(story contains salty language)
Perfunctory meals. Astronaut food. Bright lights. Loud music. Tables jammed together so close the neighboring conversations sat in the back of their throats.
“Why do we torture ourselves?” Davis asked.
“Well, what do you want to do?” Kate replied.
“Let’s head to the Orpheum.”
“Now? I thought Drew said not to until later.”
“Drew says a lot of shit.”
“Well, this seemed important.”
“Yeah, it is. It is. But this,” Davis held up a blanched, undercooked asparagus stem that bent at the waist like a sophisticated drunk, “is slow death.”
“We still have to pay.”
“I paid ten minutes ago when I hit the rest room. Ready?” Davis tried to pay but their meal was already comped. It was fine in the city when it happened. The veneer of normalcy was cloudy and thick there, but at home, or close to home, just a doorstep from the island, normalcy was plastic wrap thin. The owner of the roller derby of a restaurant who comped the check used to be his parent’s CPA, and he saw clean through Davis.
The Orpheum was a relic from another time, another part of the world. It was a weathered thirty room hotel above ground with a bar buried beneath the earth in what was commonly believed to be the hull of clipper ship. A clipper ship sunken in the hillside on an island next to a par three golf course. During any serious drinking session it was inevitable someone would claim the ship was rocking.
Davis and Kate caught the second to last ferry out to the island. They were supposed to catch the last.
It was dumb luck Drew was outside the Orpheum smoking when they got dropped off. Martin Hennessey and his old, rust-maroon Oldsmobile station wagon was the one and only taxi on the island. Martin was a few years ahead of them in school. He drove the same car back then and would park it length-wise across three parking spots regardless of the detention hits. Drew gave Martin a wave. Martin flipped him off.
“The fuck you two,” Drew flicked his cigarette into the wet grass. “What about ‘last boat’ was so hard to fucking understand?”
“I thought you said penultimate boat buddy, my bad,” Davis made for a leaping headlock, but Drew stepped back and gave his momentum a push and Davis ended up skidding halfway down the hill, then took his time huffing it back up, his breath in little cloud bursts.
“I didn’t fucking say penultimate boat, jackass. No one says penultimate boat. You should leave the fucking island for saying that.”
“Alright buddy, easy,” Davis rested his hand on Drew’s shoulder and bent at the waist to catch his breath.
“Fatass,” Drew said then turned to Kate, “Not you. You look good. The same I mean.”
“Thanks,” Kate said. “So, what’s up?”
“Come up to my room. You two hang there for the next oh four to five hours, out of sight, and not leave, and not fuck things up further, ok?” Drew gave Davis a loud slap on the back.
“Ok, man. Really good to see you,” Davis said, massaging the spot. “I could use a please right now though. A please would mean a lot.”
Drew was the bartender at the Orpheum basement bar, better known as the Clip, and lived upstairs in a modest suite. The bar opened at 3pm. Between waking up and 2pm Drew was a utility man, fixing whatever was the most broken that day. He gave mainland life a try after high school but quickly drank himself out of community college after a semester and returned to the island to help maintain the golf course. He caught random lawncare gigs on the side from there. There was no shortage of overgrown green grass on the island. But a lot of the young kids priced him out, so he wiggled his way in at the Orpheum and spent the last ten years there.
“Has he told you what’s going on?” Kate asked, trying to navigate the lumps in Drew’s bed mattress to find a nook that wouldn’t create immediate discomfort.
“More or less,” Davis replied.
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“And you just go along with it? Still.”
“Let’s not do this ok. Look, we’ve got beer, we’ve got champagne. I mean this isn’t the worst thing in the world.”
“Just gonna let him run you forever I guess.” Kate leaned her head back and the mattress reformed and she slowly slid off the end of the bed and did a neat somersault onto the floor then stretched out like a cat. Davis rested a full champagne flute by her side and gave it a tiny cheers clink then walked to the window and gave one of those long cool stares he was well known for.
Drew’s suite was on the third floor of the Orpheum and the view looked out over the golf course and further to the docks, and then out into the ocean which was taking on the darkness of the coming night. White caps barely white, chopping and dropping. The last of the golfers were staggering in, course drunk. A sandwich at the clubhouse, then on to night drinking at the Clip. Drew remembered the routine.
“More please,” Kate tapped her empty glass, still lying flat on the floor, “that is if you’re done staring at your reflection?”
“Hilarious.” Davis walked over and filled her up, topped himself off and moved some of Drew’s unfolded laundry from a corner chair to the floor and took a seat. “If he needs money he should just ask.”
“Now who’s funny?” Kate asked.
Drew was busy behind the bar, not with ice or bottles, but with unravelling a large banner that he carefully stretched out and opened on the bar top. A couple of the regulars, Mitt and Jens, helped bring it up the steps outside and hung it above the back entrance. The banner read:
ONE NIGHT ONLY – DAVIS CAPER – HOMETOWN CELEBRITY SIGNING 6pm to 10pm. DRINKS ON DAVIS!
The banner stretched well past the door entrance and the “Drinks on Davis” part actually wrapped around the side of the Orpheum wall.
“Who the hell is Davis Caper?” Mitt asked.
“Mitt,” Drew said, “it says it right there on the sign. Hometown Celebrity.”
“If he’s buying drinks the next four hours he can be whatever he wants.”