THE WORDS LAUGHED AT the black iron gates and punched through the thick doors and walls of First Call Brewing. Gabsir stopped running, and wheezed for breath as he pulled out his large keyring. As usual the gate’s lock froze and clunked. He swore as he jiggled the key and smacked the rusting iron.
He looked up. The courier stood there in his orange jumpsuit, head down. He held out a large, thick brown envelope.
“What is it this time?” His clanking, clattering keys scratched more paint off the gate.
The courier shrugged. “All I know is it’s from the Lotus. And it came from the top.”
“So not full of large-denomination bills,” said Gabsir. At last the gate squealed open. Gabsir took the envelope and signed for it.
“I heard it on the way over,” said the courier. “I’m sorry.”
Gabsir nodded and raised an arm toward the brewery. “Step inside. Take some beer with you before you go.”
At the door he stared at the faded, splotchy paint and sighed. “First job they ever gave me was to paint this door,” said Gabsir. “I spent all day on it. Got chewed out—it was one thing to be thorough, but it was quite another to be slow about it.”
The courier on his way with a case of GPS, Gabsir locked the gate and then closed the door. He took a deep breath in the dim room. The roof above the lobby had developed a leak five years ago. While they had tried and tried to patch it, dampness had set in, and the wet, stale scent of mold saddened him. At one time the lobby had been bright, and was full of displays and memorabilia from the long past of the world’s favorite beer—old advertising posters and billboards, coasters through the ages, the evolution of the distinctive curved pint glass that defined GPS almost as much as the beer itself.
It was all gone now. Guru Deep had sold it to a museum.
The empty lobby now was cracked tiles, faded woodwork, and empty light fixtures. Gabsir was certain he saw more holes in the wood paneling from some sort of damn insect.
He caught his breath and held the envelope tighter. It had happened at last. His insides writhed like a batch of wort bubbling up to a boil, but that couldn’t matter. Right now it was time to be Gabsir Abrigs again. The white shadow behind the brewmaster. The man who made sure the kettles boiled and the beer flowed and the fermenters kept the right temperature and the kegging and bottling lines were clean enough for birth.
He just wished his hands weren’t shaking.
“It’s one thing to be old,” said Gabsir to the mold in the ceiling and the bugs in the walls. “It’s another thing to feel old.”
He steadied his hands as best he could while he carried the large brown envelope through the lobby and down one of the rounded passageways that cut through the brewery like a rabbit warren. The way was dim; most of the bulbs had burned out and hadn’t been replaced. Nonetheless, he could see the occasional gleam of the rectangular white tiles that covered the tunnel and floor. The brewery might have been dilapidated, but na Grúdairí could make even dilapidation gleam.
Goodness knows we’ve had enough practice by now.
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