She sat at the bar, the dimness blanketing her with its soft cushion of comfort, her finger sliding sensuously around the rim of the double old-fashioned glass resting before her. She looked to her left, and then to her right. No likely candidates in sight.
She sighed, and slid her glass toward the bartender, who had magically appeared at just the moment her glass became empty.
“I’ll have another, please,” she said, pitching her voice just loud enough for him to hear her, but not loud enough to draw too much attention to herself.
The bartender nodded, and returned with a fresh Crown and Coke for her. He nodded at her, accepting the bill she passed him without comment.
“Keep it,” she nodded back at him.
He turned to serve the next customer.
She leaned back from her precarious perch on the bar stool, almost too far. Her leg jerked, and she caught herself at the last second. She slid from the stool onto her own two feet, on solid ground once again.
She failed to note the bartender watching her out of the corner of his eye.
Her right foot slipped on the wet bar floor, and in her panic to grab the edge of the bar, she nearly knocked her full glass over, but this time, she missed it.
Finally somewhat steady again, she reached for her drink, to take a sip or to toss the whole thing back, she wasn’t sure yet. An inch above the bar surface, her grip loosened, and she dropped the glass, spraying whiskey and soda everywhere.
Her eyes widened, and then she threw her head back and laughed heartily.
“I’ll have another!” She cried to the bartender, heedless now of the volume of her voice. He shook his head at her as he mopped up her drink. She cocked her own in momentary confusion before realizing that this was it.
She’d been cut off.
The shame stayed with her for days, and she couldn’t bring herself to return to that bar for a full week this time.
“It’s Maddy,” she winked back at the handsome man asking her name. “And if you’re going to buy me a drink, come on and do it already.”
His smile broadened, and he stepped up to the bar at her side, signaling the bartender with a raised hand, his fingers half-curled in a beckoning gesture. It was only a moment before the bartender slid down to take their order.
Maddy met his eyes with the confidence of the veteran barfly. “Crown and Sprite, easy on the Sprite,” she announced, firmly.
Her unwitting victim raised an eyebrow at her tone, but quickly shrugged it off. Surely she was far too young to be as much of an alcoholic as his mother. He ordered more quietly after she turned her face to stare him down. “Make it two.” He pulled a twenty from his right hip pocket and laid it on the bar, watching the bartender shuffle glasses and bottles with an experienced hand.
He realized that he hadn’t introduced himself to Maddy. “Don Davis. I know it’s the most cliche ever, but do you come here often?” he asked wit ha smile, not quite as broad as he had begun with.
He thought he saw a sly glint come to her eyes, but dismissed that idea when she took a half step closer to him.
“I’ve been here a couple times, but I’ve only just moved back here from St Louis. How about you?” She winked again, and all of his second thoughts washed away with that slow, sultry wink and the arrival of their matched drinks.
Don took a sip of his, trying to collect his thoughts while she lazily stirred her ice around with the tiny straw. “You mean do I come here often? Actually, no. This is the first time.” Was it just his imagination or did her smile just become the tiniest bit more authentic? It had to be his imagination.
He grasped for a topic of conversation, any topic. Please, anything. His panicked internal monologue was rising in pitch as the seconds ticked by. Somehow, Maddy was still smiling at him, her cheek resting on her fist as her elbow sat on the edge of the bar.
“I majored in biology at State,” he offered, immediately kicking himself. That tidbit was definitely not going to win him any points with her. But surprisingly enough, it seemed to work.
“Really?” For the first time, honest interest sparked behind her eyes, and she sat up a little straighter. “I minored in zoology when I was in St Louis.” Her excitement waned a bit, and her voice dropped. “Before I had to drop out.”
Don was legitimately curious about the reasons she ‘had to’ drop out, but judging by her emotional cues, it wasn’t the best story she had in her repertoire, so he made the good decision to let it drop and talk more about happier things. “So we have more in common than not coming here often.” He grinned, and was pleased to see some of the distant sadness leave her face.
The bartender slid by as if he were on a track, eyebrows raised in the universal question. Don shook his head, and the bartender continued on his way.
“We both like Crown and Sprite,” she added.
He laughed. “You’re absolutely right. A whole laundry list of things we have in common.”
“Add one more,” she smiled. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure we’d both like to end up in bed with the other before the night is over.” She finished off her drink and turned her body to face his, brushing her hip against his crotch in the process.
His surprise was clearly evident, so she prompted him, standing on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear. “Drink up and let’s go.”
He obeyed, swiftly lifting his glass and emptying it down his throat before replacing the glass on the bar and letting her lead him through the exit door beneath the softly glowing Blue Moon clock.
Marlon and Marion held their violet frothy drinks aloft and clinked glasses.
“To us!” Marlon cried.
“To vacation!” Marion corrected him.
Marlon laughed and nodded at her as he took a long sip from his glass, nosing the paper umbrella out of the way. “Remember that time your parents took us to Disneyland and the pilot invited us into the cockpit to have a look, because we were seven and what seven-year-old wouldn’t love that? This island reminds me of that trip. Isn’t that weird?”
Marion set her drink down on the bar. “It should sound weird, but it’s not. Now that’s weird. I was thinking of the same trip just now, although probably for a completely different reason.” She gestured towards a couple having an argument between the bar and the beach. “Those two remind me of my parents. So loveless, not a thought for the chase anymore, only for the end of their marriage.”
“Wow.” Marlon took another heavy slug from his glass. “That’s almost a sobering thought.” He winked at Marion. “But we’re on vacation, girl, there’s no need to dredge up painful memories. I know your parents had their problems, but everyone does. Except us, except today. Bartender?”
The bartender looked their way, and Marlon waved his near-empty glass. The bartender nodded as Marlon raised a peace sign in his direction. Within seconds, the second round was in front of the pair of old friends.
Marion added her first straw to the second glass, and stirred thoughtfully. “I know we’re on vacation, Mar, but I can’t help but think about all the bad things that we’re missing back at home. All the annoyance that’s waiting on us when we get back to work.” She twitched the hem of her white tennis skirt into a straight line across her knees. “The Huntress is going to have it in for us for coming back with a tan when she’s been stuck there, you know that.”
“I don’t know why she has that nickname. It doesn’t make any sense. She doesn’t hunt, she has all her intel brought to her by the office snitch. And besides, it’s her own fault she doesn’t use her vacation time properly. Drink up.” Marlon led by example and waved the bartender down again.
Marion shrugged and finished off her second drink. “Ouch!” Her hand flew to her forehead. “Sorry, brain freeze.” She squinted at Marlon. “Whew, it’s gone now. Where’s the next round?”
He laughed as the bartender set another pair of glasses before them. “It’s right here. Toast!” He raised his glass.
Marion matched his pose. “What are we drinking to this time?” she asked.
“To sunlight, to sea air, to beach life…to freedom from fax machines and rolling chairs and mail room clerks eager to get in someone’s pants. To drinking!” Marlon smiled broadly, and Marion couldn’t help but leave her worries behind and join his frivolity.
Once upon a time, my friend, his wife (ex-wife now) and a couple of our friends (ex-friends now), and I drove to a college town about an hour away to go to a bar. Wow, things have changed.Anyway, we went to the bar. Had some drinks. Had some more drinks.
I was sent to the jukebox with very specific instructions, but you know, jukebox. Man, those things are chock full of good songs, if you’re lucky. I accidentally ran out of credits before getting to all of the songs I was assigned to play. Accidentally. I swear.
When I got back to the table, I assured the slighted party that the song he requested wasn’t on the jukebox. But what did I know? I hadn’t even gotten halfway through the albums.
When that five bucks’ worth of songs ran out, said slighted party brought another fiver to the jukebox, and came back to the table upset that not only had I not played his stupid song, but I played some garbage by Fleetwood Mac instead.
That should have been enough to end the friendship right then and there, but I’m older and wiser and more confident now. Nobody disses Fleetwood Mac on my watch.
He played his stupid Seven Bridges Road and my friend’s wife and I left our bras in the rafters, which was apparently a tradition there, and we left.
I don’t know what I was thinking, hanging out with people who don’t properly appreciate Fleetwood Mac.
Miriam swirled the swizzle stick around the naked ice cubes in her rocks glass, cigarette clamped in her teeth, mind a million miles away. The left side of her mouth twitched upward in a distant cousin of a smile as she pondered whether she’d spent more of her life on this very bar stool or out in the rest of the world.
The bar stool was the likely winner.
She squinted her eyes against the smoke curling upwards from her mouth and held her glass aloft. Greg nodded in her direction, and she set the glass back down on the bar, exactly in the ring of condensation staining the cocktail napkin. He finished swapping the pint glass in the sink and dried his hands on the towel tucked into his waistband before grasping the neck of the half-empty bottle of house bourbon.
“Only the best for my gal. How ya doin’ tonight, Mir?” he asked, talking as he poured. “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to catch up when you came in.”
The half smirk returned to her face. “It’s alright, Greg. I saw you were busy. But you know I’d rather wait a few minutes for you to pour me one than tip Joe. He’s been here a year if he’s been here a day, and he still can’t remember my name.”
Greg chuckled. “He’s been here less than three weeks, and he can’t even remember my name, Mir. Sometimes I’m not so sure he remembers his own.”
Miriam shrugged and took a slug of her bourbon, baring her teeth and hissing at the liquor’s harshness. “They all look alike to me, Greg. You’re the only one that’s been here near as long as me. You and ol’ Chuck over there,” she added, raising her glass to the mounted deer head hanging over the cash register.
“You’re probably right,” he agreed, refilling her glass again.
“Thanks, Greg. Maybe something stronger now?” she unexpectedly asked.
He reached up to the top shelf. “You betcha.”
In other news, poor little Stanley was neutered today, but he’s doing well. He mostly understands not to jump. I’m sure he’ll be back to his rug-battling ways in no time.