In its heyday the pub had been some place. Never the cleanest or brightest or the best of beer, but Tommy had run it well and kept the punters happy. He was fair and well liked, served a good toastie, and the place could be fair jumping. That was ten years ago when his wife was still around and before the bairns had moved to the city. Now the place had fallen into blight. Where he had once been a good natured blether he had drawn in on himself and taken the place with him. Where once the pub had a laid back charm, an old fashioned cosiness it was now cramped, cheerless and the occasional stain and torn seat had spread like a growth. The local trade had moved elsewhere and left Tommy with a few diehards nursing spent faces and empty pockets. He stood amongst them radiating not the warmth of old but instead a washed out greyness. He was past caring and neither were his regulars and the place trundled on. The occasional random would stumble in, but more than one polite pint was unlikely amongst the gloom and stoor.
Monday afternoon was the usual effort Tommy stood sipping at a pint watching Bob and Ether read the day before’s papers while rolling greasy rollups to take outside. The smoking ban was perversely obeyed even here.
‘Christ Tommy ma papers are sticking to the fucking bar can ye no gie it a wipe noo an again?’
Rasped red faced Bob.
Tommy said nothing but managed to half heartedly wipe a damp rag along the Formica skirting around the untidy newspapers.
‘Better?’ he flatly asked.
‘Aye, very nice, afae clean.’
Said Bob as he dried a patch with his sleeve. Then peeled his paper from the bar leaving an inky imprint.
‘The bars almost as sticky as yer lavvy fleer Tom.’
‘If ye dinnae like it ye ken whaur ye can go Bob.’
‘Dinnae be like that man. But when ye think how you an Sheila hid the place before.’
Added the wizened Ether.
‘Aw dinnae mention that bloody wummin in here again sup up yer pint and shut it.’
‘Bit Tommy look at this bar. God am no a clean man missel, bit its like toffee. Look at these beermats their growin intae the wud!’
Said Bob as he tore at a line of paper Tennent’s mats with dirty fingernails levering with some effort from the bar top.
‘ Leave thum!
‘I’ll clean ma ane bar if ye dinnae mind!’
Angrily pushing Bobs hands aside and tearing at the remaining mat. Red faced he dug at the edges with bitten nails to no avail.
He bawled frustration growing as the mat stayed firm.
‘Calm doon Tommy lad let me try.’
‘Piss off this is my fuckin property.’
Again he tore at the mat unable to get a purchase and his fingers slipped off hurting.
‘Whits wee this bloody thing. Did you cunts glue this on?’
‘ No Tommy. It’s been sat there since last nicht.’
‘ Look I’ll get it, uve no nails.’
And with that Bob reached over digging nicotine stained fingers on the edge of the mat.
Confusion came to his face when it refused to move even as his fingers offered to pop and his own nails tear loose. The three men stood closer to the mat.
‘Are ye sure there’s nae glue on that?’
Ether reached into his work overall pocket and fished out an oily pocket-knife.
‘Look this ill dae the job, ye daft buggers.’
And with that he attempted to drive the blade into the edge of the mat carefully at first but with some force as the blade failed to go in.’
‘Bloody Hell whit is goin on here?’
And with one final stabbing thrust managed to snap the knife at its tip, and sending it straight in to one of his fingers.
The men stood back, slack jawed. Ether sucking on a nasty slash on his finger tip.
‘This must be some kinda joke. Is some body takin the pish? Is there a hidden camera aboot here?’
Bob asked taking a hurried splootery drink from his pint.
‘Look there has got tae be a simple reason for a this?’
The three men leaned down to examine the barmat.
‘Gie me room a need light to see wits goin on we this.’
On close examination he could see nothing but a stained beermat of ordinary appearance with the Tennent’s logo and slight squiggle of blue ink on its face where someone had tried a pen. The beermat however showed no sign of having come free from the bar indeed the pen knife had not cut it or left the slightest mark. It was sealed limpet tight.
‘This is impossible. Bob go under the bar next tae the brush n pan there’s ma tool box. Get it oot wid ye?’
‘Aye nae bother Tommy. Bring oot the heavy guns eh?’
Bob quickly found the red steel box and handed it over. Tommy snapped it open and determinedly brought out a couple of rusty hammers a screwdriver and an old but sharp looking chisel.
‘This will de the job or nuthin will lads.’
Said Tommy, before rolling up his sleeves placing the chisel edge to the beermat and giving
it a hefty smack with the largest hammer.
The harder strike left the mat undinted but the chisel shattered and the vibration sent a wave of pain up Tommy’s arm making him drop both tools with a clatter.
As Tommy shook feeling back into his fingers Bob and Ether crowded into see and again the beermat was untouched.
‘Tommy this is a wrang. This is no richt. No natural I tell ye. Let’s leave it well alane ok?’
‘No lads this is a richt .’
smiled Tommy for the first time in years.
‘A hiv tae mak a wee phone call. Help yersels tae a dram both o ye.’
Being a slow news day the local papers and indeed the regional television news where keen on the story of the magic beermat and within a few days more feet had tramped through Tommy’s bar than the total for the last decade. Squeezed beside a cat that fortold the death of its neighbours and a calf born with a third eye the story was a small scale phenomenon. Tennent’s brewery were more than happy with the publicity and offered Tommy a total refit free of charge. Not only did the locals return in droves, but people were arriving from afar. Tommy cleaned his pipes dusted off the toastie maker and even took on a couple girls from the town to help behind the bar. Things were going like a dream and Tommy felt revived. Bob and Ether had enjoyed their share of the limelight and appeared on everything from the BBC to CNN. Scientists had probed and tested and pondered, but no answer was forthcoming. It was a mystery, but a lucrative one. Tommy charged thirty quid a time to move the red rope and let the punters test themselves against the beermat and everything from weightlifters, martial artists and even diamond drill bits had failed. Even when the initial interest waned the customers remained numerous and the pub was seldom other than full. Even Tommy’s children had paid him a visit and thought him his own self. All in all the beermat was the best thing that ever happened to him. He had even splashed out on a fantastic neon sigh outside that read ..
‘TOMMY’S BAR HOME OF THE BEERMAT.’
And that was dear per letter.
It was a Monday morning four months from that fateful day when Tommy stepped behind his bar having heard movement. It was before opening time and guessed it was Bob and Ether come to show some more ladies their discovery only to find his wife standing at the bar.
‘ Hello Tommy, your looking well.’
‘Sheila might have guessed. Where’s the new man?
‘Tommy he’s long gone. I just wanted to see you.’
‘Bollocks love yer efter my money again.’
‘No Tommy I want to come home to you. Look pour yourself a wee dram an we can blether. Hope you don’t mind, but I got myself a G&T. I’m thirsty efter the drive.’
Tommy absently glanced down from his wife’s eyes to see her glass resting on the beermat her brassy nail varnish and many rings bright on her hand.
‘Heres tae ye Tom.’
She said as she raised her glass to toast and the mat came clean away from the bar on the underside of her schooner glass.