I was honored to win the WriterHouse 5th Anniversary Party short story contest last month. The assigned theme for entries was "Emerald." There were lots of great stories submitted and read aloud for an audience vote. Again, I am honored and thrilled to win! Hope you like it.....
Clare slid onto the last open barstool. Its foam stuffing was poking out through a crack in the red leather, but she didn’t care. One, her stockings were already trashed, and two, it was the last week her favorite place would be open. Some developer had bought the building and planned to make it into condos or a yoga studio or something non-alcoholic and oh-so-modern. It was the final nail in the coffin of her old life.
“I’ll have a Midori sour, please,” she said to the bartender as he walked by.
The man to her left nearly choked on his drink. “Oh Jesus Christ! Seriously? Who orders that anymore? That is disgusting. Syrupy and gross. Blech.”
Clare gave the stranger a look that everyone around them could feel. It even stopped conversation for a moment.
“Sorry,” he apologized, picking up the ice cube he had sloshed out of his glass. “That just came out. I – I have Tourette’s syndrome.”
“You do not,” Clare said.
The bartender placed her dripping drink on a fresh coaster.
Miss. Another reason she loved this place. The bartenders were older than her and still flirted a little. She was so far beyond a Miss.
“Let me get it,” said the man as he pulled out his wallet, handed the guy a 10 dollar bill and nodded in a way that said keep the change. “And you’re right,” Rick admitted. “That’s just my go- to excuse. Sometimes it works.” He shrugged.
“It’s offensive to hide behind a fake mental illness.”
“Tourette’s is a physical condition. My brother has it.”
“Oh. I am sorry,” Clare felt bad, and then suspicious. “Unless you are lying again.”
“Not lying this time.”
“Well, then, thank you for the drink.”
A large group came through the door and made for the bar like a flock of seagulls descending on a spilled bucket of popcorn.
“So what are you drinking?” Clare asked when the bodies stopped pressing against her. “Wait, let me guess. You clearly don’t like flavor – so I’ll say that clear, insipid liquid is a vodka martini on the rocks. Hold the vermouth. And no olive.”
“You’re wrong,” Rick said. “I already ate the olive.” He smiled, and Clare couldn’t help but laugh.
“Your drink is a lovely color, I have to admit. It matches your eyes.”
Clare groaned. “Seriously?” She held her drink up to the light. “It actually reminds me a little of antifreeze.”
“No, that’s too yellow. And how can you drink something that reminds you of antifreeze, anyway? I think the color is more like an old piece of jade, or an emerald.”
“A cheap one, maybe.” Clare was still examining her drink.
“Cheap isn’t the worst thing something could be.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Clare said and raised her glass at Rick who responded in kind.