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Beer Tankards

Never tell anyone your dreams

We’re having a pint together in the pub, sitting at an old wooden table at the back of the room next to a fly-specked poster advertising a gig featuring a pop group from the eighties. There’s only one other patron in the place. He leans sideways against the wall, his grey hair pressed against a dark patch in the maroon flock wallpaper. He hasn’t moved since we arrived.

‘I had an odd dream last night,’ I say.

Your eyes lift and your gaze darts over my shoulder at the exit.

‘Not another one about leather underwear, I hope?’ you say.

I wince. ‘You promised not to mention that again.’


You drain your pint in two deep gulps.

I’m taken aback. Your tankard had been almost full.

‘I need a leak,’ you say. ‘Just going to pop to the loo.’

You can’t stop your eyes looking past me as you contemplate the pub’s door again.

I put my hand on your arm. ‘Wait. I want to tell you about my dream.’

You sigh and sink back in your place.

‘Alright,’ you say, casting a meaningful look at your empty tankard.

It’s your round, you cheapskate, but I relent and head for the bar, all the time watching you for any sudden moves. But the promise of a free beer keeps your buttocks applied to your chair.

The landlord sees me coming and wipes a greasy cloth over a couple of tankards he takes from under the counter. The pub’s dim yellow lighting oozes off the glasses as he puts them on the counter.

‘Same again?’ he asks.

I nod.

He wipes his hands on his trousers, which, unbelievably, are cleaner than the wiping cloth. The dim light makes the patina of dust and sweat on his skin look like scales. That and the blackness of his eyes give him a reptilian appearance.

He pulls two pints with ill grace, like he’s doing me a favour.

Back at our table, I put a full tankard in front of you.

You murmur something which might have been thanks.

‘My pleasure,’ I say. I take a deep breath and your shoulders slump in defeat.

‘I can’t remember what happened earlier in the dream,’ I begin. ‘Only that there’s this man – about my size and build – who’s opposed to everything I do. I’m not sure why. I have no idea what I’ve done to turn him against me. The thing is, I can’t argue with him any longer. The only course of action is to fight. I mean physically with fists and stuff.

‘Fighting isn’t my strong point, but when he ran at me I knocked him to the ground. He was lying on his back and I shouted, “You’re so anacronymistic!”

‘He didn’t get up, just lay there looking puzzled. “That’s not even a word,” he said.

‘I realised what I’d done.

‘“I meant you’re anachronistic and you use too many acronyms,” I said.

‘He laughed, and I started laughing too.’

My mouth’s dry. I take a mouthful of beer and watch your face for a response.

The seconds tick by.

‘Is that it?’ you say, your expression deadpan.

‘Yes. That’s it.’

Your shoulders lift and you sip your beer, relaxed.

‘A load of bollocks, of course,’ you say. You lean back in your seat. ‘At least it wasn’t another one of your dreams about bu-‘

‘Don’t!’ I interrupt.

I’m flabbergasted. Why are you being so dull? Aren’t you at least a little bit amazed at the creativity of my subconscious? I mean, how many people invent words?

Yeah, yeah. I know. People invent words all the time. The Oxford English Dictionary adds hundreds every year.

But I’m not going to admit that to you.

As a writer, I’m aware that using made-up words can alienate readers. Nevertheless, that’s a rule flouted with extravagance by Shakespeare. The Bard is famous for coining many words. Some put that number around 1,700 though cautious experts say it’s more likely to be in the hundreds.

On the other hand, Shakespeare is considered a genius. With the best will in the world, I’m not quite there yet.

‘You might not be impressed,’ I say, ‘but I’m going to use anacronymistic in my writing, see if I don’t.’

‘Just don’t expect it to appear in the OED any time soon,’ you say. ‘It’s not like it even makes sense. How can you have anachronistic acronyms? Acronyms are a twentieth century invention.’

‘Aha!’ say I, pleased that, despite your earlier antipathy, I’ve piqued your interest. ‘Not true. The Romans had acronyms and before them, the Hebrews.’

You shake your head. ‘Nobody will use a difficult to pronounce word you’ve made up about a naked guy in your dreams.’

‘Eh? I didn’t say he was naked.’

You give me that look, the one that says you know me better than I know myself. ‘You didn’t have to.’

I see what you’re doing. You’re bored with the conversation, so you derail it.

‘It’s a damned good word,’ I say, steering the discussion back on course. ‘Anacronymistic. Remember,’ – I tap the side of my cranium – ‘this is where it began.’

You don’t reply. You pull your phone from your pocket and hold it so I can’t see the screen. You tap away for a few seconds, then turn it to face me.

‘There. I googled it. You didn’t think of it first,’ you say.

‘Oh, come on! Why would someone make up a stupid forum user name like that?’

You roll your eyes and take another sip of beer.

Damn my plagiarising subconscious.

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