Monday, November 02, 2009

The Streak - 52

They landed at Minneapolis/St. Paul at about a quarter past five in the morning and filed groggily out of the plane and onto the bus to the Radisson on Seventh Street, just a few blocks from the Metrodome. Evan fell onto his bed with his shoes still on and awoke again before he knew it, wrenched out of a deep, dark sleep by some godawful disturbance in the room, some vexing presence, what was it? The telephone. And who was he? Some stirring consciousness, apparently. Probably a person. Evan. His name was Evan.

"Yeah?" said Evan.

"Yo," said Kyle.

"Yo."

"Get your ass out of bed and meet me at the bar in fifteen minutes."

"Yup."

Evan brushed his teeth, took a shower, and changed into clean clothes. Then he walked down the carpeted hall to the elevators and pressed the button. Everything he did, he'd done a thousand times before. He tried to tell himself that something new was bound to happen.

On the way from the elevator to the bar he walked past an empty meeting room and peered in. Nine small tables were arrayed in an offset pattern facing the center-rear, where a lectern was positioned beneath a blank projection screen. Each table had two burgundy-upholstered, padded chairs. Each table had a salmon-pink tablecloth, a dewy pitcher of ice water and a stack of plastic cups. A fake ficus stood in back beside the dark green drapes. No one was around. Nothing made a sound. Evan looked up. It was a typical, institutional drop ceiling with vents for air diffusion and return, recessed LED lights, a smoke detector and companion sprinkler. One tile was off-kilter, revealing a shard of darkness from above. He remembered elementary school with a pang of sorrow. The carpet, a tessellated dusty rose, bore the faint stains and smudges of a hundred thousand years of traffic. Evan got a chill. If only he could add this up, he thought. It must all surely mean something.

Evan found Kyle somberly stirring his Bloody Mary by its foot-long celery stalk. Like a witch at her brew.

"Now that's some goddamn celery," said Evan.

"That's not fucking around."

"What are you supposed to do with that fucking thing? Put it in your ass?"

"I think so, Evan. I think so."

"You're in some kind of mood."

"I've just been thinking, is all."

"Never a good sign. Why no whiskey?"

"Didn't sleep too good."

"Too tired for whiskey. If those aren't the saddest words."

"What are you drinking? C'mon," urged Kyle.

The bartender stood at attention, chin up with a clean, Midwestern smile.

"What's the Seventh Street Margarita?" asked Evan.

"Sauza Gold tequila, lime juice and cointreau, sir. Up with a salted rim."

"That's a margarita."

"Yes sir!"

"What makes it a Seventh Street Margarita?"

Kyle theatrically pretended to bang his head against the bar as the bartender stammered, "Well sir, I don't know... It's the margarita we serve here on Seventh..."

"Ignore him. He's a dick," interjected Kyle. "Evan, everybody knows the margarita was invented in Minneapolis. So shut up."

The bartender chuckled.

Evan turned to Kyle to protest. "Hey, maybe it's one of those signature Margaritas. Flavored. I dunno."

"Is that what you want? Really?" Kyle moaned. "A specialty margarita? You–" Kyle mouthed the word "faggot," shielding his mouth from the barkeep's view.

"I'm sorry," said Evan, suddenly cheery. "I'll have a Johnnie Black on the rocks."

"Coming right up!"

Kyle emitted the weary sigh of a miner on a dead vein.

"What's up, kid?" asked Evan.

"I don't wanna lose tonight."

Evan grunted and raised his glass to his lips. He was distressed to find that the amber fluid did not have the expected smoky fragrance. Did that jackass serve him a well drink by mistake? No, Evan recalled seeing the bottle in his hand. Was he getting old already, was everything beginning to fade?

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