Sex on the Beach

Submitted into Contest #180 in response to: Set your story in a casino.... view prompt

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LGBTQ+ Funny Fiction

Everyone knows the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway is only good for one thing—regret. It boasts a whopping three-point-nine stars to its Google reputation, but Stacy argues about three-point-seven of those stars can be attributed to inebriation and cognitive dissonance of the highest degree. Nevertheless, the top review never fails to make her laugh. 

“4/5. Fun place, but the bartenders are a hit or miss.”

Stacy, bottle-blonde, tip-finessing prodigy, is the hit. For one more night.

Wren, the sad excuse of a bartender they’ll be left with, is the miss. Evidently. She’s doing knockoff Wordles instead of helping Stacy wipe down the counter. 

“Put your phone away! Do you wanna get throttled by management again?” Stacy glares, but it loses all bite when Wren doesn’t even bother looking up from her screen. 

“I don’t know,” Wren muses, and her pretentious circle-framed glasses reflect the game’s childish colors. “Do you think Susan knows a word that has an ‘O,’ a ‘B,’ a ‘U,’ and ends with a ‘T?’”

“I doubt it.” 

Wren smirks, then taps away at her phone. “Damn, Stace, you’re a genius. I knew I kept you around for something.” 

Stacy sighs. The second she’s off the clock, she will throttle this girl herself. It’s not a threat, she tells Wren. It’s a promise. 

Minutes pass with the idle flow of customers—including yet another guy who thinks he’s the first guy to make a joke about Stacy’s mom, who, no, does not have it going on—and Stacy’s 

going to miss this place, really. She learned how to sweet-talk here, she gained her confidence here, she fell in love here.

“Awww, are you thinking about how much you’ll miss me?” 

And she fell out of love here. 

“You are. Literally the reason I’m leaving.” 

“It’s okay, Stace. I’ll live on in your memories.” 

Dementia doesn’t sound all too bad, suddenly. 

 “Coworkers” isn’t enough to summarize their relationship, but “friends” isn’t the complete truth. The most pressing truth is that Stacy is fully convinced that voicing any messier, more articulate label will summon lightning and blast her down into the Earth’s mantle, and she’d rather swan dive into magma before parading the word “exes” out loud. But it won’t matter, soon.

Once the mini-rush passes, a familiar boredom catches up to them both. 

“Sex on the Beach?” asks Wren. 

To most, it sounds like a proposition. To their regulars, an order reserved for the most shameless. But to the Friday shift bartenders of Hollywood Casino, it’s a ritual. And one of the reasons they haven’t killed each other with molotovs. Yet.

Stacy supposes one last run can’t hurt. She surveys the game area, a collection of sweaty people glued to the machines on the abstract-patterned floor. The LSD-Trip Carpet, as the two have affectionately dubbed it over the past year. “I’ll start. Roulette table six, third seat from our left. He’s the kind of guy who’d…order an old fashioned, maybe?” They fall into their old routine—Stacy gives a profile, the resident contrarian suggests an alternative drink, Stacy 

ignores her because she has never presented a good opinion in her entire life, and Stacy will expand the profile. Best story wins. 

“He’s wearing a scarf in September, so…I’m pretty sure that means he’s in a jazz band. I’m getting some clarinet energy. A Gershwin fanboy, if you will.” Stacy pauses, watching as the dealer starts the next round. “Okay, okay…he went for an outside bet. He’s a respectable, caring kind of guy! He still calls his mom on the weekends, and he even offers to help his neighbors tend to their lawns! They call him the Weed Man.” 

A silence sits between them for a beat. Wren’s snort shatters it. 

“That’s so stupid,” she says, cackling through the syllables. “That’s not even funny.” 

“You’re the one laughing.” Stacy scoffs. “It’s your turn. Go.” 

While Wren sets out to find her target, Stacy reaches under the counter to grab a bottle of water. Wren points to one of the Blackjack tables. “Alright, I found someone. Curly hair, big earrings, absolutely stunning?” The descriptor shouldn’t plant a pit in her stomach after all of this time, but attachments are hard to uproot. Stacy can overlook the “stunning.” The “absolutely,” on the other hand, is just an unnecessary punch in the gut. She nods regardless. “Strawberry daiquiri, no questions asked.” 

The woman in question—a brunette—flashes a dazzling grin as she slaps down her hand of cards. Stacy tucks a strand of her remarkably straight hair behind her ear. “That’s so predictable. What else you got on her?”

“Hmmmm,” Wren mumbles, before looking Stacy straight in the eyes. “Tax evader.” 

Stacy spits out her drink, and their laughter floods the room, unabashedly obnoxious. 

Wren makes a comment about how easy she is, to which Stacy swats her away in response. “Shut up! Okay, I’ll go for the…” she trails off, searching for her path to victory. “Ooh! Couple at the slot machines. She’s a…Raspberry Cosmo and he’s a Manhattan.”

They’re the textbook image of all-American lovers with money to spare, sporting entirely Ralph Lauren and blood-stained Loubotins. Overhead lights glisten golden over their forms, but the man stands beside his wife like they’re strangers in line for the bank. When she moves to wrap her arms around his bicep, he’s lifeless. Wren and Stacy squabble over their beverage horoscopes, but a minute later, the odd couple reclaims the spotlight with a new actor in play. The view from the bar is this: the wife, throwing herself over a mysterious man in laughter, engaged in the bubbliest of banter as the husband looks on in stilted silence. The slot machines sit abandoned.

“Oh my God, Wren, those two are flirting! Look, they’re totally flirting! The husband’s just gonna stand there and take that?” 

“No, he’s definitely seething underneath that facade,” Wren continues, and Stacy suppresses the urge to comment on the mostly casual and very punchable use of “facade.” Curiously, the husband’s gaze traces the stranger, not his wife. A quick glance to the woman nestled against the stranger’s side, to his eyes, his lips, and then his jawline. Whether it’s a gaze of jealousy, lust, fascination, or something else entirely, Stacy can’t tell, but it fills her with want. It’s been a while since someone’s looked at her in any way.

But no one plays Sex on the Beach for introspection. And if Stacy’s going to play, she’s going to win.

“I’ve got it!” Stacy exclaims, punctuated by a slam on the granite countertop. “The husband’s been having an affair with the new guy for months now! The wife has no idea, but tonight, she’s hopelessly fallen for the same man! It’s fate!”

“That’s a very ‘you’ way to say they both want to get into his pants.” 

“You’re so unromantic,” Stacy complains. “We’ve got some kind of soap opera here! Look at how she just flipped her hair!” 

Stacy has heard that one look can carry the weight of a thousand words. For example, the wife’s fluttering falsies convey a clear I want you in my bed. The husband’s shifting eyes, I can’t let her know you’ve been in our bed. The stranger’s rapid-fire blinks scream I just want to go to bed. And Stacy deciphered Wren’s own language long ago: a stare that says you are inconceivably irritating.

“Well if that’s the case, then it's a shame their relationship will never work out,” Wren says with the inflection of a morning traffic report. And of course Wren cares about these paradise troubles in the same way she cares about perfecting drinks, or quality customer service, or just about anything at this point—not at all. 

“You don’t know that,” Stacy says, unsure for whom it's for. “They can keep fighting. There’s always a reason to keep fighting.” 

Wren is quiet for a moment, and Stacy sees neon-lit smoke breaks behind Hollywood’s dumpsters, a dishwasher full of breakfast plates arranged in twos, borrowed lipstick, spare drawers turned treasure troves, and one-handed twilight drives where the risk of crashing was always worth having spare digits to intertwine.

“Maybe they got tired of fighting.” 

Fingers tighten around the bar. Stacy doesn’t dare tear her eyes off of the slot machines—she knows where they’ll land otherwise. “Then the husband was tired of the way his wife always seemed more interested in someone else…Just a feeling.” 

“I think the wife just wanted his trust. Without the threat of a screaming match.” 

Stacy bites her tongue for a moment. Of course she has to ruin everything. Of course she can’t back down. And of course, even if she decides to spread her heart on a platter and mix her tears with lime and tequila, the only reaction she’ll ever get is a sigh. She’s making a scene again. “The husband never felt important enough,” she says.

“It wasn’t the wife’s job to fix that for him.”

“But it was the husband’s job to fix everything for her? 

“The wife never asked.”

“She didn’t have to. All she had to do was ruin everyone else’s day.” 

“Then the husband should’ve learned to be his own goddamn person.”

“The husband’s sorry he could never make her happy.”

“And the wife thinks he needs to stop making everything about himself.”

“He always waited for her.” 

“They were never going to work.” 

“The wife gave up on them.”

“Maybe she didn’t have the space for anything else.”

“Maybe if she really loved him, she would’ve made the space!” 

“That’s not—”

“Excuse me, can I get a drink?” A young man approaches the bar, but his tone shifts completely when Stacy catches his eye. “And, uh, how are you lovely ladies doing tonight?” 

Stacy plasters on her trademark Barbie doll smile. Oh well. One more tip. “Doing great, darling! What can I do for you?” She makes sure to flutter her eyelashes a bit, lowering her tone of voice on the “for you.” It works like a charm, every time. 

She giggles at his unfunny jokes, echoes his small talk questions with a soft “yeah?” and leans in close. She thinks she catches Wren rolling her eyes as she continues their flirtatious banter while her hands are at work, the last drink of the night, and it feels so good.

 Then, it all happens in a blur—the second the stranger carries away his drink, Wren grabs Stacy’s wrist and drags them away to the supply closet they know all too well. 

The door slams with a thud as Wren shoves Stacy against the wall. Her back collides with the wooden shelves, and the ridges dig into her skin in a dizzying pain she’s missed too much to object to. Stacy’s not sure which one of them moves first. The only thing she’s sure of is the burning sensation of their lips crashing against each other. Wren groans when Stacy tugs at her hair, and their tongues find each other again in the dark. 

“I don’t care about this shitty place,” Wren whispers in between gasps for air. “Just don’t leave me.”  

Stacy pulls away. Their uneven panting fills the room, but the stillness of the room suffocates her. Wren gazes up at Stacy with pupils blown wide, hands clutching onto Stacy’s shirt like she’ll disappear, and for once, she feels—


Stacy’s doing it again.

“Stop. You left me first!” Stacy cries. “I just wanted you to want me.”

“I do.” 

They can make it work this time. They’ll be better. 

Get help. 

Be good for each other.

“No, I want you to want a life with me. You can’t give me that.” 

“Don’t tell me what I can’t do.” 

“I still love you.” 

Wren freezes. 

“Can you even say that? Do you still love me?” Stacy pleads. 

Wren’s bitten lips part to speak at the same time an alarm sounds from Stacy’s back pocket. She pulls out her phone, and the reminder message beams at them in the shadows. “FREEDOM!"

A lifetime flashes before Stacy’s eyes as she awaits Wren’s response. One second. 

She stops waiting. 

“Sorry. I’m off the clock.”

The floorboards creak as Stacy shuffles out of the supply closet, no longer drunk in a liminal space. They never finished their game, either 

But Stacy has always had the winning hand: the doom and gloom bartender from Kansas Speedway’s Hollywood Casino. A screwdriver, because she’s lazy, with pineapple juice, because her favorite annoyance used to insist she needed some sweetness in her life. She adds ice to her words because the burn of sincerity terrifies her, her rare embraces sing songs of comfort and desperation in harmony, and even if she’s everything a woman has ever wanted, she’ll never be worth the gamble.

January 13, 2023 21:00

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1 comment

Daniel Allen
19:54 Jan 17, 2023

I really enjoyed this. I love how you managed to draw me into the complex relationship between these two co-workers. You got me hooked straight away and didn't let go. The best thing about this story is how you've highlighted the confusing, varied, and sometimes downright scary nature of human relationships. Best of luck in the contest!


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