Freelance "penmonkey" Chuck Wendig has a challenge up to write a 500 word story based on the name of a cocktail. Being the Hemingwayophile that I am, this was no problem, even though I've haven't had a mixed drink since my 21st birthday. The story is called "Death in the Afternoon".
Ray stepped into the barroom, letting his eyes adjust from the bright of outside. Jamie, his favorite bartender, was bending down low, sliding a green tray of clean glasses into place. Ray walked across the room, taking his customary seat at one end of the polished bar.
Jamie straightened up and walked down the length of the bar. He marveled, seeing the peek of defiantly red bra strap on one shoulder, to her tight black top and long, trim legs. He looked into her eyes, trying to hold her gaze and failing. He looked away.
"What do you have for me?" Jamie asked, her voice brilliant like the afternoon sun. They had a little game they played- if he could come up with a drink she hadn't heard of, she would buy him one. She hadn't lost yet.
"Death in the Afternoon," he said.
"We don't have absinthe," she shot back. "Pernod okay?"
He watched her go down the bar to prepare it. He loved the way her clothes hugged her curves, making her look sleek and supple like a racing boat.
She brought it to him, fizzing, lime green. He tasted it. It was terrible.
"Jimmy says you're getting married," he began.
"Yeah," she said, looking away, her brown hair a tangled mess on her back.
"So I guess you won't run away with me, huh?" He felt relatively safe, flirting with her. He had never been able to knock her off her stride. But he was never entirely sure.
"Ray, you have kids older than me," she said, chuckling.
"Never stopped Saul Bellow," he said as she walked away. She refilled a glass at the other end of the bar, then came back.
"He's a lucky guy," Ray offered.
"I'm the lucky one," she said dreamily.
"So, you going to go off and make babies now? Leave me alone here?"
"No," she said, choking off a laugh. "I'll still work here. Someone's got to put up with you." He noted what part she answered, and the part she didn't, and he knew that it mostly wasn't true. Life takes you away from who you were, makes you become someone else. He knew he would see her less and less, and then not at all. That was the way it was.
He took another sip of the foul drink. He would finish it, so as not to insult her, but he would need a Coke on his way home to wash the taste away.
"You like that?" she asked. She was looking at him now, standing ramrod straight, her belt buckle level with his chin. He looked at it, and then up at her. She had a faint smile on her face.
"Love it," he said, and swallowed the rest. He laid a ten on the bar, more than twice the charge.
"I'll see you, James."
"See you, Ray."