The bar roared as a glass smashed on the tiled floor of Darlo Pub. Drunken cackles forced their way through the smokey haze and the bartender pulled another beer to replace the one now being spread across the floor by a hundred shuffling feet. The working day at the mill was hours gone and the night was being fuelled with drink and stories of days past.

Darlo Pub was owned and operated by Duncan Darlington, begrudgingly accepted by the locals mainly for the fact that he owned most of the beer in town. Dunc was short and stocky with orange hair, freckles, and a slight scottish drawl that betrayed his immigrant heritage, although no-one was quite sure where he was originally from. Dunc lived upstairs at the pub in the smallest room right at the end of the hall way – each night at 11.05 he would haul his stocky frame up the stairs and shuffle along to his door and sink into his bed, the fading ruckus of the last drunks putting him to sleep as they staggered down the main street. He felt like he never stepped outside the old Victorian style balcony that fronted both corner streets. Vague stabbing thoughts of the old man wouldn’t let him venture far and the rusted spring that stuck through the cushions dug into his back prolonging the slow drift into unconsciousness.

The noise was getting to Dunc tonight, as the dull ache in the back of his skull intensified. The smoke irritated his eyes and he couldn’t pull his mind from the thought of that last slump onto the stained mattress upstairs. The past few months had worn him down and he wasn’t sure how much longer he would last. His body seemed to ache and swell and swirl around him as he stood at the tap and he was convinced that the place was slowly doing him in.

“What the fuck’s that Dunc?” spat a blurred figure who Dunc was still trying to make out as he looked down at the glass, half full of foam, jolting him from his standing slumber.

“Oh, ah sorry mate, must’ve drifted off – here this one’s on me,” he bumbled pushing back a fresh beer across the bar. Leaving Steve at the other tap, Dunc slipped out the back as his patrons roared on and the wall of noise pushed him out the door.
He sat on the back steps and lit a smoke, eyes dampening as he breathed, each breathe forcing him further down into the worn hardwood tread.

“Eh Steve, what’s up with Duncan tonight? Looks a bit off d’ya reckon?”

“Dunno Pete. Been a bit strange the last couple of weeks if y’ask me. Always mumbling about nothing and sitting round all teary eyed. Reckon he might be losin it; he didn’t take his father passin' too well – dunno why, the old bastard never gave him anything but trouble.”

“Ah, he was alright. Did the best he knew how.”

“Yeah, maybe, but he gave Dunc a pretty rough time. I reckon he’d have better off if he wasn’t round at all. The old bloke never spoke a word of him until he showed up on the bus with his backpack – ‘parently his mother booted him when she shacked up with some bloke from up the coast and sen’im packing inland.”

“C’mon Steve, you’ve prob’ly got kids all round the joint eh – Don Juan of Darlingtons? How many of ‘em you know?

“Yeah, piss off. Y’know being a dick won’t quell your jealousy mate.”

“Nah, your right,” coughed Pete struggling to contain his laughter.

“Anyway, point is, Dunc reckons he’s fine but he’s a shit liar.”

“Who’s a shit liar?” asked Dunc, grabbing a pint out of the cooler and pulling a stout for the old man at the end of the bar chewing his gums.

“You are Duncan – always have been,” said Steve wondering how he’d slipped in without him noticing.

“Piss orf Steve,” his lips almost bearing a smile. The old man at the end of the bar cracked a toothless grin and wheezed, rubbing his grey whiskers.

“Alright Steve, I’m off.” Pete emptied the dregs of his beer with a quick throw of his head.

“Yep, no worries Pete, catch you soon.”

“And Dunc, you’re welcome to drop over for a cuppa and a feed anytime – the missus reckons it’d do ya good to get out of this dump for a while; a place like this is sure to drive a man insane, ‘specially the amount of time you spend here.”

“Thanks mate. I’ll see how I go.

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