It started to rain, so I dripped into The Eight Kings. The usual liquid-lunchers, afternoon boozers, the work-shy, the free. The knock-off merchants, too, and the old. The two-for-one crowd with the pushy pushchair. I could hear Snoyle laughing it up with the bookie boys behind me. They were playing a game of cards. Far too often one of them would shout the word slap. Hester was on the business side of the bar, leafing something called China On A Shoestring. I curved my back on a jump stool quite near her, bottle of Old Man Grinner, and reflected on the people in the mirror. After awhile, Snoyle got up from where he was creased, came over and made a big deal of standing at the far end of the bar. He glanced my way, banged the empty on the jump, called another.
Leave the lid on.
Hester brought a bottle, brought a glass.
He said she could keep the glass, but she put it down anyway. It don’t make much difference she said and turned and returned to the book she was reading. He reached down and unclipped an easter island head bottle opener from his belt. He kept a lot of shit clipped to that belt. Prepared, he said. Be prepared, and this made him laugh so much that Hester made a little noise at the back of her throat. When it all comes down, he said, letting the lid leave the ellipsis on the jump. You gotta be ready.
Whatever you say to this kind of crap will only ever come over as invitation for low chat, and I’m none too sure where it’s directed, so I just keep my head down. He takes a few deep swipes at the bottle, shivers, shrugs his shoulders and, showboat pirate that he is, starts to study himself in the mirror. He rubs his stubble and his chin within it. He pulls the sweatband from his head and shakes out his dreads. Looks pretty pleased with what he sees.
Snoyle puts it out these days that his name is Wax. Wax is the name by which he should be addressed. Although I remember when he used to introduce himself – in kitchens at parties, to street strangers and women he was trying to pull at the bar – as The Wax. He’d supplement this with a wink and say something like, yeah, I like to burn the candle at both ends. I’d heard some heavy types, some bikers perhaps, had enquired, on hearing this, if he meant that he took it up the arse. So he quietly let the definitive slide and these days he just puts it out that he’s Wax. But to me he’ll always be Snoyle.