The pub was quiet this late on a weeknight, which was just what he wanted. Even for Jack, it was hard to concentrate on systematic theology with a full bar full of hockey fans. He picked a small table along the windows overlooking the darkened canal and sat down, spreading his text in front of him.
Ernst, the twenty-something weeknight bartender, walked over and laid a coaster — or would he call it a beer mat? — on the table in front of Jack.
“How are you tonight, sir?” he asked with his usual blend of familiarity and deference.
“Doing pretty good.”
“Fuller’s ESB, right?”
For as long as he could remember it had been a fantasy of Jack’s to be a regular in an establishment like this, to be able to say “I’ll have my usual.” But he was not prepared for it to happen here, tonight. He had only been here two or three times over the past few months. True, he had ordered the same each time.
But this was too soon.
“Um, no, I’ll actually have a Mill Street tonight, thanks.”
“Coming right up.”
Ernst walked back to the bar. After he returned and left the tall copper-colored pint on the table, Jack stared sullenly at his book, unable to focus on the words. Had he blown it? Had that been his one chance?