THE CAMBRIDGE ARMS • by Kevlin Henney

I find myself in need of a decision. Sunshine, cloudless sky, gentle breeze, late afternoon… and I seem to be standing outside the Cambridge Arms. It’s not a hard decision. Let’s call it early evening.

“What can I get you?”

Bitter would be my usual, but the association of warm sun and something amber and colder is difficult to shake off. It’s a classic bar, but lifted out of the usual woody darkness by tall windows framing sunlit trees. Very picture book. Or advert.

“A Grolsch, please.”

Just as imagined, the pouring of the pint, glistening and bubbling, satisfies expectation, an association honed by rose-tinted memories, cultural conditioning and no small amount of advertising.

Sarah says I suffer from too much imagination — a polite way of drawing attention to her patience. It’s not just that I over-react to films. Yes, I avoid horror movies if I want a good night’s sleep — if we want a good night’s sleep. Sarah doesn’t appreciate being woken in the real world by me calling out from a dream.

It’s an interesting thought I only seem to ponder when I wake but, when I dream, am I still colour-blind? I certainly dream in colour, but I never notice whether I struggle to distinguish red and green in my dreams. I guess, by definition, the not noticing is itself a kind of blind-spot, isn’t it?

No, it’s not so much the nightmares as the daydreaming, non-sequiturs and tangents that Sarah says I — and she — suffer from. I like to think it makes conversation less predictable and keeps our relationship fresh. I think she likes that. I think.

“Lost between random and surreal. Sarah, you really pick them.” Her sister’s boyfriend-critique, delivered within earshot and a wine glass of first meeting me.

“I’m right here,” I’d said, returning from the kitchen with more wine. Her sister had pulled a smile before starting on her next glass and judgement.

The landlord seems distracted as he finishes pouring. Turning, I can see why. We exchange money, pint and glances. The target of his — now our — distraction is a blonde. She’s overdressed and waiting, but for someone, not a drink.

My drink. The first sip is just as imagined. Pleasingly wet, satisfyingly cold.

Her red dress is almost theatrical, a little too movie star for the bar and the time of day. She’s gazing into the middle distance, as if something might happen, but might not.

I notice the landlord. His eyes gesture, behind me.

“Andy, what are you doing?”

Ah. Sarah.

“Enjoying a pint?”

“Andy, I was trying to give you directions to the camera shop so you wouldn’t get lost and wonder off.”

“Yes, you said, ‘Imagine you’re outside the Cambridge Arms’… so I did… fancy a pint?”

Kevlin Henney writes shorts and flashes and drabbles of fiction and articles and books on software development. His fiction has appeared online and on tree with Litro, New Scientist, Word Gumbo, Fiction365, Dr. Hurley’s Snake-oil Cure, The Fabulist and, and has been included in the Jawbreakers and Kissing Frankenstein & Other Stories anthologies. He lives in Bristol, UK.

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