Cut Off

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.


Conviviality Beneath the Blue Moon

“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.


No Worries

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.


Prompted by L Rose

Drinking Without Driving

Greg looked out the window in disgust. There was nothing for him inside except the booze. He blindly reached to the table beside him, feeling around until his fingertips brushed the smooth glass of the bottle that he so desperately needed. He took a long swig and set it back down, the drops of liquor glistening in his mustache. He swiped the back of his hand across his mouth and dropped it back to his lap.

The only sound in the room was his heartbeat, echoing in his ears.

A thought struck him, and he stood up abruptly, swinging his arm around to grasp the neck of the bottle. He took it with him downstairs.

One of her high heels was abandoned in the stairwell. She used to be so fashionable, before she had the breakdown. He kicked the shoe through the railing and continued down until he hit the bottom, in more ways than one.

The cab he hadn’t thought to call was waiting outside the front door. Must have belonged to a neighbor, but Greg got in anyway. They could call another one.

“Fourteenth and Marks,” he said, and tipped the bottle up to his mouth again.

“No drinking in the cab, buddy,” the cabbie announced, watching in the rear view mirror.

Greg shrugged and finished off the bottle before opening the door just enough to toss the empty out to shatter on the sidewalk.

The cabbie shook his head, but drove off.

When they arrived at the junkyard, Greg threw twice the fare at the cab driver and got out without a word.

He wandered through the broken cars, the pieces of lives gone awry somewhere, somewhen. The tall grass that grew up within the longest abandoned machines whispered against rusted panels, waving softly in the wind.

Greg sat down on the hood of an old, once-blue Plymouth with the right rear fender smashed beyond recognizability and wished that he still had that bottle.



Double Mint Tonic


Marshall stumbled on his next words, searching for something, anything, that would change her mind. “I…but…yesterday…please,” he begged.

Sumatra stared back, expressionless. “It’s just not that simple, Marshall. I mean, yeah, I love you too, I guess, but that isn’t enough anymore. I need a man who’s going places.” She shrugged, and signaled the waiter.

The two of them were regular enough patrons that all the waitstaff knew to bring him a gin and tonic, and her a mint julep with an extra shot of bourbon. Sumatra made it clear with a lift of an eyebrow and a slow blink that she was the only one in need of a refresher, and the waiter nodded and spun to fetch her drink.

julepMarshall dropped his head into his hands and took a deep, shuddering breath, his shoulders heaving with this turn of his world upside down.

“Cool it, Marshall,” she snapped, twisting the mint sprig from her last drink between the first two fingers of her left hand. The scent reminded Marshall of happier days. “We’ve been together for six years, and you haven’t gotten a single promotion. I’ve gotten four. Four, Marshall, and I fought tooth and nail to get them. They weren’t handed to me on a silver platter like your miserable job.”

“I’ve never seen you like this, Sue. What happened? I thought we were happy. I thought we were perfect for each other. I thought we were going places together,” he trailed off, easily reading the bored look on her face.

The waiter returned with her drink, and she dropped the mint spring on the floor. Her long, pianist fingers toyed with the fresh one on her glass.

“You were wrong, Marshall,” she simply said, before knocking back her drink, delicately picking up her Tory Burch clutch and clicking out of the restaurant on her Manolo Blahniks.

Marshall could just make out the edge of the mint leaf she had dropped on the floor. It fluttered briefly in the breeze caused by a swiftly moving patron, then stilled. He raised his glass at the waiter.

“Make it a double this time, buddy.”





Drinking and Despair

Richard stumbled into the bar and nearly knocked three chairs over trying to get to his spot.


“What’s up, old man?” the bartender called. “Am I gonna have to cut you off before you get started?”

Richard shook his head to clear it a bit. “No, no, I’m alright now. I just had a close shave in the street outside. Make it a double, eh, Steve?”

Steve eyeballed Richard a moment, then slowly nodded. “Alright.” He poured the drink and set it gently down in front of Richard. “Now tell me what happened out there.”

Richard knocked back the whiskey like an old pro. “Another, please?”

Steve nodded again and poured another, not having set the bottle down in the first place. He’d been bartending far too long to not know when to keep a bottle in his hand. “Start talking.”

Richard spun the glass a bit before taking a deep breath. “I don’t know what’s going on in the world anymore, Steve. They’re burning books out there. Kerouac, Steinbeck, Twain, you name it. Not the normal stuff that they always claim leads to Satan worship or whatever.”

Steve poured a single shot for himself. He loved to read in his off time. “Who’s doing this, old man? Some crazies or some church or who?”

“Kids!” Richard shouted. “Looked to me like college kids, maybe dropouts, I don’t know. I tried to stop them, and they laughed at me, Steve. They laughed. And then they pulled out hot dogs to roast over their book bonfire.” He drank his second drink a little more slowly than the first one, a little less shakily.

“People. This one’s on the house, old man,” Steve said, pouring another into Richard’s glass, shaking his head sadly. “We’ll never learn, will we?”