Sunday 22 August 2010

This Tall Tale

The first time John Harley met Doc Random was just before the whole business with the Fae nunnery. John wasn’t really a name and the Doc, well, no one really believed the Doc existed anyway, so no one bothered to tell John not to talk to him.

John was just getting regular enough at Pandora’s that Spooky George had stopped trying to poltergeist him straight back out the door, but he didn’t yet have his table in the corner. That table that always smells just like someone’s smoking at it, yeah. Well back then no one sat at that table either, because that was Doc Random’s table. Doc Random that everyone knew wasn’t real.

Pandora’s was real busy that night, and John was in a foul mood. He knew the bar, sure, but no one knew him, and just being with Mickey the Trick that one time Mickey saved London and then blundering into a couple of underside turf scuffles wasn’t enough for anyone to tell him anything. So John had seen the underside, and he wanted it bad, but no one was giving him anything. He took his pint and he sat at the only empty table. Doc Random’s table.

Well, everyone paid attention to John then.

Last time everyone had paid so much attention to John was the first night he walked into Pandora’s. They don’t like strangers on the underside, strangers mean they can’t talk freely, about all the stuff they know, that most people don’t. So Spooky George goes to work. Being dead three hundred years and stuck to the one spot, he’d gotten bored real quick; then he’d got creative. And that was the first thing that ever got the great John Harley an ounce of respect here; George took his best shot and all he did was just about convince John that this was the place he’d been looking for all along. But the attention everyone was paying John the night he sat at that table in the corner... completely different. Like they feared for his life, like they’d just realised that maybe they should have told him about the Doc, even if the Doc were nothing but a myth.

John was in a foul, foul mood. He was deeply into his beer and his own thoughts right then. His obsession with a world that just didn’t want him was losing him the world he already belonged to. Even so, the sudden change in atmosphere eventually penetrated his storm cloud. He looked up, looked at all of them, looking at him. Then he swore at them. Extensively. When nothing happened to John they started to feel a little foolish, and more than a little relieved. What had they been worrying about, anyway? A man who could never die because he’d never been born? The Doc was nonsense verse.

They settled back down, a little on edge, stealing occasional glances at the table in the corner, just to see how things were going. And John Harley was still there, still John Harley, and still angrily drinking his beer. Doc Random wasn’t there, as usual.

Well eventually John Harley got up to go for a piss. Joe was the barman back then, this was before the accident, and he looked at the empty glass on the corner table. Decided he would get it after closing, he knew better than to disturb the Doc. He decided he would just give John a friendly warning when he came back too, there were a couple of bar stools free by then, he’d just suggest John sit there, even stand him a free pint.

So John goes straight to the bar when he comes out, but before Joe can say a word John shoots him this real angry look, then he orders a pint and a double Zubrowka on the rocks. Well Joe doesn’t say a word. Doesn’t charge him for either drink. You see, nobody drinks Zubrowka in Pandora’s. Nobody but Doc Random.

(author's commentary)


  1. Came here from your link on Lily's Feardom and this definitely is NOT my genre, yet I was transfixed right to the end ... and want more. All down to excellent writing creating 100% believable characters I guess. ;-)

    1. Hey, thank you, Sandra. =)

      I was kind of experimenting with a storytelling style, and I think that shows, but I'm really happy it kept you transfixed till the end. =)