Page one of my new novel, as yet untitled

Chapter 1

Carson had had a few. The world was starting to rotate around him. Of course the world consisted only of a dark corner of the Dog and Parrot, a too-heavy-to-pinch table strewn with dry roasted peanut packets and spilled bear, two half-drunk pints and a friend called Algernon. Algernon was nursing his pint, as usual, he couldn't drink more than three in a single night without turning into a gibbering madness. Carson on the other hand was methodically working his way through pint after pint of lager. Around lunch time, they had retreated from the studio space they shared with all the other second-year students and had taken up residence at the pub. If things played out as usual there was very little chance that they would be going back to university that day.
“It's so important to do lots of research before you even think about beginning to paint,” Algernon said. It was a bit of a non sequitur, silence had reigned at their table for at least twenty minutes and the last thing they had talked about at all had been movies, or perhaps music, but certainly not art.
“Delacroix was against using reference,” Carson said.
“Yeah, but, you're no Delacroix.” said Algernon, and giggled to himself in his snorting, spitting, time-wasting way. Algernon had a knack of saying the most annoying, insulting and insensitive things to everyone.
Why on Earth do I hang out with this guy? thought Carson – although guy wasn't exactly the word that floated through his mind. I need cooler friends.
He looked around the Dog and Parrot to see if any cool people happened to be hunched anywhere in the dark on a beautiful June afternoon. He didn't see any. There were only two other tables with pubgoers at them. One group was three men, a giant dressed in black with a bald head and a big black beard accompanied by two smaller men in grey sports jackets. Carson had seen them in the pub often before and guessed that their clothes probably smelled even more of cigarettes and beer dregs than the furniture, or even the carpet.
The other group was four or five young professionals, estate agents perhaps. They were dispiritedly picking at their pub lunches and sipping at halves of lager.
The first of the lunch time crowd, thought Carson, better run to the bar and get a couple of pints to prop on the table while I wait for them to eat their chicken kievs and scamper back to the business parks and porter-cabin offices they came from. He necked the half pint that was left in the glass in front of him and grabbed it to take back to the bar.
As he was waiting at the bar to be noticed, the giant bald-headed man settled on to a stool beside him.
“You're second year Graphic Design,” he said.
“How did you know that?” asked Carson.
“I'm one of the lecturers,” was the slightly disconcerting reply. Carson had believed that he was safe from the crew of lecturers in the Dog and Parrot because they were all famous devotees of the Red Lion.
As Carson hadn't been able to muster any kind of response, the man seemed to feel duty bound to keep this laughably slim excuse for a conversation alive.
“I haven't seen you up in the studios,” he said. The studios were on the fifteenth floor of a concrete tower and were always referred to as being up.
“That's not all that surprising,” Carson said, “you spend all your time in here.”
“I don't have to pass the course though,” the giant bearded man said. Rather heartlessly in Carson's opinion. He hated being reminded of the impending doom of having to put together enough work to satisfy the course requirements. The longer he put off doing any serious work and the closer his deadlines encroached, the more work he was going to have to do, in a shorter and shorter amount of time.
The man gave his words time to sink in, and then carried on, “I hope you're out sketching, at least as much as you're in here drinking. If I were you I'd have my sketch book out right now. There are some real characters in here, in this beautiful chiaroscuro light.”
“I'm sketching,” Carson lied languidly.
“That's great,” the waves of enthusiasm coming from the beery, bleary giant were a surprise. He seemed genuinely interested, “have you got your sketch book with you?”
Of course Carson didn't, the last time he had touched it was two weeks ago to rip a page out and note down a shopping list. Time to pull a great excuse out of the hat, he thought to himself.
What he actually said was, “It's up in the studios.”
“Cool, I'll come up with you after and we'll take a look,” he got up to return to his group holding three pints in a triangle in his giant hands. He had gotten served by sign language, or perhaps just the raising of an eyebrow while he had been talking to Carson.
Even though the pub was almost completely empty Carson was forced to wait patiently another ten minutes until he was served. He spent the entire ten minutes wondering where he was going to magic up a sketchbook with a couple of months work in it. By the time he was back sitting with Algernon he had a few ideas.
The first idea was to sneak out unnoticed. Of course there was no need to tell Algernon about his little uncomfortable encounter at the bar, but he would need him to neck his pint and come away to another pub. If need be and if Algernon refused to budge Carson was absolutely prepared to ditch him, and it wouldn't have been the first time..