Fiction | December 11, 2020

You’ll Look Back on This and Laugh

The woman behind the bar used to smile. These days her face was shielded in a frown distinct despite the eternal woolen cap. Matt was scrupulously polite and friendly, respectful of whatever had prompted closure in a demeanor formerly open and welcoming. She lined up drinks on a thick, darkly varnished bar top streaked by beer-tap lights. The heavy stools were richly upholstered in leather. Over her shoulder, a wooden eagle on a podium addressed the high-ceilinged room with a sneer of cold command. Following the eagle’s gaze, Matt observed that the after-office crowd had thinned; the place was at its best, midevening, oddly quiet at this hour for a central London pub, a good proportion of the sparse drinkers already deep in their cups. The atmosphere was intimate, like a lock-in.

Taking the drinks back to his colleagues, Matt found the conversation had grown raucous after only one round.

If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.