Arthur looked around the room and observed the patrons who appeared to be much younger and in a more relaxed fashion than he was, so he assumed none of them were lawyers. This wouldn’t be his first choice for a drink, probably not his 2nd or 3rd either. But never mind his watering hole preferences, that was not quite the reason he was here.
As the bartender approached him with the beer, Arthur immediately sat up even straighter giving off a more than necessary empowered and formal look.
“Not the place I would have expected a business meeting to take place.” Quipped the bartender when sliding the pint over. He was wearing a grey shirt with a bright print of some band on the front but was mostly covered with a dirty and worn out apron. He was a younger fellow, probably mid-twenties; likely flatting in a cramped apartment he could barely afford, so bartending for extra cash like every other millennial who thinks they can make it London, judged Arthur. He did not like this part of town where all the young artsy culture was.
“Ah I’m not here for business” responded the smart businessman with an awkward smile.
You certainly look like it with a back so straight you must have a rod up your backside. Big city suckers. Mused Pete, the bartender – who hadn’t bothered to introduce himself. He has never liked the self-righteous Londoner’s who raced through town with black briefcases, always on an “urgent” phone call with an “important meeting” to get to. The man across from him at the bar fit that description perfectly, thus Pete instantly despised him. His dad turned into one of those when he was younger and eventually left for a business trip to never return home.
“So what brings a gentleman like you to the slums of the city?” inquired Pete.
“I’m sort of looking for someone.” Said Arthur trying not to sound creepy or intense.
With a hand towel resting over his shoulder and polishing a glass with another one, Pete said “Well, you could let me know who it is. I might know them.”
“I doubt we’re from the same circle.” Snarked Arthur.
“Probably not. But I do see all types of folks come through here, including the stiff asses like yourself.” grinned Pete.
Trying not to look as annoyed as he really was, Arthur simply said “I’m good, thanks.”
Shrugging it off as he already knew offering his help would annoy a man like this customer, the bartender just flipped his shaggy hair off his face and continued polishing glasses.
Who does this hipster think he is? Why are people always so God dammed nosey? Thought Arthur in irritation. You’d think someone who works in hospitality would show a little more professionalism and poise. But he then reminded himself that this part of town is different than he’s used to. He sat in silence for a while, sipping down the cold beer.
The bar grew fuller and the music grew louder, he’s like an irritating flee, Arthur thought as the bartender approached him again.
“How’s the search going?” quipped Pete, “Are they in the bottom of your glass or are you waiting for them to come find you?”
“Are you always this annoying to customers?” Bluntly asked Arthur, who was growing sick of the taunting from this know-it-all.
“Only to the ones that don’t belong here.” Pete smirked.
“I didn’t think that would be up to the part time bartenders to decide.” Arthur said cynically.
“It isn’t.” he replied unbothered, clearing Arthur’s empty glass; “Another?”
“I thought I didn’t belong here?”
“You don’t. But I’ll happily take your money anyway.” Pete said with a cheeky smile.
“You’re a right smartass, you know that?” For a moment, Arthur thought he kind of liked this guy’s quick jests. It reminded him of being a smartass himself when he was younger.
“Yes actually, I do know. But thank you, Mr...?” Paused Pete waiting for a response as he served the second glass. “Or should I say…let me guess, Doctor…?”
“Attorney.” Confessed Arthur..
“Lawyer! Of course!” He let out an amused sigh. “So what brings a hot shot lawyer into my bar on a Thursday? Don’t you have people to sue and money to steal from us middle class folks?”
“I will be suing you soon if you don’t leave me alone.”
Pete's hands shot up to his shoulders, “Woah, woah! Mr I-am-a-lawyer-you-should-be-intimidated.” he mocked as he took a few slow steps away. “It’s just part of our hospitality here.”
“Well, I’m sure your manager wouldn’t appreciate you harassing their customers.”
“I am sure he wouldn’t mind and if he did have a problem, then I’d just have to fire him!” Pete laughed.
Arthur then clicked that his nerves had made him miss the owners’ comments earlier. Though not particularly intimated by this new revelation of his foe’s title, he did feel somewhat embarrassed and disappointed in himself for being a bit rude.
Now curious, Arthur couldn’t help but ask “Aren’t you a bit young to own a bar?”
“Well, that depends if you consider twenty-five too young”. He said with a raised eyebrow then continued, “I think I’m doing a great job and my staff seem to be happy and well, you’re still here enjoying my beer. So, what’s the issue?” he shrugged.
“No issue at all.” Now feeling a bit regretful from the harsh judgments first made when meeting this person, Arthur was secretly impressed with this cheeky owner who had a fully functioning bar with lots of patrons and flowing beers. Though this venue was not Arthur’s particular cup of tea, he could appreciate this young man’s ambition and confidence.
“The person I’m seeking out…” briefly pausing, “ I was told he’s seen in this area often. Maybe he’s come in here before?”
“Probably has. What does he look like?”
“That’s the issue. I don’t actually know.” Shared Arthur solemnly as he looked down into his glass and pushed down the ping of guilt, he had suppressed for so many years.
“Right.” Enthusiasm unwavered and a smile stretched across his unshaven face. “Easier question then. Do you know his name? Because I’ll be dammed if we’re looking for someone we don’t know what they look like or what name they go by!” Joked Pete shaking his head playfully at the predicament his patron is in.
“His name is Peter Hutton. I’m his father.”
For the first time in their interaction, the bartender turned owner froze. Mind blank with this information that couldn’t possibly be true. He imagined how this would go thousands of times as a kid and many more times as a teenager but never once did he think he would just show up at his own bar. He’d grown so used to his father being a permanently absent person from his life and now out of absolutely nowhere, he was less than five feet away from him!
Watching the young entrepreneur frozen and looking baffled, unable to break eye contact, Arthur felt and saw everything he needed to see. He was looking at his son. How much his boy had grown from when he last saw him! His hair was longer and darker, and the right arm had a tattoo over a nasty scar he got from falling off a horse when he was eight. Just like a movie, all of their fondest memories flooded over Arthur’s eyes which led quickly to the ending credits when he saw his son for the last time 15 years ago. Arthur would never forgive himself for not fighting harder to come back home, he should never have left for that work trip.
“Dad?” Was all that Pete could manage. His lips were trembling and eyes staring to water but his body had started to come back to life.
“Peter, my boy.” Pausing to control the lump in his throat climbing its way up to the surface. “I am so sorry son. I am so sorry.”
Despite all the hurt he had felt over the years, his dad was here in the flesh and Pete couldn’t be happier that it was real. It was genuine. Peter Hutton raced around the bar to his father, and they embraced each other so tight they nearly passed out. Both shedding tears and soaking up this unexpected reunion, they were completely unaware of the celebrations from the crowd who’d observed the dramatic greeting. They began to laugh at the pure relief of being with one another again.
Grabbing his son’s shoulder and moving him opposite, looking into his eyes, “Son, we have so much to catch up on!” He grinned and hugged his son again, this time he was not letting go.