by ANDREW McAULEY
Beer and Fire by Alan Levine | Flickr
Marty O’Brien pushed through the door of his local, nodded at the barman, then tripped on an errant shoe left discarded near the door.
‘Ah, for feck’s sake...’ Marty groaned as he struggled to his feet. He dusted off his tweed trousers and cast a scowl at the barman.
‘Watch yourself there,’ the barman said in a sing-song voice as he dried a glass with a towel.
Marty cast his gaze around the bar. The pub was vacant except for the barman, unusual as at least a couple of locals tended to wait outside for the eleven o’clock opening time, and it was already quarter to twelve. The floor of the bar was littered with shoes of all kinds; trainers, smart leather shoes, hiking boots, wellingtons. All lay together in pairs as if the owners had removed them and left the premises without thinking to put them back on.
‘Whose are these shoes all over the place?’ said Marty.
‘Ah, that one you tripped on belongs to Mike Donovan.’
‘What’s Mike Donovan doing leaving shoes all over the place?’ Marty took his usual stool at the bar.
‘Oh, they’re not all his. It’s the new brew. Deadly stuff. Anyone who drinks more than a pint of it explodes into fire leaving only their shoes behind.’
‘Sporetanious what? You been picking up lingo from that Ghostbusters film? It’s this new ale... Firebrand it’s called. I keep telling people that it comes with a government health warning to not consume more than one pint of it within a 24-hour period, or you’ll burst into feckin’ flame.’
‘Jesus!’ Marty whistled. ‘Who in their right mind would drink more than one pint?’
The barman shrugged. ‘Beats me, but everyone has.’
Marty shook his head. ‘Has Patrick O’Connor been in today?’
‘Aye, he has. That’s his brogans beside his usual stool there.’ The barkeep pointed.
‘Ah, so it is.’ Marty peered over at the shoes. ‘I didn’t recognise him without his cap and pipe.’
‘So, what’ll it be?’ The barkeep said, holding an empty pint glass at the ready. ‘The usual?’
‘Or if you’re feeling adventurous you can try the firebrand.’
‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Do you think I’m an eejit? After what happened to all those fellas? I’ll stick to the usual, thanks.’
‘As you like. It’s on special though. Half price.’
‘Half price? That’s a bargain! I’ll have two pints.’
Andrew is a British author of one novel and numerous short stories of various genres including historical, horror and humour (yeah, that's humor with a 'u' because he's British). Andrew is currently working on a set of wargaming rules for the Plains Indian Wars period, and contributions to a short-story anthology. He lives in Devon, UK with his daughter who he believes is planning to murder him with sarscam.