Friday Flash: A Bottle of Spirits

Smoke0036_thumblarge

I should have known the sweet sound of jazz music wafting from a town all-but closed up for the night would be trouble. I should have made Lizbeth walk to the next town when our car engine refused to turn over at the gas station. I should have got down on one knee and slipped that damn diamond ring onto her finger right there in front of the ninety year old deaf gas station attendant. What I did instead was let her lead us right into our last moments together.

“What are you thinking about?” Lizbeth purrs at me now.

‘I hope you can’t read my mind,’ is what I’m thinking.  I glance at her. She isn’t smiling. I don’t bother answering her. What’s the use? Instead, I think about the last time I saw her smile.

“Oh, come on. It’ll be an adventure.” She had said, pulling at my arm.

“I don’t know. What about the car?”

“Well, it’s not going anywhere tonight, obviously.”

“Fine.” I wasn’t too upset. I enjoyed giving her what she wanted. In exchange I got her smile.

As we walked down the sidewalk, hand in hand, passed the closed shops, palm trees swaying above us, I began to think maybe this was the universe…fate or whatever giving me a romantic place to pop the question. I stroked the ring in my pocket, feeling good about my secret.

Warm light, cigar smoke and jazz poured out of the opened door. We stepped in and glanced around. The place was cozy. A couple of tables with red velvet table clothes, flickering candles, a long bar with a few patrons grooving along with the music. The bartender watched us take a seat at an empty table and nodded at the waitress.

We were huddled together with a small paper menu in front of the candlelight. I had never heard of any of the wines on there.

“Evening, folks. What can I get you?”

“What do you recommend?”

“Well, we have a good honey wine if you want simple.” At this point I saw her eyes dart to the bartender. “Or the raspberry delight is good if you want something frozen.”

Why did she seem so nervous?

“I didn’t know you could make wine out of honey,” Lizbeth said.

“You can make wine out of things you wouldn’t believe,” the waitress mumbled.

“Well, I’ll try the honey wine.”

“And for you, sir?”

“Water, please.” I don’t know why, but I was suddenly feeling like I needed to stay on my toes.

Halfway through that glass of honey wine, Lizbeth gasped. “Oh, isn’t that just exquisite!”

I was still thinking about the fact I had never heard her use the word “exquisite” before as she got up and lifted a black and gold mask from the corner of the bar. She was turning it back and forth, admiring it as it glittered in the candlelight. I stuck a finger in my ear and shook my head like a dog. What is that? Voices? It sounded like thousands of whispering voices entwined in the music and they were getting louder.

“Liz?” I called. The bartender was standing in front of her now. I thought maybe he was going to tell her she wasn’t suppose to be touching the décor, but instead he motioned to her and she lifted it to her face. “Oh, Lizbeth.” I stood up, feeling anxious and realizing that the voices had stopped, but so had the music. I glanced around and everyone was smiling at Lizbeth.

She suddenly whirled around and my heart skipped a few hundred beats. The mask was moving, molding itself to her face. It didn’t seem solid, more like gold and silver threads as fine as spider webs spreading in waves over her face. Her eyes were closed. My feet felt like lead. I watched helplessly as the bartender came around the bar, kneeled down on one knee before her and held up a glass of red wine. Without opening her eyes, she accepted the glass and titled it toward her lips.

“She has been chosen.” The waitress was standing behind me. Her words knocked me in the back of the head like a baseball bat and I fell forward, my feet suddenly free.

“Lizbeth, don’t!”

I pushed the bartender to one side and grabbed her by the shoulders. She dropped the empty glass and her eyes popped open. I fell back. Her eyes were slick black orbs, shiny and wet.

“Oh my god.”

I watched in disbelief as they began to dull and shift to a cool green.

She smiled at me then. “I accept. I will be your god.”

The mask seemed to lose its shine, too and she reached up and plucked it off her face, tossing it back onto the bar. I couldn’t stop staring at her mouth, stained red, a stringy chuck of something stuck in her tooth.

“You have something,” I motioned to my own teeth, “stuck…”

“Enough,” she hissed. The music started back up and she walked to the door. “Come, I’m ready to see the world.”

She stepped out into the moonlight. The waitress slipped in front of me and placed something hard and warm between my palms.There were tears in her eyes. I moved toward the door on shaky legs, glancing at the tiny glass perfume bottle in my hands. As I slipped it in my pocket, I heard it clink against the ring and almost broke right there.

I didn’t. I’m being strong.

“Oooo,” she gasped, placing a warm hand on my leg. “Pull in, over there. I want to try one of those.”

“Yes, dear.”

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  1. #1 by Marisa Birns on October 2, 2009 - 3:08 pm

    I had a bad feeling when Lisbeth picked up the mask! I said, “No!” out loud.

    Men have to learn not to wait to ask! Look what could happen… 🙂

    Good job!

    • #2 by soesposito on October 2, 2009 - 7:36 pm

      lol, Marisa. He’s a chicken, what can I say.

  2. #3 by Clive Martyn on October 2, 2009 - 4:04 pm

    Very well written, loved the beginning and bits of descriptive prose such as the ninety year old petrol attendant but I think from the line ” I couldn’t stop staring at her mouth” you lost me. Didn’t quite get the ending – what’s in the perfume bottle? Are they back in the car at the end? Sorry 🙂

    • #4 by soesposito on October 2, 2009 - 7:27 pm

      Well, I think I’ll leave it up to your own interpretation. I’m enjoying seeing other people’s imaginations at work.

  3. #5 by Anticrombie on October 2, 2009 - 7:08 pm

    Very interesting way to begin your own mythos. You seem to have movies on your mind instead of in your mind for this one.

    Your cut scene just prior to the end seemed a bit abrupt, but that could be intrepreted as ‘lost time’. I have the feeling they were in the bar for much longer than even they imagined, and time and location had no relevance once they stepped foot into the bar.

    I enjoy the fact that his enfatuation with her doesn’t change as she gives in to and is altered by a higher power. Is she still the same person, just enlightened? It doesn’t matter to him.

    “Accept the things to which fate binds you and love the people with who fate brings you together. And do so with all your heart.”

    • #6 by soesposito on October 2, 2009 - 7:34 pm

      I actually had to look up “mythos”…lol. Your takes are always so interesting. I do like to work out my own beliefs through fiction. Some of them becoming solidified, some tossed. As far as fate- we’ve parted ways. Fate is just the sum of all the decisions we’ve made so far in our lives and the momentum we’ve put in motion. Now serendipity…that I believe in. 🙂

  4. #7 by Michael J. Solender on October 2, 2009 - 8:27 pm

    oh wow this didn’t go where I thought is was headed. deliciously told and pointed. nice one shannon.

  5. #8 by ganymeder on October 2, 2009 - 10:17 pm

    Obviously this is what happens when you wait to pop the question…

    Nice, but I was a little confused by the ending. Crying waitress and perfume bottle, can you clear that up?

  6. #9 by Chris Chartrand on October 2, 2009 - 11:56 pm

    Cool piece. Usually we see a person for who they are after their mask comes off. I thought the literal take on “Oh my God” was funny.
    ~chris

  7. #10 by Linda on October 3, 2009 - 12:41 am

    I snorted myself on the reread at the “Oh my God’. Well written and great descriptives – I was in the bar with Lizbeth et al. What was in that bottle? A genie of sorts… one itty bitty thing that took me out was at the end – not sure a ring could almost break a perfume bottle.

    Great story for Halloween month. Peace, Linda

  8. #11 by G. on October 3, 2009 - 1:49 am

    The irony here is that I like the setup, though the story remains a disconnect for me overall, S. Perhaps, I am just being a lazy reader, but the end was too enigmatic/esoteric for me to really sink my teeth into. I can see how her being changed might add up to their “last moments together,” but certain parts not equaling up to the whole from then on threw me. I’ll have to third or fourth the sentiments on the “Oh, my God” line, though. lol Nice touch.

  9. #12 by soesposito on October 3, 2009 - 1:54 am

    Okay, I suppose I should clear up the ending then. My idea was that when she put on the mask, another entity “pushed” her out of her body. So, her soul went into the perfume bottle that the waitress gave her boyfriend. He was now traveling with a completely different woman, though he was too wimpy to do anything about it in the end. Make sense? lol

  10. #13 by G. on October 3, 2009 - 1:58 am

    Hm… eggs-actly what are you saying about my manhood that I should be the one to relate to the wimpy guy!?! Muhahahahaha
    Oh, my…

    God. ;-p Thpppt.

    (While the jump on the possession/dispossession was made, I would never have gotten her being in the perfume bottle. Cool to have you point out how you mind was working it).

  11. #14 by netta on October 3, 2009 - 2:55 am

    Actually, I wondered what could be in the perfume bottle and assumed it was either her soul or something to help this guy down the road — like a spine. Heh.

    Loved it. The atmosphere was so vivid I could see it and smell the honey wine. Really nice work here.

    That’s probably my muse at the other end of the bar. Kick her ass home, willya?

    😉

  12. #15 by mazzz_in_Leeds on October 3, 2009 - 9:35 am

    I was very much drawn in by the bar atmosphere, and the mask scene.
    I confess to having been a wee bit confused myself about the perfume bottle, but the discussion in the comments has cleared this up!

  13. #16 by Cascade Lily on October 3, 2009 - 11:08 am

    So it seems we pretty much agree that you had this nailed until the last two pars. Wonderfully descriptive without being purple. We could feel being in the bar with these two. You lost me a bit at the end too, but I really loved what you came up with this week. Very cool stuff.

  14. #17 by J. M. Strother on October 3, 2009 - 1:37 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed it up until the end, where I too became confused. I think if you had ended it with the line,

    She stepped out into the moonlight.

    it would have been damn near perfect. Over all, good strong writing here. Thanks for the explanation of the perfume bottle. It helped clear things up.
    ~jon

  15. #18 by ~Tim on October 3, 2009 - 9:21 pm

    I love the line, “I accept. I will be your god.” I didn’t really understand the “stringy chuck of something stuck in her tooth” but other than that I was with you.

  16. #19 by karen from mentor on October 3, 2009 - 9:49 pm

    I loved it Shannon, with or without complete clarity.
    The words knocking him down like a blow to the head…loved that!

    Beautifully done. If you decide to change it I’m sure it will be just as beautifully done.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Karen :0)

  17. #20 by Laura Eno on October 4, 2009 - 12:20 am

    I love the ‘oh my god. I accept.’ That was great!

  18. #21 by Chance on October 4, 2009 - 10:26 am

    Chillingly great set up and descriptions.

    Like the open nature of the ending too

  19. #22 by shadowsinstone on October 4, 2009 - 8:10 pm

    You gave me the chance to let my imagination play it out. How startling. I love your stories so much.

  20. #23 by trev on October 5, 2009 - 4:17 pm

    The set up had me expecting a grittyy noir-style murder mystery type story. The twist was refreshing. I really liked the mask as transition tool. A bit of a head scratch at the end, but comment discussion cleared things up. Thanks for perking up my Monday morning!

  21. #24 by Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey on October 5, 2009 - 4:51 pm

    Nicely done story. And thanks for the clarity in the comments on the perfume bottle. I couldn’t quite follow that, either. But your language and setting were very well done.

    Jeff Posey

  22. #25 by Deirdre on October 5, 2009 - 5:02 pm

    A creepy ending, though it lacked crucial details, which was odd, since the beginning had so many details. I think this would work much better as a properly finished short story.

  23. #26 by KjM on October 5, 2009 - 7:26 pm

    She’s ready to see the world, but I doubt the world is ready for her.

    Nice progression through the story – it had the inevitability of a train wreck, and I couldn’t look away.

    Well done.

  24. #27 by Eric J. Krause on October 8, 2009 - 11:55 pm

    Very nicely done. I enjoyed reading it.

  25. #28 by Kaite on October 9, 2009 - 1:48 am

    I liked it very much! I got the possession part, but I jumped (as I always do!) to a flask of poison (spy-suicide style!) for when it got to be too much. Little flask of mysterious liquid always equals last-resort-way-out for me, for some reason (starting my own mythos, apparently!) – Anyway, very vivid imagery, not sure how the engagement could have prevented it, but really enjoyed the details – honey wine, etc! and her wet black eyes!
    Nice work!
    -K

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