It was like Hoth outside.
I walked outside of D Block that morning and was pelted in the face with the biggest fucking snowflakes I’d ever seen. The wind had the naked trees nearly bent in half, and the sky was overcast with clouds that looked less like fluffy cotton balls than a sheet of gray metal. I expected to hear the opening bits of the “Battle of Hoth" suite at any moment. I buried my head in my p-coat, threw on my headphones, and shoved my trilby further down on my head.
There was no way that the bus was going to run today, I thought as I crossed Giles Lane. Sure enough, I made it across campus, across the ice rink that the roads had become, and there was a sign posted on the bus stop: “Nope,” is all it said.
I walked down the hill into town.
Twenty minutes later, I trundled into The Sub-Pope’s Flock about ten pounds heavier from all of the water that I’d collected. The Thes were already in the back of the pub, gathered around the water heater and shivering, for the most part. The Stalker appeared to be quite happily slurping from his cider and studying the people around the table. I nodded to the bartender, who nodded back, and then flipped on one of the TVs. A couple portly men in seats near the front windows chatted in low voices and then turned their attntion to the rugby match between two teams I didn’t know, and wasn’t really that interested in knowing. I walked to the table, took off my coat, and said, “Gents.”
The Drunkard took a big gulp from a glass of what appeared to be hot cider and nodded.
The Student clutched the cup of coffee in front of him and said, “Narrator, hello.”
“You’re not drinking hot cider?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “After consuming vast quantities of vin chaude last night with some French comrades—”
The Drunkard moaned.
“Not them,” said The Student. “Don’t worry. I need something other than booze, you see. Coffee’s good. Coffee heals.”
“Right,” said The Traveler, clearing his throat. “Glad to see everyone made it down for our weekly gathering.”
“I should be preparing with my meeting with my advisor,” said The Writer.
“Oh, shut the fuck up,” said The Drunkard. “Just bone the bitch and get over it. Fucking hell, if I have to see one more of your damn facebook posts about how excited you are for the next time you get to discuss the state of your novel with the love of your fucking life.”
“I’m sorry, Drunkard,” said The Writer, “but perhaps you sho—”
“Okay,” said The Traveler. “Who’s next?”
The Student whipped out his phone and tapped the screen a few times. “Give me one sec. The spreadsheet has to have some time to load ever since I added a few new pages to it.”
“Pages of what?” I asked.
“He added pages that detail the amount of times I have creeped him out, the numer of times The Narrator has tried to stammer his way out of doing something uncomfortable, the number of times The Drunkard has blacked out, the number of times The Traveler has gotten that far-off look that says he’d rather be in another country, and the number of times The Writer should have been punched in the face,” said The Stalker. He punctuated his aside with a very loud slurp from his glass. “And then there are the, ah, other pages that he’s added. But I don’t think The Student would want me to share those, would you?”
The Student flushed and grumbled. “Narrator, your go.”
“Shit,” I said.
“Better add another tick mark to that worksheet, Student,” The Drunkard said.
“No, no. I, er, I got this, yeah.” I looked around the pub. To one side of the register, there was a volume of Sherlock Holmes stories. Entering the pub to the sound of the clanging bell at the top of the door were two men in track suits. “Right,” I said. “This is called, “Sherlock Holmes, and the Case of The Gangster, Gangster at The Top of The List.”
“The fuck?” asked The Drunkard.