Michael and Charlie had been in all afternoon again, since half twelve opening time. The pints had been flowing nicely for them and the signs of that inevitable metamorphosis into their more raucous selves soon became apparent.
“Argh! I think I’m able to lift this whole fucking bar up!” Roared Charlie, grabbing the bar edge and thrusting his head back, straining upwards, to no avail. “Look at that! Look at them!” He said, giving up the bar lifting experiment and instead dragging back his thick, holed, woollen jumper sleeves and flexing not an undersized pair of biceps. “Eh..? EH?”
“Oh aye nae bad,” said Michael, the slightly quieter of the two cousins, looking around the crowded bar with a still obvious sense of inhibition. Not quite in the same zone of inebriation as his taller, red faced cousin.
“Come on then! Come on! Hard as ye can!” Charlie was now patting his stomach before returning his arms to an outstretched position – as if he was holding an invisible coil of wool, waiting for an imagined auntie to spool it into a ball.
“No, no I’m nae startin’ that again, come on now, just drink yer pint Charlie…”
“Ye feart, like?” Sneered Charlie. “Come on! Hard as ye can!” He slapped his big belly again.
“Go on Michael, punch the bastard!” Gavin, the off-duty ambulance driver, piped up from the apparent safety of the other side of the bar, where he nursed a single malt. Various other voices rose to murmur approval of the invitation. Michael looked around, half smiled, shrugged, then lowered his pint onto the bar.
“Ye ready?” He asked, in an unenthusiastic voice, as Charlie prepared himself.
“Yer hardest!” cried Charlie, grimacing in anticipation of the impact.
Michael rolled up his right sleeve and stepped back.
“Okay then…” He stammered, trepidation all too apparent in his voice. “Em… Let’s get it ower and done with.”
Michael took a full swing, summoning up his not inconsiderable country honed strength and let fly with a powerful punch to Charlie’s stomach.
“Oocha bastard!” Charlie hissed a breath through clenched teeth. He absorbed the blow like any normal man would a five year old’s attempt at violence during a tantrum.
Charlie grabbed his pint, Michael lifted his and they laughed together as they drank, eyeing each other through their beer stained glasses.
“Right! My turn, ye hoor!” shouted Charlie, one mouthful of beer apparently leaving him suitably refreshed.
“Nah, come on, lets nae…”
“Come on now! COME ON!” said Charlie, pleading tone giving way to menacing threat.
Michael relented and lowered his pint back on the bar, assuming his own braced position. Charlie grinned, spat on his knuckles and took a mighty swing. There was a dull thud and a sickening crack as the punch landed square on Michael’s nose. The bar erupted with laughter. Michael grabbed a nearby bar towel to soak up the copious quantities of blood now running from his nose.
“Never said where I was going to hit ye, did I?” roared Charlie, laughing. He patted his cousin on the shoulder before rescuing his drink.
“Aye, ye gob be dere,” said Michael, bar towel soaking red against his nose. He quietly raised his own pint back to his lips.