MICK Molloy slammed his fist on the table, letting out a hefty string of expletives. He took a slug of his tea and looked around sheepishly.
He needn’t have bothered. The first two punters of the day were deep in conversation with each other, and the third - poor old Pat - was as deaf as a doorknob.
These crosswords had him driven mad. There was a time when he’d have finished one in under an hour. Not any more. They were getting trickier by the day, or maybe it was just that he was getting older.
Glimpsing the red face looking back at him from the mirror above the fireplace, he thought of Dr Murphy, and of his recent warning to him about his blood pressure and the need to slow down.
Mick had decided, after leaving the surgery, that he would take the prescribed tablets. That was, however, the only concession he was willing to make.
Many’s the calm person was planted above on the hill, never put a foot wrong all their lives, and then whipped away suddenly without any warning. No, he’d continue to live life as he knew it. He’d prefer to go out with a bang, than to sit around and rust.
It wasn’t like he was doing anything too debaucherous anyway. A couple of pints at night and a few games of poker during the week, hardly constituted the need to ‘slow down’.
Mick loved this time on a Sunday. Sitting beside the blazing fire with a pot of tea and a rasher sandwich. The calm before the rush. Things would get busy after mass when families and regulars would descend on the pub for the roast of the day and a pint or two.
“Same again there when you’re ready, Mick.”
Pat was Molloy’s oldest customer. When Mick was a young teenager just starting out in the bar, he remembered serving Pat the first pint of stout he ever pulled. His father - Mick Senior, God rest him - had taught him all about the perfect pint, a standard he had managed to uphold since the pub was officially handed over to him almost 20 years ago now, on the eve of his 30th birthday.
People travelled from far and wide to sample the black stuff in Molloys. Mick maintained that there was no special knack to it, or ‘twist of the wrist’, it was far simpler than that. Clean lines and proper glasses led to good quality drink.
To serve anything other than beer or stout in a pint glass, was sacrilege in his pub. Observing that, along with the perfect settling time, saw to it that Molloy’s long-standing reputation for serving ‘the best pint of black in the south’, survived.
“Sad news this morning, Mick.”
“What’s that Pat, I haven’t heard.”
Mick took the coins off the counter, the exact amount, down to the cent.
“Poor Hannah O’Connor - dead, took a bad fall last night.”
“Hannah? Drapers Hannah?”
“There was an ambulance outside the shop just after evening mass. Word has it that she was already dead when they arrived.”
“Ah Pat, you’ve gotten that wrong I’d say. Jesus Christ, Hannah O’Connor? Are you sure?”
“Wasn’t Father Cleary seen rushing over to the house, probably to give her the last rites.”
Pat returned to his corner, leaving Mick standing behind the bar in a complete state of shock. He had no mind for his breakfast now. He grabbed a glass, and, hands shaking, poured himself a generous glass of whiskey, which he knocked back in one.
Dear God, Hannah O’Connor, dead?