Thursday, 11 August 2016

Sea Breeze - Littleborough & Shaw Magazine

My story in the August/September edition of The Littleborough & Shaw Magazines. I hope you enjoy this follow-up to the summer theme from last month.

Sea Breeze
'So, what will you have?’ The bar-tender gave me a friendly smile then looked at me as though it was more than a simple question. It floored me for a moment.
‘I’ll have a Sea Breeze.’ His eyebrow arched. I watched him mix my drink then took in my surroundings. The night air was warm and the beach before me deserted. I hadn’t noticed this small bar on the edge before. On the other side was room enough for the bar-tender and a mirrored shelf of bottles. On my side, three stools. I sat alone. I’d stopped on a whim.
‘So, I asked, what will you have?’ The bar-tender placed my drink before me then gave a quizzical look.
‘One drink will be fine for now,’ I smiled weakly, not sure what he’d meant.
‘But it’s not what you really want.’ I stopped sipping and knew I looked worried. He stared at my expression.
‘I’m only here for one night.’
The man’s smile vanished. ‘Tell me what you really want, what your heart desires.’
I stood up. ‘What do I owe you for the drink?’ I wouldn’t look at him.
‘Nothing,’ he replied. ‘But, if you want something then now is your only chance to ask. Sit and enjoy your drink and when you’re ready you can tell me.’ He turned to pick up a glass then began to polish it. I sat and picked up my drink. Now, I couldn’t take my eyes from him. For once I was dumbfounded. Then, maybe the drink gave me courage.
‘I don’t know what I want.’ And, I truly didn’t. I’d come to this place to find out. A holiday away from the drudgery was supposed to provide answers.
‘Let me make a suggestion,’ the bar-tender offered. ‘For the next 12 nights come to this place at 10pm. This will be your bar until 2am. Ask whoever stops to have a drink, what they want and it will happen when they return home. At the end of the 12 nights I will return and you must then tell me what you want.’
I couldn’t believe what he told me. ‘What if I drink your bar dry?’ The bar-tender’s smile widened.
‘You could do that but your wish won’t be granted.’ I stood then turned away to count coins in my palm. I wouldn’t leave without paying but when I turned with an outstretched hand the man and bar wasn’t there.
I returned the next night. I took my place and made myself a Sea Breeze. I needed it. My first customer arrived at 10.15pm. I stayed until 2am and then the bar disappeared around me. For 12 nights I manned the bar. I listened to people tell me their wishes which ranged from winning the lottery to just finding power or peace. Some spoke of revenge or rekindling lost love. All told me their innermost wishes while I served drinks. All were incredulous when I told them that their drinks were free and their wishes would come true. It was the former they really couldn’t believe. Some returned drunk to their hotel and villas whereas some left after their first drink. I think I heard all of mankind’s woes and expectations. For 12 nights I then asked myself what I really wanted.
At the end of the twelfth night I waited. At 2am the bar-tender appeared with two Sea Breezes. We each took a stool and stared at the space behind the bar where I had stood. ‘Well? What will you have?’
It was surreal. I pinched myself. ‘Nothing,’ I sipped my drink then looked him in the eye. ‘After 12 nights of hearing what people want then what they’d do with it I’m ready to go home.’
‘Can I interest you in a job?’ The bar-tender smiled and close-up his face suddenly seemed younger.
‘I’m more of a day person,’ I replied then smiled too. ‘Don’t you get fed-up of doing this? Do people actually get what they want?’
He looked into his glass and swirled its contents to watch its reflections change. It seemed like an age before he spoke. ‘You gave me 12 night’s holiday. That’s more than I’ve had for a centuries and, yes, people get what they want but only to a certain extent then later, they realise it wasn’t what they’d really wanted. You’re the first person to realised you are happy with what you already have.’
I stretched out my hand and he took it. I shook his. ‘Thank you for an interesting experience.’
‘And thank you. That job will be waiting for you.’
It was a good thing I’d finished my drink because my glass, the bar-tender and his bar disappeared.

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