Your Story #12 Winner:
Not What it Looks Like

A man walks into a bar. But it isn’t a bar. Which is really too bad, because he could use a drink. Something like whisky, nothing with vodka. He drank too many vodka drinks in his life, and they were always made with something sweet, like cranberry or orange juice. That’s no way for a man to drink.

Today, he lost his job as a carpet salesman. He has to tell his wife. He hopes she will look on the bright side: over the years, they got a lot of free carpet. He doesn’t think this will assuage her.

"What do you serve in here?" he asks someone who looks like a bartender, but who is not.

"Smoothies," the non-bartender answers.

"Sure," the man says. "Of course. Smoothies." His day, he is thinking, can’t get any worse. He could leave. But in the corner of what is not a bar, there is a small table almost hidden under the back side of a staircase. That would be a nice place to sit. Let things sink in. Avoid going home.

"Give me a strawberry mango smoothie with a passion fruit shot," the man says. It’s not what a man who lost his job should order. He wants to order something on the rocks. His life is on the rocks. He is 50.

If someone had told him 20 years ago that he would lose his carpet sales job and shortly thereafter drink a smoothie, he would have thought that highly unlikely. But if someone had told him 20 years ago that he would lose a carpet sales job and shortly thereafter drink a smoothie at a hidden table while he watched his wife walk in the door of the smoothie shop holding hands with another man, he would have been more apt to believe it. That’s the way life worked. Coincidences. It was a small town.

She looked pretty, his wife, walking into that smoothie shop. That’s what romance will do to someone. He tells her so when he stands to confront her at the counter.

"You look pretty. I guess that’s what romance does to a woman," he says.

She turns, stares at her husband and drops the other man’s hand. The non-bartender moves away, to the end of the counter, where he can still overhear but not be involved.

"What are you doing here?" she asks. "Why aren’t you at work?"

"I got laid off," he says. Like cutting off a leg helps you forget a headache, it was suddenly easy to tell her this. "What are you doing here?"

He watches her struggle for what to say. He watches her realize that she has been caught. He watches her consider lying. She resorts to what everyone in this situation says.

"This isn’t what it looks like."

He nods. "I know." He walks toward the door. "I thought it was a bar.

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