It was just after lunchtime and two of our regulars, Pete and Harold, were working on their second pints and I was tidying up a bit when in walked a lad we had not seen before. He was a scrawny thing, about eighteen, with a face so bedeviled with acne it looked like somebody had set his face on fire and tried to put it out with an ice pick. What alerted me to trouble right away was his jumpy attitude. His eyes flickered all around the room as he stepped up.
“What’ll you have, Lad?” says I as I placed one hand on the cudgel I keep just under the bar.
He just pushed a piece of paper at me and I held it up to the light to read what it said.
“Give me your money, I got a nug.”
I was stumped for a minute and gave him my best puzzled look. He was fingering something in his pocket and I had my suspicions about him.
“Pete,” says I, “What do you make of this?”
“Looks like he wants your money. What the hell’s a nug?”
That was when the lad pulled out a little tiny pistol no bigger than the palm of my hand. It was one of those two-shot Derringers that ladies used to carry a long time ago. I could see a little rust on the barrel.
“What’s that? That ain’t a gun, is it?” laughed Harold.
Pete and me took a look at the boy’s expression of dismay and we started laughing too.
“Nug! I bet he means Gun! You’re one of them dyslexic fellows, ain’t you son?” said Pete.
The boy was red faced and looked about to cry.
Harold said, “Wait a minute, are you one of Sam Wattling’s boys? You remember Sam Wattling, don’t you Pete? Had that sign in the yard to “beware of god” when he meant “beware of dog”. Everybody thought he was being clever but he had that dyslexia thing. I heard his kids had it too. You look like a Wattling, boy.”
The lad shoved the little gun back in his pocket and started to turn and leave.
“Now hold on,” says I. “What’s all this about then? What’s a boy from a nice local family trying to rob me for?”
“S-sorry. It’s just that things have been rough since my dad died last year. I wasn’t really gonna hurt nobody, I just needed some money so I could take a girl out on a date.”
“Well this just isn't the right way to go about courting. You say Sam’s dead? I didn’t hear about that. What happened?”
“Well, we had moved away a few years ago for that job in the brewery and everything was going fine until dad fell in the vat of beer and drowned.”
“Drowned in beer, did he? Terrible, terrible. I’m sorry to hear it. At least he went quickly, though, didn’t he?”
“Not really. They say he got out three times to pee.”
“Ah, now that’s a real gentleman, not peeing in people’s beer.”
“Are you going to have me arrested?”
“Well, no need for that, I guess. Nobody got hurt. Tell you what, you sit down there and I’ll treat you to a pint.”
“No thanks. Since dad’s accident I can’t stand to drink the stuff. Who knows, it might have been some of his.”
“How about a nice whiskey then?”
“That would be lovely.”
I wound up giving him a job cleaning up around the place. He’s turned out to be a good worker but he doesn’t care much for cleaning the loos, especially the one that says “stneg” on the door.