This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
‘A pint of lager, please...with a shot of vodka, make it a double. And a packet of dry roasted.’ Flander perches on the chrome and pleather bar stool and sighs, places his wallet and keys in front of him on the slightly sticky wooden surface of the bar and glances round. It is the worst and last pub on the wrong side of town. Somewhere he thought he would never be seen dead in. Somewhere none of his family, friends or colleagues would ever go. Certainly somewhere nobody who had a happy, fulfilled uptown life needed to go. And yet here he is, at the bar, drinking.
‘Dry roasted peanuts? I didn’t know you could still get them. It’s all tapas and bloody vegetable crisps now. Who wants a piece of fucking fried courgette with their drink? Do y’mind?’
‘No... no help yourself.’ Flander nudges the bag of peanuts closer to the drinker sitting beside him.
The barman arrives with a pint and a bottle of vodka. ‘Say when.’ He tips a generous slug into the pint. He raises his eyebrows as he gets no response and the pint glass starts to spill froth over the bar. ‘I’ll leave the bottle.’ he growls in a suitably menacing voice for a barman on the wrong side of town as he slaps the bottle onto the wooden surface between the pint glass and the peanuts and; pulling a grey, greasy cloth from the drip tray, swipes the spilled lager neatly off the edge of the bar and onto Flander’s shoes.
‘Nice!’ Flander shouts after him in what surely must be the most passive aggressive display of middle-aged, middle class repression ever. Inside he is furious and all he can yell is ‘nice’ in the kind of place where people have died over spilt beer. The barman takes no notice and takes up his place at the far end of the bar, watching the sports on the overhead tv, turning his back on the pair of townies on the barstools.
Flander gingerly lifts the pint and sips at the vodka/lager cocktail, feeling the alcohol begin to prickle at the back of his throat. He takes a bigger swig and immediately regrets it as he chokes, coughing and spluttering through the too fizzy mouthful. The drinker next to him laughs and offers him one of his peanuts, then realising Flander is actually choking reaches over and slaps him heartily on the back. Flander exhales under the weight of the heavy blow and sprays his mouthful of drink over himself, losing his footing and slipping off the stool, hitting his head on the edge of the bar as he falls.
‘Oy! Any fightin’ and you’re out!′ The barman yells without turning round as Flander gingerly checks his pounding forehead for blood, already feeling a lump emerging.
‘Are you OK? Thought you were about to lose your lunch there.’ Flander accepts the outstretched hand of the drinker leaning over to help him back up. ‘Name’s Rowlap. David Rowlap, Upsy daisy! There you go. I seem to have eaten all your peanuts, sorry. ’ David seems completely oblivious to the fact he just caused Flander to fall off his stool and hit his head.
‘It’s OK, shit happens, seems to be the theme of the day. Douglas. Douglas Flander.’ Flander sits back down and sighs as he scrunches up the empty peanut bag.
‘Wow, shit happens and it’s only lunch time!’ Rowlap laughs the laugh of a man on the edge of drunken hysteria and Flander takes a longer look at him, suddenly aware he is not the only person out of place in the pub.
Rowlap has sandy hair, close-cropped to hide a receding hairline and a soft, jowly, freckly face with fierce, intellectual eyes under neatly clipped brows. Well manicured nails and leather shoes. Bespoke tailoring. Silk tie, silk socks. Mid fifties, maybe older. What the hell was he doing in a pub like this?
Rowlap suddenly realises he is being closely scrutinised and nurses his drink close to his chest. ‘Yeah, well, shit happens. I’ll drink to that!’ He raises his glance and downs the rest of whatever spirit it is and promptly passes out, head first onto the wooden bar, glass clattering and smashing across the pub floor.
‘Right, that’s it! I warned the pair of you! OUWT!’ The barman stomps over and grabs the bottle of vodka, brandishing it like a baton, pointing to the worn sign above the bar, ‘No fightin’ now take your friend and GET OWT!′
Flander can sense trying to argue Rowlap isn’t his friend will not help the situation so he gulps another mouthful of his pint, grabs his keys and wallet and then lifts Rowlap’s body carefully onto his shoulder, Rowlap’s cropped hair making a sound like Velcro as his head peels off the sticky bar.
Flander staggers to the door under the weight of Rowlap’s body and blinks in the bright sunlight of summer. What the hell does he do now? He hadn’t thought beyond getting completely and totally pissed and now, he’d totally failed at that too. He sighs and squints across the car park to where two cars are parked, side by side. One, his sensible silver SUV, has been keyed all down the driver’s side. The other, a pretty two seater sports car in budgerigar blue, is already on bricks with the seats ripped out. Rowlap stirs on his shoulder and Flander slowly lets him to his feet. ‘What the hell? Where am I?’
‘We got chucked out the of pub after you passed out. Luckily the bar broke your fall. Is that your car?’
Rowlap runs a hand over his head, rubbing the deepening red welt on his forehead, trying to work out why he is in a car park with his arm around the shoulder of some tall, thin middle manager with messy, mousy hair and dress-down Friday clothes and then he spots his car.
‘My car!’ It is the anguished cry of a man who has just lost his pride and joy and, for a second, Flander’s day is slightly less crap in comparison but it is only for a second.
‘Shit happens and it’s still only lunchtime.’ Flander lets Rowlap stand on his own two feet then heads for his SUV.
‘Wait! Wait, where are you going?’
‘I have no idea.’
Flander starts his car and fastens his seatbelt. As he reverses round Rowlap and drives off, he glances in the rear view mirror. Rowlap is still staring at his car as a group of kids ride past on bikes, then, sensing easy prey they wheel round and head for Rowlap.
‘Shit!’ Flander swears under his breath and reverses back, opens the car door and yells at Rowlap to get in. Rowlap climbs in, still in a daze and Flander drives off, spraying gravel in wheel spin as they leave. In the mirror he can see one of the kids throw something at the little blue sports car and it bursts into flames with a loud whumpf as the petrol tank blows. Beside him, Rowlap slumps into his seat and starts to cry. ‘My car!’
‘Welcome to my life.’ Flander smiles, puts his foot down and heads for the duel carriage out of town.
263Adder: Okay so I adore this story. I only knocked one star off plot for historical inaccuracies because I'm a bit of a stickler for that. The ending broke my heart though, considering you already changed history couldn't you (SPOILER) change it a bit more and have them together!!!! I want an alternative...
Ben Gauger: Kudos go to wordworrywill, author of Kings and Things, an otherwise imaginative tale set against the trappings of the royal set, but then again I don't imagine there'd be many authors who invoked the names of Oprah Winfrey, Vladimir Putin, Jeff Bezos, Beyonce and Steven Spielberg, As for the plot...
Alex Rushmer: I just want to say that the writing in this is amazing! I read the first couple chapters and was absolutely drawn in by it, The way you use first person in this story is extremely engaging and does wonders with your character development. I immediately had a picture of the characters and plotline...
FateFellShort: I have read this story and have followed the writers on tumblr from the beginning. Its a wonderful story. Beautifully written with a really nice pace, that makes it enjoyable to read more than once. For me, fairy tail has very good characters but what the writers have done is give them more depth...
mrh: This interesting take on the Harry Potter series fascinated me from line one on. I am in love with this tale and its characters and cannot wait to read the next chapter. I look forward to more soon.When can I expect the next chapter? I am so excited to read it!
Ben Gauger: Kudos to Bryan Laesch, author of Remnants of Chaos:Chaotic Omens for his use of the Gothic style of writing and in addition the footnotes and endnotes at the end of each chapter, a welcome accompaniment to be sure, though his use of grammar could use a little improving, but his use of punctuation...
ga1984: I really enjoyed it! Characters were deep and plot was pretty complex. A bit on the violent side but it doesnt detract from the story. Very dark but situations make sense. Ends kinda abruptly and later chapters will need some editing work. I'm assuming there's more in the works?
Tiffany Thomson: This story is not something I would normally pick up and read but I'm so glad I did, I wasn't able to put it down and my husband was yelling at me at 3am to put it down and go to bed (just waited for him to doze back off before picking it back up) I really hope Natalie brings out another book eit...
LesAnne: I've never come across a plot like this, and I like its originality. At first, the title gave me the impression that the story is about friends making bets, but I've been proven wrong. I like the personality of the female main character, how evident her strengths and weaknesses are. She's become ...
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."