By J.D. Hager
The pub always bumped on a Tuesday or Thursday night. Dollar pints of the finest microbrews brought revelers flooding into the hardwood aisles. Glasses of bitters and pales sparkled in brass-rimmed bar lights, and evil porters and stouts darkened the room more than seemed appropriate. Tables and chairs got pushed to the side, making room for more people drinking more beer. A band induced the crowd into a throbbing frenzy. Nobody ever knew the name of the band, which never looked the same. Many of the musicians looked familiar though, like maybe the drummer played bass last week, or the guitarist was dancing in the aisles on Tuesday. But then, many faces looked familiar. It was both the same and different every time.
The crowd overflowed into the rear room, the pool room. Quarters continually piled up beneath the lips of the three table’s felt rails, an endless supply. But there was never much room to play pool on Tuesday or Thursday. When the spacing inside became too dense, somebody slid open a large loading dock door, and the party overflowed into the alley behind. No matter how many people piled into the pub, there was always room for more.
The bathrooms were situated in the long hallway connecting the front room and the pool room. Large windows opposite the bathrooms offered views of foaming yeast vats bubbling with anticipation. People waiting in line for a toilet stared in toward the vats with amazed and vastly different reactions. Some scowled “ew” and some said “cool,” and some just stared in silent amazement. Some seemed not even to notice at all. This was the heart of a wizard’s chamber, where these foam-covered vats of barley and hop juice were somehow conjuring the magic that had brought all these people together. For sure, some unseen force seemed at work.
When the band stopped, few noticed. For most, sobriety was long forgotten, replaced by the happy and blind irrationality of the drunk. When the pub closed, those not yet ready to quit slipped beneath the loading dock doors, into the back alley with as many pints and pitchers as could be pilfered. The party continued, often lingering into the first hints of dawn. Even after the beer was gone, the people stayed, enchanted still by the alcohol’s spell.
Though no one ever saw the bakers arrive, at some point, the bakery that shared the building with the pub fired to life. When the baking began, the smell of fresh sweet and sour breads, muffins and buns and croissants and twists baffled the drunks into even deeper stupors, intoxicating them even beyond the lingering effects of the pales and porters. Often these bakers brought out spare loaves that were too crispy or had become unworthy for sale for one reason or another. Perhaps they felt sorry for the poor drunks drooling on themselves in the back alley and threw them scraps out of pity. Most likely they felt guilty, as if somehow responsible, for these bakers were well acquainted with the amazing powers of yeast.