Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2009)
Johnny knew it was a bad sign when the jukebot switched to country music without his keying in so much as a chit. It rolled past his table, turned a suspicious cam on him for the briefest moment, then cut off its trance-punk-disco mix in the middle of a three-chord flourish. Did he really look that desperate?
He took another swig of beer when a voice whispered in his head that, yes, he looked like he’d slept in his clothes again, like he’d just been dumped by his longtime GF for a multitude of clichés, like he’d lost his job to a young tool just out of college working for half the salary. All this was true, and that made the bot’s choice of Vince Gill whining about his lost lover all the more depressing.
The voice said, “Order another beer,” so he did. The waitbot brought a pitcher.
Halfway through the next beer, she sat down. Retrogal, hair all big and splayed out, just how he liked it. Jeans that looked like they were made from real cotton, so tight they seemed painted on rather than worn. George Jones, long-dead but somehow still relevant, warbled from the bot about Corvettes and two-dollar pistols.
“Hi,” she said. The waitbot put a glass in front of her and Johnny filled it. “I just love this beer,” she said. “Don’t you?”
“Speaks to me,” Johnny said. His words were slurred. “Tells me stuff.”
She finished half the glass in one go, then nodded like that was the most profound thing anyone had ever said to her. Of course, Johnny reminded himself, this was a bar, and it might well have been.
“Feeling lost,” he said.
“She dumped you, huh?”
“That’s not the half of it,” he said. “Wait, how did you…”
“Beer talking,” she said.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. He tried to say something else, but failed.
“I can help you get it back,” she said.
“Get it back?”
“What you lost,” she said.
He thought about that long and hard, as only someone drunk on nano-enhanced beer could do. He thought all the way through Kenny Chesney talking about not knowing what he’d do if he lost it.
She smiled at him and put on some lipstick that glowed like electrified maraschinos.
That settled it. Johnny downed his Nanoweizen, poured another glass from the pitcher, and ordered a round for the house.
Smart beer, dumb retrogal, the promise of redemption. Maybe not a solution, but a damn fine distraction. What the hell.
When “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” started playing, he knew he’d made the right choice.
He’d take her home, open up a bottle of Patrón, and turn on some rock and roll.
The hangover would be worth it.