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  • Writer's pictureTom Batt

The Wager

Reg was a wily old soul in his seventies. The type who scraped through life by the skin of his teeth. He’d had more jobs than hot dinners and loved to tell people about them. Since retiring he spent most of his time down at his local pub drinking the day away and reading the newspaper. Many of the other patrons were well aware of him and his exploits each having their own significant introduction to his quirkiness. The moment he arrived each day everyone would turn away and pay him no mind lest they get caught up in his hijinks again. So, he would sit solemnly at the end of the bar and quietly enjoy himself.

‘Give us another pint of lager, Sharon!’ he called out to the middle-aged barmaid struggling to restock the optics with fresh bottles.

Sharon turned to him and approached with a critical look upon her face.

‘No, I’m not serving you another drink until you’ve paid off your tab,’ she demanded, placing hands firmly on the bar surface and leaning in close.

‘How much is my tab?’ Reg said, frowning.

‘Somewhere in the region of one hundred pounds.’

‘Oh, come on, Sharon. You know I’m good for it,’ Reg pleaded with a grin through what few teeth he had left.

‘No, Reg, I don’t. I’m not adding anything more until the tab is cleared,’ Sharon reiterated before heading down to the other end of the bar to serve a customer. Reg dropped his head and sulked.

A well-to-do couple entered the pub, attracting Reg’s attention. The husband was around late thirties wearing a smart suit with shirt, but no tie. He had perfectly groomed hair and was clean shaven. His wife of similar age wore a very pretty black dress and her hair was tied up in a magnificent bun. In other words, they were certainly not local, Reg thought. The only types who come into this establishment are usually covered in shit and were beaten by an ugly stick. He watched as the wife sat down at a small table and the husband made his way toward the bar next to him. Reg looked the husband up and down as he waited for the barmaid.

‘You’re not from around here, are you?’ Reg asked.

The husband turned to him a little startled to be spoken to by a stranger, but made an effort to be polite.

‘Uh, no. We’re from London,’ he replied.

‘Ah, city folk. I thought as much.’

‘Is it that obvious?’ the husband enquired.

‘I just have an eye for types of people,’ Reg smirked.

The husband nodded with acknowledgment and then turned his attention to the barmaid only to find her still serving another customer. Reg continued to stare at him.

‘Are you a gambling man?’ Reg asked with interest.

‘I have been known to place the odd bet,’ the husband replied wondering where this was going.

‘Tell you what. I bet you I can down a pint of lager in one second.’ Reg proclaimed with confidence.

The husband looked at him incredulously.

‘That’s impossible,’ he replied.

‘Care for a little wager?’ Reg offered up hoping to tickle the man’s gambling bone.

‘What’s at stake?’

‘Well, if I win you buy me a pint.’

‘And if you lose?’

‘I will pay for your drinks for the rest of the evening.’

The husband was grinning. Was this man for real? There’s no way anyone could drink a pint of lager in one second. He was sure to lose. Still if this old codger wanted to place the bet, who was he to reject free drinks all evening, he thought.

‘Alright, you’re on,’ the husband extended a hand to shake and Reg reciprocated.

‘Great! If you wouldn’t ordering the pint. I just need to prepare.’

Reg closed his eyes and breathed deeply as though he was centring his chi. The husband stared at him curiously as Reg began massaging his neck muscles. Sharon appeared before them.

‘What can I get you?’ She asked slightly flustered.

The husband pulled away from Reg’s bizarre ritual.

‘A pint of lager, please,’ he requested.

Sharon took a glass and began filling it from a tap. She glanced over at Reg not surprised at his strange behaviour. What was he up to this time? She placed the pint on the bar in front of the husband.

‘That’ll be three twenty five.’

The husband turned to Reg expectantly.

‘Uh…’ he was about to speak, but Reg held up a finger demanding patience. He was still preparing.

‘But…’ the husband tried to speak again, but Reg’s suppressive finger came closer and more threateningly. The husband gave up and reached into his pocket taking out a few coins. He passed them over to the barmaid and she returned his change.

The husband placed the pint of lager in front of Reg just at the moment Reg opened his eyes. He looked down and stared at the cool refreshing beverage with relish.

‘Alright, I’m ready,’ Reg said.

The husband slid up his jacket sleeve to reveal an expensive Rolex watch on his wrist.

‘You say when,’ Reg said as he wrapped his fingers around the glass and took one last breath.

‘Go!’ The husband called staring at his watch hands.

Reg raised the glass to his lips and began drinking. The husband counted aloud as the old man gulped the beer. It was seven seconds before Reg finished the pint and slammed the glass down on the bar. He exhaled with satisfaction.

‘Seven seconds. Nowhere near. I win,’ the husband celebrated with a huge smile.

Reg shifted his focus to the husband oblivious for a moment as to what he was talking about. Then he remembered the wager.

‘What? Oh, yeah. Uh, anything you want just tell the barmaid to put it on Reg’s tab,’ Reg smirked slapping the husband playfully on the shoulder before sliding off his barstool and heading for the door.

The husband grinned to himself as he gestured to get the barmaid’s attention.

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