More people join the happy crowd.
One afternoon I had just opened up when a stranger came in and ordered a pint. He seemed subdued somehow, and when we got talking, I found out that his name was Jesse, and he had just been released from prison. His parents had told him he wasn’t welcome at their house anymore, and he was hoping to get some temporary work on the coast. I gave him the names of a few people who might have the need for some hard working people and he thanked me. As he was almost finished his drink, I noticed him counting his change, and then he ordered another pint and put down the right money all in small coins. No one carried that many coins, so I assumed he’d been begging on the streets, and from the look of him, living there too.
Now, I’m not a soft touch, but there was something about Jessa that I liked – I think he reminded me of myself in a lot of ways. I’d never been in prison, true, but I knew all too well that it was luck, rather than good actions, that had kept me out of trouble with the law. I’m sure some would say that he shouldn’t be using what money he had on booze, but I know from experience how that can be the one comfort you can look forward to. Sitting in a pub can be the one piece of comfort in a day.
I had a sudden thought. “Where are you staying?” I asked him, even though I was pretty sure I knew the answer.
“Oh, well, here and there, you know.” He paused. “You don’t know anywhere that is cheap and available, do you?”
I told him I might do, but I’d have to check, so why didn’t he see if he could get a job, and then come back tomorrow?
He came back the next evening, looking slightly cleaner than he had the day before. He told me how he’d tried a couple of the places I’d suggested for work without any luck, but then the third one he went to took him on. It was the amusement arcade that I’d worked at before, and I knew the owner was a hard worker himself and made sure the crew worked hard too. I asked how much the pay was, and he was reluctant, but eventually let me know what he was getting, which was about the same as I had earned there.
I went into the office and called the owner of the arcade, who confirmed that Jesse had been in to see him and that he’d done some work that day, and been paid in cash. I told him to be sure to pop in for a drink one night, and we talked for a bit about how trade was doing.
I had wanted to make sure what Jesse was telling me was true before I offered him a room upstairs. Being happy with the answer I got, I talked about the second-floor rooms. I said that they were dirty and unused, but if he wanted to clean one up a bit, then it could be a place to stay for a while. He jumped at the chance and moved in straight away.
I didn’t advertise or say to anyone else that we had rooms available, but word got around. Soon a couple more young people were asking about the possibility of a place to stay, and slowly the upstairs rooms were filling up. Every so often, one of the guests got a bit out of hand, but a lot of the local police drank here, so I had no trouble getting people to leave.
The restaurant was bumping along, not making lots of profits, but enough to justify its existence. The pub was busy at weekends and ticking over during the week. It was earning its keep and George, on his visits to look at the books, was pleased. In my personal life, I had enough female visitors to my room to keep me contented, and all seemed well with the world.