‘Ye working?’ said Slim.
‘Aye,’ Dug trembled. ‘I’m teaching in a Primary School.’
‘So ye’ve been to Uni, then?’
Dug hesitated. How would the information about his halcyon University days sit with someone who had carved out a semi-autobiographical niche in tales of rock concert-goers and drug-taking tramps? ‘Aye,’ he said, eventually. ‘The University of Scotland. Philosophy.’
‘That right?’ said Slim. ‘I was there, too. Contemporary Scottish Literature.’ He sniffed. ‘First Class Honours, like.’
There was a crash as the barman fumbled a wet beer glass, though it could just as easily have been the sound of Dug’s illusion shattering. Andrew was surprised, too. And more than a little delighted.
‘What?’ said Slim. ‘D’ye no think that squares with yarns about sleeping rough?’
Dug picked up his glass. He didn’t drink anything. He laid it heavily on the table and stared at it.
‘Oh, here we go,’ said Slim. He yawned, and looked at his watch. ‘Ye know how many times I’ve had this conversation? It’s a pain in the slats. I’ll put it this way. There’s a grain of truth in the fiction, right? ‘Grain’ being a measure of something really small. And fiction being, well, fiction.’
‘I sense disappointment radiating in waves,’ said Andrew.
‘Anyway,’ said Slim, and slapped his palms on his knees. ‘That’s me. Got to get back up the road.’ Deirdre Boyce approached the table and handed him a wee brown envelope.
‘That’ll be your bus fare,’ Dug pouted.
‘Aye,’ said Slim. ‘Beats putting the bite on cunts outside supermarkets, eh? Nice meeting ye, Andrew. Come through the Third Eye next week, I’m doing a thing with Jimmy Kelman and Norman MacCaig. Should be good.’
‘I’ll check my diary,’ said Andrew.
Slim scouted the bar for autograph hunters. Someone at Deirdre’s table waved to him. He was there in a flash.