The passageway is narrow in front of the bar and on a busy night it can be uncomfortable squeezing past. That’s why I found it strange that nobody had picked up a high stool lying across it, blocking the way. This is not normal, but neither is it normal that everybody would be staring in the same direction, saying nothing.
I picked up the stool, put it back where it should be, looked up, and only then did I notice a man in his late forties gripping a much older man by the throat. This is another thing not normal in the places I inhabit.
Such moments always have an underwater quality about them, where sounds and words and movements become blurred, and so I couldn’t hear what the younger man was saying, but I could see that the older man was in serious trouble. His attacker was wiry, hard, made of rope. A tough man who would have no difficulty doing away with this elderly person.
I’ve never been brave, and I’ve never been a fool, but as the younger man lunged at the older, I jumped between them just as the barman was vaulting the counter, and I put my hand on the younger man’s chest.
Stop. What are you doing? Don’t let yourself down.
He looked into my eyes and I was relieved see that he was no danger to me, but he tried to push me aside as he aimed a punch at the older man. You fucking paedophile!
Stop, I said again. Stop. Don’t do this. Calm yourself.
Other customers led the old man outside, and I said to his assailant, Come on. Let’s go out the back and talk.
He was calmer now and he he reached for my hand.
Out the back, he lit a roll-up and offered me one.
No thanks. I don’t smoke anymore. What’s the story?
Christian Brother, he said. In the fuckin pub smiling at me, the cunt. He paused to drag on his cigarette. Thanks for that by the way.
It’s nothing, I said. We all look out for each other. What’s his name?
Fuck, I said. He taught me when I was 10 or 11. Manipulating little bastard. He used to fuck with our heads.
I didn’t tell him that the same man was well known for molesting the children he taught, including my classmates, though Brother K didn’t do it to me because he knew my relations. He was afraid, but he did play mind-games with me, which I remember to this day.
We stood around for a few minutes chatting before going back inside. The barman didn’t want to serve Pat but I had a quiet word in his ear. Christian Brother.
Oh that’s all right, he said.
As I left by the front door, the old man was standing outside smoking a cigarette. The Brother K I remembered used to smoke cigarettes with the same name as his own.
I hadn’t enough information to confront him but I walked up to him as close as my disgust would let me and I pointed my finger at him without saying anything.
The old man looked back at me without a word, and he recoiled.
We both knew why.
Previously on Bock