Working on a new project, which is taking up the time and energy I would normally devote to writing short stories. In the meantime, please enjoy this short story, which was originally published in February 2015.
“Hey, mom.” Megan dropped her bag on the couch and plopped into a chair at the kitchen table.
“Hi, honey. How was work?”
Megan glowered at her mother, who grinned back.
“Hey, mom, can we talk?”
“Sure.” She popped a TV dinner in the microwave and sat at the table across from her daughter. “What’s up?”
“I’ve been thinking about the money.”
“I bet you have.”
“Mr. Willow said I could leave the invested money as it is and they’ll continue to manage it, right?”
“That’s what he said.”
“So let’s do that, because they seem to have done a pretty good job with it so far.”
“I should say so. What about the money in her savings account?”
Megan exhaled heavily out the side of her mouth. “Alex thinks I should head to a beach, start ordering drinks, and never stop.”
Her mom smiled wryly. “What do you think?”
“I think that sounds like a great vacation, but I can’t live the rest of my life like that. I need to do something.”
“What do you want to do?”
Megan’s already poor posture slumped even closer to the table. “That’s the part I can’t figure out.”
“Why don’t you take some vacation time and take Alex’s advice. Just go for a week or two. Maybe after that, you’ll know what you want to do.”
Alex threw her towel on the counter. “What the hell are you doing back here?”
“I told you I was gonna work the rest of the week to make up for the time I missed.”
“Megan Crawford, I asked you what the hell you’re doin’ here!”
“Keep it down. You know Diana doesn’t like us using that kind of language when there are customers.”
“Why do you care what your ex-employer likes?”
“She’s not my ex-employer. Yet. Look I’ll work the rest of the week and then ask for some vacation time. I’ll do like you said and find some beach where I can drink myself silly and then figure out where to go from there.”
“Normally I’d say don’t do it in that order, but in your case, some alcohol might help you see things more clearly.”
“Just hand me my apron, will you?
“You got it. I hate to admit it, but I’m glad you’re here. It has been non-stop since I got in.”
Megan worked the rest of the week. She and Alex never talked about the money and Megan didn’t mention it to anyone else. At the end of the week she asked for, and was granted, a week of vacation time. She bought a ticket to Oahu because she figured it was the farthest she could go without a U.S. Passport. She reserved a room in a hotel on Waikiki beach where she could watch the sunset.
She ordered room service. She ordered champagne and discovered she didn’t like champagne. She drank the whole bottle anyway. After that she stuck to hard liquor mixed with fruit juices. She found that increased her chances of getting a little umbrella with her drink. She took a selfie with her umbrella drink and the beach behind it and sent it to Alex. Then she wondered what on earth she was going to do with the rest of her life.
Room service was nice, but Megan soon discovered it meant she never had to leave her room. She started to feel like a caged animal, and once she realized she was the one with the keys to the cage, she let herself out.
She walked along the beach. She wandered down the aisles of a shopping mall and bought whatever she wanted. Eventually she found herself back at the beach at a bar. She sat down and told the bartender to make her whatever drink he felt like making.
He nodded and went to work without hesitating. Megan watched as he poured various hard liquors into her glass along with a splash of soda water and a cherry. “Not exactly what I’ve come to expect here,” she said.
He smiled. “You look like you can take it. Besides, we’re running low on pineapple juice.”
She smiled back and took a tentative sip, then nodded approvingly. “That’s more like it.”
He laughed. “You don’t seem like the umbrella drink type.”
She tilted her head. “I guess I’m not. I’ve been ordering nothing but those fruity little drinks because a friend told me I should, but this is much better.” She went back for more and this time she swallowed a mouthful.
“So what brings you to Waikiki? You’re not exactly my typical customer.”
Megan shrugged. “I had a little money saved up, and if I didn’t use my vacation time, it was going to go out the window, so here I am!”
“Careful. That’s how I got here and ended up not going back.”
He spread his arms. “Who could leave all this?”
“Yeah, it is a pretty sweet set-up.”
“Are you kidding? It’s the best! Who else can say they get to work on a beach?”
Megan turned around so she could see his view. From behind the bar, he faced the beach. He could see all the people walking along the beach, playing in the water, and he had the perfect view of the sunset. “Good point,” she said.
She turned back around, but he was serving another customer. She went back to admiring the view and enjoying her drink. When she had finished her drink she tried to order another, but the bartender was swamped with customers trying to give him their orders. She waited patiently until she remembered she wasn’t the waiting type.
Without a word, she got behind the bar, took a customer’s order, and started pouring. The bartender looked at her quizzically, but he didn’t question her. They worked together for the better part of an hour. Megan found that rush hours in a bar worked much like rush hours in a diner: once the customers started coming, they never stop. Only bars were worse, because customers were more likely to sit there for hours, ordering drink after drink.
Megan could hardly believe it when the orders dried up. She checked that everyone had a drink and asked each customer if they needed anything. At last her work was done.
The bartender held his hand out to her. “I’m Matt.”
“Megan,” she said, shaking his hand.
“Megan, I can honestly say I am very pleased to meet you. Where did you learn to pour drinks like that?”
“Back in Chicago. I used to work at a bar when the diner wasn’t enough to pay the bills. Then the bar closed, but the diner gave me more hours, so it all worked out.”
“And you were able to save enough money working at a diner to pay for your trip here?”
Megan shrugged. “I smile a lot, act dumb, and get good tips.”
Matt laughed. “Speaking of tips, you are keeping all the ones you got just now, right?”
“You’re damn right, I am!”
“Just checking. So, what do you think? Time to find an apartment around here? I could put in a good word for you, if you’re looking for a job.”
“Thanks, but I won’t be wasting my ticket back. This has been a great vacation, but I can’t see myself living here.”
“Kay, but if you change your mind, we could use someone like you.”