Last Call In New Preston

A short story by Ben Bull.

By Ben Bull
Published September 28, 2007

Once word got out about the stolen truck, everything happened quickly.

Sergeant Maloney contacted the beer company to ask them when the next shipment was due. Wendy The Florist took another handful of her 'special place pills'. Everyone else raced down to the beer store to stock up.

By 11 o'clock the beer was all gone.

"There'll be no Moosehead for a month," Sergeant Maloney declared at the emergency town hall meeting later that night. "You'll have to drink something else."

"Like what?" asked Ted The Taxidermist.

"Like Labbat, or Molson or Heineken."

"Heineken?!" laughed Mike The Vacuum Repair Guy, jumping to his feet. "But that's shit!"

Everybody cheered.

The next day Sergeant Maloney and his associate, Constable Mullins, wrapped up their investigation of the crime. There was no news of the truck driver and beyond a hole in the fence and a few cigarette butts strewn around the warehouse, there was nothing else to report. The only thing the police could do now was focus their energies on the growing unrest enveloping their little town.

"Sergeant Maloney?" said an anxious voice on the other end of the line.


"Hurry, please! There's a riot downtown."

Over at the beer store Ted The Taxidermist was wielding an iron bar, egged on by a small army of thirsty men.

"Let us in!" they chanted, as Roy The Beer Store Guy blocked the entrance to the fridge.

"I've told you there's none left!" he pleaded, watching the iron bar warily. "Leave me alone!"

As Sergeant Maloney locked Ted up for the night, he wondered how well the other residents of New Preston would cope with the latest predicament to face this little sleepy town...

Cut off from the rest of Ontario by a solid two day drive and some of the worst roads in the province, the little northern mining town of New Preston had withstood many hardships over the years. There was the two week power outage caused by Hurricane Jimmy, a boil water advisory that lasted nearly a year and that stinky business with the local sewage plant which caused all the toilets to back up for three weeks back in November.

But there had never been anything like this. As Bill The Mechanic had put it at the Town Hall meeting the previous night, "You can take away our power, you can take away our water. You can even make us shit in the woods! But we need Our Moosehead!"

As the days went by the locals began to find new ways to pass the time. Jerry the Greengrocer took up Horseshoes, Bill the Mechanic tried Sudoko. But, whether by force of habit or the need for comfort in numbers, New Preston's men folk always seemed to find themselves wandering into the town's only pub at some point during the day.

Fred the Shopkeeper tried Labbat but found it "went down too easy". He had to take a week off sick. Joe The Cabbie opted for stout, but became alarmingly bloated over the course of a 12 pint night and had to be driven to the nearest clinic in Mount Newbury for an emergency rectoscopy and an irrigation of his colon.

Harry the Barber sipped water and coke and told stories of his childhood until he broke down in tears and curled up by the pool table in the fetal position. Wendy the florist had to come by to administer medication before they could get him to leave. By the end of the first week things seemed to be settling down. Ted The Taxidermist had apologized to Roy. Harry the Barber became a little more subdued, helped along perhaps by his new favourite tipple – water, whisky and an assortment of brown and yellow pills.

Sales of Heineken were up, although Terry the Barman suspected that was more to do with the fact that it was served in tall Moosehead glasses. He'd watched several of his customers make their purchase and slope furtively away to a corner, where they'd sit tenderly cradling their glasses, rocking back and forth.

But just as the town's collective coping mechanisms seemed to be faring so well, events took another turn. The brewery called to confirm that the missing driver had turned up alive and well and that he had mistakenly dropped off his load at Old Preston, two days drive to the west.

"He got the towns mixed up," explained the rep, laughing. "Isn't that great?"

"This is terrible! Terrible!" exclaimed Joe The Cabbie at the Emergency Town Hall meeting that night. "Those bastards have stolen our beer!"

The next day, against the wishes of the local constabulary and his forlorn looking wife, Norm The Postman headed out for Old Preston in his 1975 Chevy pickup. He'd been chosen because it turned out his was the only truck less than 40 years old and he was the only resident who'd ever ventured further than Trout Lake, 10 miles down the road.

"Besides," agreed the townsfolk at the meeting the night before, "Who needs the mail?"

News of the beer mix up hit the town hard. It was as if the good fortune of their namesake neighbours to the west had made their own miseries all the more unbearable.

"I can just see them slugging back the old slimy!" wailed Joe The Cabbie sinking to the floor of the pub that night. "The bastards!"

Jerry the Greengrocer reacted by hanging up his horseshoes and knocking back a half dozen Coors Light. When he failed to become even remotely inebriated he charged up to the bar demanding a refund.

Bill moved on to the Jumble and eventually settled down with a whiskey and the '100+ Book of Word Searches.'

The citizens of New Preston counted down the days to Norm The Postman's return. A large poster sized 'Crops of Ontario' Calendar – featuring wheat, hops and barley blowing in the wind - was erected in the middle of the Town Square, with a red circle marking the date of Norm's expected return.

But, alas, the day came and went.

"Where could he be?" pleaded his wife, when she called Sergeant Maloney the next day.

"I wouldn't worry," replied the Sergeant, reassuringly. "I'm sure he's safe and sound."

"I'm not worried about him," replied his wife in disgust. "I need a drink too."

As it happened, Norm The postman had reached Old Preston in four days instead of two. Half way there he'd run out of gas. It turned out there were no gas stations between Old Preston and New, a fact he found quite amusing, as this was the exact same thing that had happened to him two years before – the last time he'd taken the trip.

Norm had waited patiently by the side of the road for a day until a Heineken truck rolled by and dropped him off in Old Preston just in time for last orders. By the time he awoke the next day the local townsfolk were onto him and had set up a human barricade at the entrance to the beer store.

"He's come to steal our Moosehead!" they shouted as he tried to nudge his way through the crowd. "Send him home!"

Eventually, after some heated negotiations and the intervention of the town's magistrate and local law enforcement he was allowed to leave with five cases, one of which he drank as soon as he got back to the motel.

Norm called his wife the next day and snuck back into town three days later. Empty handed.

By the end of the third week a collective depression had set in. Norm The Postman was hiding in his basement and the town had come to the realization that there was nothing they could do but wait until the next shipment of beer arrived.

"It's like a zombie movie," observed Constable Mullins - himself a teetotaller - "Without the biting."

Little did he know that the biting was soon to come, and so it did later that night during the weekly meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous at the Community Hall. The meeting was in full swing – well as much of a swing as you can get with only two full-time members – when 15 of the town's most desperate looking Moosehead addicts crashed noisily into the hall.

"We need a drink!" they yelled, in the direction of Group Leader, Olga The Social Worker, "We need help!"

"I'm sure you do," replied Olga unsympathetically, "but are you alcoholics?"

"Well," replied one of the group, uncertainly, "We'd like to be".

This belligerent reply was proceeded by a brief scuffle, some spitting, some biting and an inevitable police escort into the street.

Three days later the beer truck arrived.

"Sorry about the last one," said the driver cheerily, jumping down from his cab. "I hope this makes up for it."

As he rolled up the back, in front of the 200 or so locals pressed against the fence outside, he hauled out a bright green case of beer.

"That doesn't look like Moosehead" said someone in the crowd.

"It's a new line" declared the driver, waving a bottle in the air: Moosehead Organic – brewed with 100% natural hops! "The brewery thought they'd try it out up here first."

"What does it taste like?" asked a tentative voice at the back.

"A bit like stout, with a hint of Coors Light."

From somewhere in the crowd came the sound of a pillcase popping. Jerry The Greengrocer picked up his horseshoes, Bill The Mechanic flipped open a word search. And Norm The Postman shuffled quietly back to his basement.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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