The bitter cold of the night air accented every exhalation with an accompaniment of condensation floating up into the darkness. With the illumination of the overhead lights, every breath looked like an apparition departing the mortal realm.
Two men stood slightly apart. The shorter of the two bounced from foot to foot in agitation as the taller stared pensively up the street. They said nothing, huddled in their coats in the cold. Until the shorter stopped shuffling and turned to his taller partner to speak.
"Quiet out tonight." he said, rubbing his hands together to warm them up. His partner just nodded, his hands warm in his pockets and his eyes never moving from the distant spot that he focused on.
"Early yet, Bill. Give it time." he said simply, and his friend nodded, moving back and forth again in an attempt to fight off the cold.
"Still, hard to believe we're open after last night." he said, turning and looking down a different street and then back to the taller man. The taller just shrugged, his cold grey eyes still watching the spot in the distance.
"If the boss wants to open, we're open," he said. "doesn't matter what happened last night." A banshee shriek came from the distance. "Can't say that the customers won't be scared off by it though." the shorter man said. Another banshee wail, and drunken revellers approached from the South street. The taller man finally took his eyes off of whatever had interested him so far away and nudged his friend with his elbow, "told you to give it time." he said. The shorter man nodded and the two of them turned their attention up the road to where the noise had come from.
A group of teenagers approached. Three girls and two boys. The girls staggered ahead of the boys, who conferred together behind them. It was clear that they were together in some way. The provocatively-dressed girls squealed and laughed and stumbled on high heels, while the two boys whispered to one another while shooting occasional glances and pointed fingers at the girls in front of them. As they approached the doors, the shorter man pulled it open and let the girls pass right through. The two boys were stopped and asked for identification to prove their age.
"I'm old enough." one of them said aggressively, as he fished in his pockets for an ID card. The taller bouncer stood straight before him, hand held out. He didn't say anything, but waited for the ID. He didn't want to let them in. They hadn't made any effort to dress up for a night out. The aggressive boy was dressed in grey jogging bottoms and a blue t-shirt with a logo on it that may as well have been a splatter of paint. His timid friend obliged easily and passed through the doors before his friend. He was equally inappropriately dressed for a nightclub. Jeans, dirty trainers and a football shirt. The two boys disappeared into the neon corridor and toward the thumping music in the near distance. The shorter bouncer started to shuffle again and his taller companion sighed.
"What's wrong?" the shorter asked.
"I remember when people trying to get into a club dressed like that would be turned away. What happened?"
"The girls were dressed fine. They all looked good." the shorter said, evidently remembering exactly how good he thought the girls had looked.
"Yeah. But the other kids, they made no effort at all," the taller said, shaking his head again, "and those girls. Dressed a little bit too provocatively, weren't they?" he said. His friend shrugged, "yeah, but if they dress like that then they're bringing it on themselves. Not our fault."
"True," the taller one said quietly. Another group approached. All girls. All dressed like they belonged in adult films. The taller bouncer shook his head as he let them straight in, "not fair that all they have to do is dress like that and inside all the boys will be fighting over them. Give them preferential treatment." His friend nodded agreement. Shortly after, a group of boys approached, rowdy, shouting chants as they walked down the street. They were stopped immediately and the two bouncers made a point of memorising details from the IDs that they checked. Once more the customers disappeared into the darkness toward the thumping bass, shouting and making jokes at the expense of one another.
"Hopefully won't be a repeat of last night." the shorter said after they were gone from sight.
"I'm sure it won't be." the taller said.
"Yeah but it's those girls I'm worried about, with that last group of lads." the shorter said, his hands balled into fists.
"True." the taller said.
"They do ask for it though." the shorter said, shuffling weight between his feet again.
"True." the taller said. This time he didn't agree, but didn't want it to turn into a debate. He wanted to stay alert and keep his mind on the job tonight. His partner was right, there was cause to keep an eye on the last group that they let in. He got on the radio and told those indoors to keep an eye on them. They didn't want a repeat of the last night, then they'd get shut down for sure.
As he put the radio back on its belt clip he sighed again and thought of the envelope in his back pocket and the job paper laying open on his coffee table at home. He rubbed his hands together and blew into the middle of them as more crowds began to approach from all directions. A police car pulled over and stopped on the other side of the road, the officers stayed in the car. It looked like it would be a busy night after all.