What I’m Writing
I offer you another Halloween-themed story. Desmond dodges trick-or-treaters, and encounters a woman in scrubs at Harry’s Bar and Grill. A note of caution: mature content. Enjoy.
Desmond flipped on his TV to a live ball game. A cold sixpack waited for him in the fridge. Pure heaven. With Frida out of town at a company sales meeting, there’d be no yapping about how she couldn’t find enough buyers to meet her quota. No whining about the terrible economy.
The doorbell rang.
Who ever comes to our door? He raised himself off the recliner and opened the door. Four kids in a mix of store-bought costumes yelled, Trick or treat!
Aw shit. Halloween. He pulled loose change out of his pocket and divvied it up among the four. As soon as they left, he turned off the porch light, grabbed the remote and killed the TV, then blacked out the living room.
I can’t deal with this shit. They’ll be ringing the bell all night.
Desmond slipped out the back door into the chill night. His destination, Harry’s Bar and Grill. Actually, just Bar. The Grill menu consisted of a grilled cheese sandwich on white bread. For an extra buck you could get the Special, grilled cheese with pickle and mustard.
Harry snugged his collar around his neck. He decided to walk. Too many kids out tonight for him to risk driving while high. Even though he had no plan to come home till every kid was off the street.
Four blocks down and around the corner, he stepped into Harry’s. One glance told him this was a mistake. All the patrons wore costumes. The bartender spied Desmond, said, “Costumes required tonight, buddy.”
Desmond looked around the dim interior. A few open seats at the bar, most of the patrons sitting or standing in the center of the room. Everyone talking loudly. A few couples danced off to the side. His sports channel played on the TV over the bar.
He turned to leave.
The bartender handed Desmond a faded pink baseball jacket with a monogramed L and a Red Sox cap. “Here, wear this. From lost and found. You got a costume now.”
Desmond slipped into the jacket. A size too small. The cap, a size too big. He looked around again. No one was looking at him. Dark enough in here. This might work, he thought.
He found a seat at the bar where he could see the TV without staring at neon beer signs. The bartender put a longneck in front of him. Ice cold. Okay, this is working.
Three innings later, bored to death by a scoreless game, Desmond ordered his sixth beer. A woman sat down on the stool to his right, partially blocking his view of the game. The woman wore blue hospital scrubs and a surgical mask, the mask pulled down under her chin.
“I like your costume,” the woman said to Desmond. “You must have put a lot of work into it.”
The bartender stepped in front of her. “What’ll it be tonight, Liz?”
“Scotch,” she answered, holding up three fingers horizontally.
“You got it.” The bartender pointed his index finger at her, stepped away.
Desmond looked at the woman. Reflection from the neon beer signs gave her eyes a sickly green color. He said, “What are you, a nurse?”
“Nurse? I detect a note of sexism there. No, I am a surgeon.”
“Coulda fooled me,” he said.
“Wouldn’t be hard, I’m guessing.”
Shit, who is this dame?
“Okay, Scrubs, you’re a surgeon. Big whoop.”
The bartender put Liz’s drink down. She sipped it slowly. Smiled. “Mother’s milk.”
Desmond pointed his longneck at Scrubs. “I get it. You’re a tough broad doctor from one of those old noir movies. The ones with cliché dialogue.”
“You got me there, buddy. A tough broad doctor. Why don’t you drop your pants and cough for me?”
Desmond tried to swallow, gagged, his eyes tearing up.
“Wow, most guys would have their pants around their ankles by now,” she said.
Desmond wiped his face with a bar napkin. He felt redness creeping up from his neck to his forehead.
“You like this, don’t you?” she said, waving towards the crowded room. “You came here to ogle the girls.”
“Lady, I came here to dodge trick or treaters and watch a ball game.”
Scrubs hoisted her glass in his direction, slid off the barstool and melted into the crowd. Desmond went back to watching the game.
The ball game dragged on into extra innings. Many extra innings. A single run finally ended the misery.
Desmond signaled for another longneck. Too early to go home. Shrieks and laughs from the crowd pierced the room.
“Hey, pink lady.”
Desmond turned to the voice. He needed a second to focus. The surgeon in blue scrubs.
Desmond fingered his borrowed jacket. Forgot I was wearing this. “Hey Scrubs. You still here?”
“Afraid so. Nobody to go home to.” She signaled for a refill.
“Yeah, me too. But that’s okay.”
“You wouldn’t believe the yapping and yimmering I put up with.”
“The only whining I hear comes from my vacuum cleaner…when I use it. Doesn’t happen often.”
Getting near to closing time.
Scrubs lifted herself onto the empty seat next to Desmond. She gestured back towards the crowd. “Getting near to closing time. Desperation is rearing its ugly head.”
“Wait,” Desmond said. “If I took a drink for every cliché you came out with tonight, I’d be passed out by now.”
“Buddy, if you even recognized all my clichés, you’d have brain overload.”
Geez, she’s got a mouth. Change the topic.
Desmond said, “Looks like you come here often.”
“Score one cliché for the man in the pink jacket.”
Desmond shrugged. As the crowd screeched loudly, he managed a weak smile, “You’re not the only one with wit.”
The woman blinked, shook her head slowly. “You just call me a twit?”
Desmond laughed. “Wit. I said, wit.”
“Oh. Awful loud in here.” She waved the bartender over for another refill.
The bartender set the glass down. “You’re not driving tonight, are you, Liz?”
“I walked. I plan on getting home alive.”
She turned to Desmond, gestured to the crowd. “Closing time soon. Have you picked out who you’ll ask home yet?”
“Lady, I told you before. I came here to watch a game and dodge kids ringing my bell.”
“So you don’t want anyone ringing your bell?”
“Scrubs, your cliché score must be over a hundred by now.”
“Seriously, look at the women there on the dance floor. Who would you ask?”
“Them? Pathetic. One night a year they dress slutty and get away with it.”
“Most of those women are too old or too big to look sexy in those costumes.”
Scrubs smirked. “We all look the same when we’re standing on our heads.”
Desmond choked on his drink. He wiped beer off his mouth. “You got all the clever lines tonight, don’t you?”
“I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your server.”
Desmond took a last slug of his longneck, slid off the stool. He peeled off the pink jacket and hat, piled them on the bar.
“Another time, Scrubs. I hope you’re happy tonight with whoever picks the doc with all the lines.”
He stepped out into the night. Scrubs had it right. Nobody rings my bell.
What I’m Reading
I finished reading Drift, by L. T. Ryan , the first in a series of eight thrillers with main character Rachel Hatch. An enjoyable read. Refreshing – not quite the usual (trite) “gory serial killer preys on women or children” premise.
Hatch is ex-military, a wanderer after serving for 15 years on a slew of difficult and classified assignments. In Drift she works to find her twin sister’s killer. The author presents a compelling and authentic character, different enough from many other novel protagonists to be quite readable. I look forward to reading the next in the series.
And coming soon, a new format for this blog. Mannequin Monday will yield to a new title and logo. Sneak previews soon!