Here’s Rocket Dog, requested by my darling sister, sumi ink and watercolor on 9×12 watercolor paper.
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.
Alison rifled through the detritus littering the bottom of her purse a moment longer before giving up and dumping the whole mess on the coffee table.
“I can’t find the tickets to save my life, Liza, I’m so sorry,” Alison apologized to her friend. The tone of her voice was contrite, but the fury with which she continued to shuffle through her belongings betrayed another, overbearing feeling of discontent. “Let me check my wallet again.”
Liza leaned back into the waiting comfort of the couch and continued to watch the scene unfold, feeling completely disconnected even though without her presence, Alison would still be asleep. She kept her mouth shut, knowing better than to waste her breath on sentences that Alison would never hear in her current emotional state.
“Ta-da!” Alison called in a sing-song, bursting with pride to have found the tickets that she was sure she’d thrown in the trash with the series of receipts that marched constantly through her belongings. “I was positive they were in there!”
Liza smiled mildly, more amused by Alison’s reaction than impressed by the actual discovery of the tickets. She pulled her feet back and stood up, arching her back in a stretch that popped her back three times in a row, like gunshots in the new silence. “Let’s go then,” she said.
Alison cocked her head to the side. “Don’t you even want to know what we’re going to see?” she asked her friend.
“Nope. It’s more fun when it’s a surprise. And besides, even if it turns out to be some horrible hypnotist, if I don’t know who we’re going to see, I can blame all of my discontent on you.” Liza smiled again, more sweetly this time, but with a hint of venomous honesty.
“I swear, Liza, I’m through apologizing for that lackluster son of a bitch that we wasted nearly a hundred bucks on. That was three years ago, for crying out loud, and he was so highly reviewed in that Examiner article. You can’t put all the blame on me. I won’t take it.” Alison was so upset that she was mangling those poor abused tickets in the hand fisted at her side. Her purse swung loosely from her shoulder, empty of her belongings.
Liza scooped up Alison’s wallet from the mess on the table. “Put the tickets in the change compartment. I’ll grab your keys.”
Alison’s jaw dropped when she realized that Liza was utterly refusing to rise to the occasion and fight about the ventriloquist they’d seen at the Lake Theater. It would have been the fourteenth time they’d fought about it; two more and Alison would probably have paid Liza to drop the whole thing once and for all. But she didn’t consciously understand that. It was more a feeling of poison ivy, itching just behind her right temple every time Liza brought up that spectacularly failed girls’ night out.
A reflected flash of light blinded Alison as Liza paused at the door, swinging Alison’s keys around and around the first finger of her left hand. “Get it, girl. Shoes on, show’s starting.” Liza winked and walked out of the apartment without bothering to make sure that Alison was following instructions.
Alison slipped into her pumps and trotted obediently behind her friend, locking the door behind her on her way out.
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.
Stephanie rolled out of bed with a purpose, sniffing the air as she came upright. Scrambled eggs–and danger. She could hear her mother rattling pans in the kitchen downstairs, but the air currents didn’t feel quite right.
Evidently someone had left the front door unlocked. That’s practically an invite for robbers! Stephanie felt her heart skip a beat. The panic was beginning to kick in.
She ducked behind the scraggly house plant at the bottom of the stairs to peek around the corner toward the foyer. Nothing seemed out of place. She tried to shake off the eerie feeling of suspense as she straightened her spine and turned left to enter the dining room.
“Surprise!!” everyone shouted together. “Happy birthday!!”
Stephanie clutched at her chest in mock terror, then laughed as she slid into her place as the table. “Thanks, everybody,” she answered, digging into her eggs on toast.
Happy birthday to Stephanie at Adventures of a Bibliophile!