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Dec 16, 2020

American Contemporary Happy

I didn’t realize how long it has been since I wrote anything for Reedsy. I have been in a writing funk between Covid and the holidays. I haven’t even been able to read or work on my WIP. Last week, one of the prompts caught my eye but I didn’t get it written in time. Hopefully, this is the end of my writers’ block. ~ Stephanie



It was raining again. It was cold again. I pulled my hood up over my head and ran into the liquor store. Between the gloomy weather and this whole Covid lockdown crap, I just wanted to go home and drink. As I was deciding what the drink of the day would be, my phone chirped. It was an email from the airline with my frequent flyer miles statement. I put the bottle I had in my hand back on the shelf and I logged into my Hilton app and smiled for the first time in a very long time. I had airline miles, hotel points, and unused PTO, time to check something off of my bucket list. 

Florida was one of the open states and I had wanted to go to Key West since I was a little girl. As a fan of Hemmingway, that desire had only increased as I got older. An hour later, I had flights and hotel booked, PTO requests submitted and I was trying on bathing suits. 

Three days later I was on a plane and feeling more like myself than I had in a very long time. As the plane landed, I felt the strangest sense of hopefulness and anticipation. I hopped on the shuttle to my hotel, quickly unpacked, and headed straight to Sloppy Joe’s bar.  

I sat at the bar, ordered a pound of peel & eat shrimp and a Hemmingway Mojito, even though I don’t think he really drank them. I was about a third of the way through my shrimp when the bartender set another drink in front of me. I opened my mouth to say I didn’t order it, but he pointed to the other end of the bar. 

A man was sitting there. I fought the urge to roll my eyes and I mouthed ‘Thank you’. He nodded in acknowledgment. When the next drink arrived, I turned to protest but he was already sitting on the next ‘social distanced’ barstool closest to me. 

“Thanks,” I said, holding in a sigh. 

“Anytime,” he said. “I’m Pat, by the way. Are you here on vacation?”

I nodded due to a mouth full of shrimp. “I’m Sophie,” I said after I swallowed. 

“I’m here for lunch. I work around the corner. I own a software company.”

“I work for a software company,” I said.

“Oh, what do you do?”

“I’m in implementation. But it sucks right now because of the lockdowns. I cashed in miles and points just to get on the road again,” I said. 

“Weird, I’m actually looking for an implementation manager right now. How long have you been doing it?”

“Getting close to six years now,” I answered. 

“This is probably going to sound odd, but would you be interested in applying? Everyone I’ve interviewed has either been afraid to travel or not even close to qualified. You wouldn’t have to move to take the job unless you want to. You are clearly not afraid to travel, and even if you don’t have management experience, we are really small right now, and I could train you.” 

My head said no, but my mouth said, “Why not!” 

He handed me a card. “Send me a copy of your resume. I’m going to consider this your interview. I don’t blame you if you think this is some elaborate pick-up rouse. Hey Nick! Tell the lady what I do for a living.”

“He owns a company around the corner. Some computer shit I think,” the bartender answered. 

“Can you come by the office in the morning and meet the team?”

“Sure,” I said.

“How long will you be here?” he asked.

“For a week, I just landed two hours ago,” I said.

“Oh wow! So what are your plans while you’re here?”

“This was top of my list, coming to Soppy Joe’s. I want to see Hemmingway’s house and do the Ghost Tour and the pub crawl. After that, it’s whatever I have time for.”

“Is this your first time here?”

“Yeah, it’s a bucket list thing.”

“So are you a writer or just a Hemmingway fan?”

“Both,” I said. 

“Do you have anything published?”

“Yeah, a couple of things,” I said.

“Everyone wants to write a book, but very few people have the discipline to follow through. That tells me a lot about your character and work ethic.”

“I usually hesitate to talk about writing at work. I was afraid it would look bad to the boss,” I said.

“It probably would to most. Most managers are pretty short-sighted and see things as liabilities that really aren’t.”

“My boss definitely wouldn’t see it that way,” I said.

“Well, I need to get back to the office. I’ll see you in the morning, around ten? If that’s not too early,” he said, handing me his card.

“No, that’s perfect. See you then,” I said.

When he was gone, I waved the bartender over. “Is that guy legit or was that a pick-up line?”

“He eats lunch here a lot and he doesn’t usually talk to anyone but me,” he said. “He paid for your lunch by the way.” 

“Thanks,” I said.

I stuck the card in my pocket and left the bartender a twenty-dollar tip. Then headed for Hemmingway’s house which was closed to the public due to covid. I took pictures of the outside and took a walk. I checked out some of the shops and got the info for the Ghost Tour and Pub crawl. 

At a bit after five, I headed back to Sloppy Joe’s for dinner. Pat was sitting at the bar. I took the next ‘socially distanced’ barstool from him. “Thanks for lunch,” I said.

“It was the least I could do after crashing your vacation with shop talk,” he said. 

“Another mojito?” Nick asked.

“Nope, I want a margarita,” I said.

“Did you see Hemmingway’s house?” Pat asked.

“Nope closed due to covid,” I said.

“I could probably get you in for a tour. No promises, but I’ll try. I know a guy,” Pat said.

“That would be incredible,” I said.

“Well, I’ll do my best.”

Nick put my drink in front of me. “Any food?”

“Fish tacos please,” I said.

“Coming right up,” he said.

“Grab your drink, I want you to meet the rest of my team. They just came in,” Pat said.

We joined a group of four at a table. “This is Sam the programmer, Deb, my office manager who keeps us all in line. Lisa, our support team manager, and Leo, our hardware specialist. This is Sophie, the one I told you is coming for an interview in the morning.”

A couple of hours later, I excused myself to use the restroom. When I came back, they were all staring at me. Pat handed me a napkin. 

“While you were gone, we decided to hire you. You fit in perfectly. If you haven't figured it out by now, you will be the manager and the only person on the team for now. Eventually, you will hire your team and train them. Your offer is written on this napkin, we couldn’t find any paper. You can sign it now and then sign a formal one tomorrow,” he said.

I looked at the napkin. The figure on the napkin was three times my current salary. 

“Is this for real?” I stupidly asked.

“Yes, very real. You fit in perfectly and we want you to work with us,” Deb said.

“Well, can I borrow a pen?” 

I left Sloppy Joe’s a little after midnight. The next morning, I went to the office and signed my offer letter and contract and I emailed my two weeks notice to my boss. 

Pat handed me an envelope. In it was a ticket for a private tour of the Hemmingway house, a ticket for the Ghost Tour, and a ticket for the pub crawl. 

“We are all doing the pub crawl, we are calling it a team-building event,” he said. 

I pinched my arm.

“Don’t worry, it’s real. I still can’t believe I found the perfect implementation manager at Sloppy Joe’s,” he said, laughing. 



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2 comments

Bill Cara
14:15 Dec 23, 2020

You are such a talented writer and I found this this story so heartwarming. I used to suffer with writers block a lot, it usually led to a lot of tears of frustration. I realised it usually happens when I find myself out of my depth with a story, so now I keep practising lots of different styles and it has slowly helped me overcome this. A tip is to find out what you're uncomfortable with in writing and to keep practising it. Hope my advice helps :)

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19:30 Dec 23, 2020

I have learned to crochet to take my mind off of it and now I find myself hearing from my characters while I'm crocheting. I used to plot my work in the car on my commute, so I think I have finally found a replacement for that. Thank you so much for your kind words!

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