An Inebriated Elias

SHORT, SHORT; STORY: An Inebriated Elias

An Inebriated Elias

For the last twenty-four hours, the sun has adamantly remained invisible. It did not deign to show itself up for a second thoroughly clothed in clouds.

The rain has rained.

The snow has snowed.

The sun has hidden.

Shrove Tuesday 2019 is ticking away. Fredrick Franck stands behind the semi-circular bar counter surveying the passage of midnight and the spare presence of passers-by on the street. He can see the night and the street through the see-through glass wall of the Sailor’s Tavern. ‘There is no bad weather, there are only bad clothes, and only a diddly mind,’ Fredrick infers. An inference he gains out of a trip to a tropical country.

Most of the customers have left except for few of them. Frederick knows they will soon slip away without rancour but sipping the last drops of liquor or suck away any smear of edibles lingering on their fingers or around lips. But he is slightly concerned about a customer who sits at a table with his head on the table covered with both of his hands. What to do with him, thinks Frederick, should I call the police or the ambulance? He decides to wait for half hour: half hour before the pub is shut at 01:00 hours.

Hunger in the belly, numbness in the mind, and the thirst on the tongue wakes up the inebriated customer. He gathers himself with effort yet swaying and moves to the bar counter. “One more beer, please,” Elias Gunnarsson-Smith asks with a slur in his speech and sleep in his eyes.

Fredrick Franck scrutinizes him with a look of sympathy, and he says, gently, “Sorry, you can’t ’ve one more.”

“What’s your proble…m?”

Fredrick eases the muscles on his face to a reluctant smile, and sneezes, and utters, “Our problem is we don’t have problems here. The only problem we have here is your problem.”

“What my proble…m?”

“You’re drunk,” Fredrick’s says. His sympathy for the customer translates into action. He places a glass of water in front of Elias. He senses the drunken sod would be hungry. He turns his back and thinks what peanuts to serve for free: roasted and salted, or, salted and unroasted, or, coated and crispy but soggy and smelly peanuts. Into a small jar he pours a small measure of the smelly and soggy nuts from the big jar and he places it before the drunken sod. “Eat something, on the house.”

“I want to drink,” Elias insists splaying his hands on the bar counter. His head is drooping but with great difficulty he lifts it up and brings it to the level of Fredrick’s head.

“Sorry, you can’t drink anymore,” Fredrick kindly reiterates.

“I’ll pay.”

“I know you can pay but you cannot buy any drink tonight,” Fredrick says. Because it is a Tuesday, there is no guard outside otherwise he would have asked the guard to kick him out. He suggests to Elias, “Go home.”

“Lost phone,” Elias remembers. Fredrick knew he came with a group of boys and girls but he lagged behind them and they moved on to another for they wanted to be all over Gothenburg to celebrate one of their friend’s birthday.

“Do you know a number, a number you remember? I can call for you,” Fredrick says.

Elias struggles to recollect a number.

The digital age has blessed human beings not to remember elementary information of life.

“You should be in the company of people who will also look after you,” Fredrick remarks as Elias struggles to recollect a number.

After ninety seconds, Elias utters a ten digit number, apparently his brother’s. When they had their first mobile phones, they played a game: who will remember whose number and how fast. He shares the number to Fredrick.

From the Sailor’s Tavern’s landline, Fredrick dials to that number. The calls goes to pre-recorded message: Sorry, I cannot take your call right now, please leave a message and I will get back to as soon as I can. Please record your message after the beep and press the hash key. He looks at Elias, and conveys the message with his looks: no answer.

With fifteen minutes to go past the first hour of the day, a gang rushes into the Sailor’s Tavern with lusty laughter, and surrounds Elias. The birthday boy in the group wraps his shoulders around Elias and thrusts into his mouth a burger.

Fredrick scans the spectacle and tells himself: you proved wrong to yourself.

—Luncinda Palme