An optimist walks into a bar and asks for a free pint.
‘That is not funny,’ observed Dave the barman at his pub the other evening. I say ‘his’ pub because Dave the barman is not only the barman there. He owns the place, too.
‘So your joke is not only not funny, it is doubly unfunny,’ said mein host. ‘The fact that you miserable lot never buy any drinks means I cannot order myself as barman to hand over his (my) tips to me as the owner because he (me) gets no tips in the first place.’
‘Then let me give you a tip, Dave,’ I said. ‘Life is not all about financial riches. Indeed, money is the root of all evil. I believe Mark Twain said that.’
‘Actually,’ sighed Dave the barman, ‘the full quote is THE LACK OF money is the root of all evil.’
‘Who’s Mark Twain?’ asked Daft Barry.
‘I thought it was William Shakespeare who said that,’ commented Indoor Lou.
‘No,’ said Fearful Phil. ‘It was definitely Daft Barry who just asked who Mark Twain was.’
‘Thank the Lord you’re here,’ gasped Dave the barman as our leader Andromeda Arkwright arrived. ‘This lot are driving me nuts. Mind you, they could be suffering from dehydration.’
Andromeda took the hint and produced some folding money from her purse. ‘Drinks all round, mein host!’
Tears of gratitude formed in Dave the barman’s eyes as he lovingly placed the money in his till alongside the trays containing the dingy silver and grimy copper coins (and the odd tap washer) which the rest of us had scraped together for earlier rounds.
‘Would you send someone out with a bottle of water,’ requested Fag Ash Bill from the pavement. (As a habitual smoker, he could no longer legally enter the pub.) ‘I’ve decided to switch from ale to a healthier drink so that I can smoke more ciggies.’
‘It makes no difference whether you order a pint of beer or a bottle of water in this pub, Bill!’ I yelled. ‘It’s much the same thing.’
Dave the barman stared hard at me and growled: ‘Dave Silver, if you persist in spreading false and malicious rumours about me allegedly diluting my drinks, I shall drown you in the huge vat of water I keep on the premises for. . er . . emergencies.’
Which reminds me. My father’s favourite song was an opus called Cool Water which is about a man and his mule and a mirage in the desert.
Dad bought the record by crooner Frankie Laine back in 1955 and he would play it over and over again on our old record player — my father, that is, not Frankie Laine.
‘What the heck has Frankie Laine and his flaming donkey got to do with ANYTHING?’ demanded Andromeda Arkwright who at that point was looking as confused as everybody else in the pub.
‘Sorry,’ I mumbled. ‘I tend to ramble occasionally. That’s probably why Mrs S likes to spend her quality time alone. But might I just point out that it was a mule and not a donkey in that Frankie Laine song.’
And then something stirred on the floor. Our oldest pub mate Ol’ Red Eyes was slowly waking up from yet another of his deep sleeps.
He opened one rheumy peeper and managed to croak out a few unintelligible words which we had to ask him to repeat in order to make sense of his contribution to the proceedings.
‘I said that is not the lack of money which is the root of all evil. It is THE WANT of money which leads to most of the wickedness in this world.’
As usual, Ol’ Red Eyes was a couple of conversations behind the rest of us but his theory about wealth was certainly an interesting notion.
‘Would you care to expand on your hypothesis regarding the conceptual link between money and evil?’ we chorused to our former guide and mentor.
‘My goodness!’ exclaimed Andromeda Arkwright, wonderment in her voice. ‘I do believe that I may have achieved a breakthrough in my attempts to bring erudition to you collection of rough diamonds.’
She gazed proudly at her pubster charges and stepped forward to embrace each of us. Unfortunately, she stepped on the outstretched form of Ol’ Red Eyes and the resultant shock to his system rendered the poor blighter unconscious.
All thoughts of high intellectual discussion were forgotten as Dave the barman went through the usual routine of phoning for an ambulance and having Ol’ Red Eyes checked over at A&E where he would be certified dead and then, shortly afterwards, alive again.
‘Ah, well,’ sighed Andromeda Arkwright upon Ol’ Red Eyes’ return as the old duffer was made comfortable on the pub floor. ‘At least there is always tomorrow to continue our little gabfest about life and everything. And, who knows, maybe Fag Ash Bill will extinguish his cigarette long enough to join us at the bar.’
‘And wouldn’t it be nice if Mark Twain and that other guy, Shakespeare, could pop in, too,’ said Daft Barry.
‘Yeah, yeah,’ said Dave the barman. ‘And maybe we can phone up Clint Eastwood and get him to come as well. Maybe he’ll even get a round in. He must be worth a bob or two these days.’
Ol’ Red Eyes raised his head from the floor. ‘But I bet Eastwood was once skint, too, just like us, until he got his first break in that TV western series Rawhide.’
‘That was a fabulous show!’ yelled Fag Ash Bill from the pavement. ‘Great stories as well as that catchy theme song sung by Frankie Laine. Does anybody remember him?’