by Margret A. Treiber
The beat was heavy, smoky, and seductive. I swayed to the bass and hummed the melody, enjoying that distinct neurological lag that intoxication brings. The band had just finished their set and was taking a break. The house was piping in new wave. It mixed well with my drink. I sipped my tequila sunrise and followed it up with a huge drag from my cigarette. Slowly exhaling the smoke, I savored every molecule. I loved the fuck out of smoking, maybe even more than drinking.
“You want another sunrise?” the bartender asked. He was wearing one of those dorky-ass Santa hats that every department store flunky dons for the season. It didn’t suit him. No doubt this was a poor management decision imposed upon him.
I pulled out my Amex and slapped it down on the bar. “Sure, keep ‘em coming.”
The bartender complied and quickly presented me a fresh concoction. I watched the pain in his eyes as a techno remix of “These Three Kings” invaded our aural space. I sipped my drink through the straw, finishing it in one gulp. Leaning back in satisfaction, I lit up another smoke. This was just what I needed. Vice and a break from the holiday bullshit. It wasn’t my holiday, anyway.
“You know smoking will kill you.” A well-groomed man, with a pretentious accent, sat next to me.
“Death is everywhere,” I replied. “May as well enjoy the little things.”
“Spoken like a true hedonist,” He held out his hand. “My name is Eli, a pleasure to meet you.”
I took his hand and returned a firm handshake. “Pearl, nice to meet you, Ellie.”
“Not, Ellie.” Eli frowned. “Never mind. What’s with the sunglasses?”
I shrugged. “Don’t know, I like them. Do they bother you?”
“Not really, it’s just that most people take them off when they’re indoors.”
“Well, I feel naked without them.”
“Yeah, naked, like unclothed. You have a problem with that?”
“No, I…” Eli scratched his head. I apparently short-circuited him. “Are you here with someone?”
“Nope,” I answered. “I was. I was here with my friends, but one got drunk and started barfing back into his drink. So my other friend dragged him home.”
“And you stayed, alone?”
“Yup, the band didn’t play my request yet.”
“You stayed to hear your request, by yourself?”
“Yeah, why is that strange to you?”
“It’s not,” Eli replied. “It’s just that most women…”
“You keep bringing up ‘most people’. I’m not most people.”
“I see that.” Eli grinned. “Do you have any plans for the rest of the evening? It’s early, maybe we could spend the night together.”
“Are you trying to get into my pants?” I asked. “Because I don’t put out.”
“I, uh, no. Pearl, I just want to spend the night in your company. I promise not to harm you in any way. No funny business. Would you let me join your festivities?”
“I don’t know how festive I’ll be. I don’t do the holiday season, but you can hang if you want. Let me buy you a drink. What will you have?”
“I don’t know, pick something for me.”
“Okay, tequila.” I held up my hand to get the bartender’s attention. “Could you bring this man some tequila, please?”
The bartender brought Eli a shot. He downed it and gagged.
“That is horrid,” he complained. “What is this made out of?”
“Tequila? I don’t know, some kind of fermented cactus. What rock did you crawl out from under?”
“I’ve been out of commission for some time.”
“That sucks, we’ll have another. Bartender, another round.”
The bartender brought us more drinks. I chugged my sunrise and watched as Eli gagged down his second tequila.
“That, that is dreadful,” he whined.
“Stop being a baby, Ellie. Bring him another.”
“I don’t see you drinking this stuff straight.”
“Bartender,” I yelled. “Please make that two shots.”
The bartender obeyed and brought over two more shots.
“L’chaim!” I toasted and swigged my shot. The burn was satisfying.
Eli grinned. “L’chaim.” He drank the shot and winced. “That is still awful.”
“I want to get stoned,” I lamented. “You holding?”
“Holding what?” Eli asked. “Why would you want to get stoned?”
“Because I want to get high. What are you, an escaped Mormon or something?”
“I am not a Mormon,” Eli replied.
“Good, let’s find some weed.” I stood up and detected a likely source at a table. “Come on, but stay quiet.”
I undid the top two buttons of my shirt and walked across the bar. A very yuppified man in a shitty holiday sweater sat alone at the table looking completely out of his depth. He would do.
“Hi!” I greeted him.
“Hi,” he replied. He smiled and stared at my chest.
“I’m horny, got any weed?”
“Uh, yeah, er, wait here. Be right back.” The man jumped up and ran to what appeared to be one of his friends. He was very animated in his gestures, pointing in my direction and pleading.
“I thought you said that you don’t put out,” Eli said.
“Yeah, but he doesn’t know that. Shhh.”
The yuppie guy returned, holding a joint. “Where can we smoke this?” he asked.
“There’s an alley out back,” I replied.
“Okay, let’s go.”
I followed the yuppie out of the bar and into the alley. Eli followed.
“Wait,” the yuppie asked. “Who’s he?”
“Oh,” I replied. “He’s my bodyguard.”
“Why do you need a bodyguard?”
“A girl,” I replied. “Alone in the city.”
“I guess,” the yuppie agreed.
“Cool, light up,” I said.
“Take off the Gargoyles and I will,” the yuppie replied.
“What is it with you bastards and my sunglasses? Take off your shitty sweater and I will.”
“Hey!” the yuppie objected. “My mother gave me this sweater. And it’s too cold out here to take it off.”
“Baby. Here.” I pulled off my shades.
“My God, you’re beautiful,” the yuppie gasped.
“Thanks.” I put my sunglasses back on. “Can we light up now?”
The yuppie lit up the joint and inhaled. He began choking. I took it from him and took a toke. It wasn’t terrible. I was surprised.
“Here,” I handed the joint to Eli.
He inhaled it and began to choke.
“Lightweights,” I scoffed.
Eli handed the joint back to the yuppie. He inhaled again and started coughing really hard.
“Go get some water,” I said.
“Be right back,” the yuppie gasped and handed me the joint. He ran around the corner, back inside the club.
I handed Eli the joint. He inhaled but didn’t cough this time.
“There you go, Ellie, just like a pro. How you feeling?” I asked.
“Pretty good,” he replied. “I never tried this before. Now, I understand the appeal.”
“You like it?” I asked.
“Yes,” Eli said. “I do.”
“Wanna blow this place?”
“What about that guy?”
“He’s okay,” I answered. “Let’s go find another club.”
“Sure,” Eli replied.
I took a last hit of the joint, put it out with my tongue and tucked the roach into my pack of smokes. We headed out to the main street, in search of a happening club.
As we stepped out of the alley I caught a flash of light out of the corner of my eye.
Eli paused for a moment, putting his arm out to protect me. Something shadow-like seemed to scurry off. I couldn’t focus on it dead-on. It was like stargazing in the desert and trying to see galaxies. It was clearer in the periphery.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Nothing you need to worry about,” Eli answered. “You’re safe with me.”
“Safe from what? Muggers? Alien invasion? Demons?”
Eli shrugged. “Something like that.”
“Something like which one?”
Before he could answer, a car pulled up next to us. It was filled to capacity with howling frat boys in those stupid Santa hats.
“Hey, do you know the way to the Limelight?” one asked.
“No,” I replied. “I’m not from this planet, monkey boy.”
The frat boys laughed. “Where you from then?” another asked.
“Somewhere closer to the center of the galaxy,” I replied.
“Do space aliens party?”
“Hell, yeah!” I answered.
“Wanna come party with us?”
“You don’t even know where the Limelight is,” I said.
“I know another club,” the driver yelled from the front seat.
“Well, he’s coming, too.” I pointed at Eli.
“Yeah.” They waved us in and opened the door.
Eli and I climbed into the back. It was a tight fit, but not too bad.
“Do space aliens have sex?” the frat boy next to me asked.
“Not with you,” I replied.
The car erupted in jeers at the frat boy’s expense.
“Wait, I thought you were one of the Chosen People,” Eli said.
“The chosen?” I asked. “Okay, yeah, L’chaim. Yeah, indoctrinated, Bat Mitzvahed and all that. But it didn’t stick. I’m a bacon-eating heathen.”
“Yay, heathens!” one of the frat boys yelled. The car burst into cheers and howling.
We drove through the city until I lost track of where we were. Eli didn’t seem too concerned, and I was too wasted to give a crap. We pulled up in front of a club. The line was long, and the people were overdressed. We parked around the corner and got out. The frat boys jumped into the back of the queue. I watched the bouncer picking and choosing people from the line. I grabbed Eli by the arm.
“Hold on,” I stated. “Give me a sec.”
I walked over to the bouncer and caught his eye.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Do we have a chance in hell of getting into this club, or should we not even bother waiting in this line?”
The bouncer studied us for a moment and then opened the velvet rope. “Go ahead. Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas,” I replied. Just because I didn’t celebrate didn’t mean I had to be a douche about it. Eli seemed to read my intent because he looked at me and grinned.
“Merry Christmas,” he repeated as he passed the bouncer.
Eli and I walked in. The club had this weird Aztec-like motif. The décor consisted of plaster shaped into stone pyramids and temples. Adobe-colored walls were adorned with fake artifacts, like bongo drums and pottery. The lighting was done in shades of red and amber. Antiqued wall fixtures flickered to suggest touch light.
I was relieved that there was not much of the holiday spirit infesting the place. There were no stocking caps or jingle bells. Instead, waitresses paraded around in these weird, straw bikini-things as they tried to ply the intoxicated customers for tips. The hyper-masculine bartenders were topless and painted up to look like B-movie savages. They donned oversized headdresses that shifted awkwardly as they tried to serve the fevered crowd. The drinks had names like ‘Bloody Aztec” and “Montezuma’s Revenge”. I wondered who would consume such a hideously-named thing.
The sound of tribal drums blended with the obligatory holiday music in a cacophony of incongruence. As we made our way to the bar, we passed a stage that had been set up to look like a sacrificial altar. A flat, faux-stone slab was positioned in the center and several girls in mock tribal wear were dancing in cages around the edges.
“This is where we make our sacrifices to Mammon!” I announced.
Eli cringed and glanced at me sideways.
“What? Mammon likes a party now and then.”
He shook his head and muttered something that was not English. Then he performed a Vulcan salute. I could have sworn I saw another flash, but nobody in the club seemed to notice.
“Hokay, so you’re a geek–”
A group of drunken bimbos loudly poured into the club behind us.
“Behold the virgin offering!” I bellowed. “A tribute to the master!” I motioned to the stage.
One of the bimbos stumbled into another, causing a chain reaction. Two of them landed on the floor. The one who had originally stumbled landed halfway on the stage. She picked herself up and staggered up onto the altar. Steadying herself, she lifted her dress and squealed.
“Hey, mrnomina!” she slurred before collapsing in a pile of hair and vomit.
“Maybe not so much,” I muttered.
The whole scene was poorly executed and I wasn’t impressed. Despite the hype, it was just a club. However, clubs had drinks. I liked drinks. I found the nearest set of stools and ordered shots for me and Eli. Eli drank his without pause.
“Hey there.” A guy stepped up next to us.
“Hi there,” I replied.
“Want to do some blow?” he asked.
“Nah,” I replied. “Don’t like coke much, only like the way it smells. Got any herb?”
“Sure,” the guy replied. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of joints.
“How much?” I asked.
“No charge,” he replied. “I don’t deal herb. Enjoy the party.”
The guy took off and left me and Eli at the bar.
“Is it cool to smoke this here?” I asked the bartender.
“Are you shitting me?” He motioned at a girl snorting lines off a menu at the end of the bar. “Go for it.” He placed an ashtray in front of us. I lit up.
Eli and I smoked it up and continued doing shots.
“You know he was right?” Eli said.
“The coke guy?” I asked. “About what?”
“Not the coke guy,” Eli answered. “The guy from the other bar.”
“You mean yuppie guy? With the joint?”
“What was he right about?”
“You are beautiful,” Eli said.
“Nah.” I pointed to a tall, willowy, blonde in a red velvet and white plush mini-dress. “That’s beautiful. I’m okay.”
“That is fake,” Eli said. “You’re the real thing. Trust me, thirty years from now, you will still be beautiful. She’ll be drooping, everywhere.”
“Well thanks, Ellie. I don’t know how to respond to that.”
“You don’t have to say anything,” Eli said. “But you should stop doubting yourself. You’re doing fine.”
“Doubting myself? What do you mean?”
“You’re worried about who you are, and your place in the universe. You’re worried that you have no destiny, but you do. You will be okay. And college will work itself out.”
“Wow, that was really deep. Wait, I don’t remember telling you about any of that.”
“You are pretty high, Pearl.”
“Yeah, I am,” I replied. “But still, you’re being really spooky.” I sighed. “Well, screw it. We’re having fun. I can deal with a little spookiness.”
Eli smirked. “Excellent. Let me buy the next round.”
We drank and smoked until we could barely walk. The bartender announced last call. I looked at my watch; it was well after four.
“Holy crap, it’s late.” I laughed. “Well, at least I know if the path train is closed, it will be opening soon.”
“Let me walk you there,” Eli said. “I’ll see you safely to your train.”
“Okay, will you be able to find your way back?”
“Oh, I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine.” Eli left a large tip for the bartender.
We stumbled through the streets until we found a subway station. We were feet from the stairs, when a really menacing man dressed in black, approached.
“Eli,” he said, pointing in our direction. “Eli, it’s time.”
“Oh?” Eli rubbed his temples. “Already?”
“Ellie, you know this dude,” I asked.
“Yeah,” Eli replied. “It’s the boss. I’ve got to get back to work.”
“Is he a virgin?” I stage-whispered. “We could sacrifice him to Mammon.”
Eli cracked a smile.
“And who is this?” the menacing man asked.
“Oh,” Eli replied. “This is Iscah, daughter of Esther. She was giving me some insight.”
“Wait,” I interjected. “I never told you my Hebrew name. How did you even…”
“Did you make the announcement?” The menacing man was apparently not amused.
“Nah, I wasn’t feeling it.”
“We were having too much fun and who wants to be the party pooper when everyone is having a good time?” Eli shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m so confused. Can we just put it off a few years? I need time to think.”
The menacing man did not reveal any kind of facial expression. “Fine, another millennium.” He eyeballed me unnervingly. “What do you want to do with her?”
“Blessings, good stuff, all that. But first, I promised to get her to the train.”
The menacing man nodded. Eli and I descended the staircase.
“That was odd,” I said. “Your boss is creepy.”
“Yes,” Eli agreed. “The boss is kind of strange. But he means well.”
“Bosses suck,” I said. “I’ve had lots of them.”
Eli nodded and grinned. “Sometimes they do.”
The train pulled into the station. “You’re not a local are you?”
Eli shook his head.
“Here.” I wrote down my phone number on the foil lining from my cigarette pack. “If you’re ever in town again, call me. I had a blast.”
“Me too,” Eli said. “Take care of yourself, Pearl.”
“You, too, Ellie.” I waved as I hopped on the train. “Happy Holidays!” The doors closed. I watched him through the window as I pulled out of the station and he disappeared from view. The last car was empty, so I collapsed into a seat and passed out. I woke up at my stop, just in time to get out and go find my car.
The sun was just starting to rise and it was looking like a beautiful day. The crisp winter air jolted me out of my lingering intoxication. I took a deep lungful of the polluted, morning air and coughed out a fog of the evening’s impurity. Once I located my car, I got in. It started without issue and I lit my last cigarette. As I inhaled, I recalled the events of the evening. Suddenly, it all came back to me and I remembered every detail.
“Dammit!” I cursed, as I realized what I had missed. I had not noticed; not until just that moment. With everything that happened the entire evening, I never got to hear my request from the band.
Also going by the moniker of “Ew! It’s Margret”, Margret “The Margret” Treiber has been voted “most likely to display awkward and inappropriate behavior in public” by a random group of drunks downtown.
Besides being odd and writing speculative fiction, Margret serves as editor-in-chief for the speculative humor magazine, Sci-Fi Lampoon. When she’s not writing or working at her day job corrupting technology, she helps her birds break things for her spouse to fix.
Her fiction has appeared in a number of publications. Links to her short stories, novels, and upcoming work can be found on her website at http://www.the-margret.com and on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Margret-A.-Treiber/e/B0052U63BI/.
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