Almost a Regular

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?