Archive for the Fantastique Category

Fantastique: Episode I

Posted in Fantastique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2012 by Single Malt Serials

Episode I

Waves lapped the sandy shore as if a water dish were exacting revenge against the cat’s bristly tongue. Zhellar d’Or lowered her eyes from the energetic sea and stared down at the No Smoking sign nailed to the railing that barricaded the beach from the boardwalk. She palmed a cigarette from inside the folds of her faded black hoodie. She lit it with a paper match from a book with the name of a bar on it. After a long, slow drag she exhaled the tobacco cloud lazily down at the metal sign.

“Excuse me?” a voice strained with curiosity spoke from behind Zhellar.

Shit. Zhellar dropped her cigarette and stepped on it covertly as she turned. Once behind, now before her, stood a baseball-capped man with an expensive looking camera in his hands half extended in offering.

“Excuse me, sorry, do you think you could take a picture of me?”

Zhellar examined the man for a moment. Fresh faced but with a couple days stubble, an expensive but slightly wrinkled plaid shirt, and gray baggy shorts. A heavy duty backpack was slung over both shoulders and he wore thick socks inside cross trainers. Another harmless tourist.

“Sure.” Zhellar reached out for the large-lensed camera. She pointed it at the man’s face but before she could snap the picture and make her exit, the man stopped her.

“Would it be okay if you got the ocean behind me?”

Zhellar lowered the camera and spun back toward the ocean without waiting for the peppy tourist. She took three steps back as the man practically dove to where Zhellar had just been standing. When they had switched places, Zhellar lifted the camera and counted to three.

“One. Two. Three.” Snap. Zhellar extended the camera across the three foot chasm. The tourist met her halfway with another question.

“Could I take a picture of you now?” Zhellar’s eyes narrowed and her posture tensed. “I’m not a creep,” he replied hurriedly. “I just like to remember who was nice to me on my trip. Never mind. Sorry. Thanks for the picture. Have a nice day.” The man turned and started walking back the way he had come.

“Wait.”

The man turned.

“That’s fine. You can take a picture of me.”

The man smiled and jogged back as he prepared his camera.

Zhellar stood like an amateur sculptor’s awkward masterpiece. “Right here?”

“Wherever.” The man raised the camera to his face, took a breath, and quick counted to three.

“One, two, three.” Snap. “Thanks again!”

Zhellar turned to go.

“Oh wait, what’s your name?” the man asked as an afterthought.

Over her shoulder, Zhellar called back her name.

The man paused, confused. “How do you spell that?”

Zhellar swung around on her heals and sauntered slowly back. The man was digging into his pockets for a pen and paper. She waited impatiently. The man pulled out a creased pocket-sized notebook and a bright orange mini-golf pencil. “Ready.”

“Z. H. E. L. L. A. R.”

“That’s beautiful.” The man looked up from notebook the sun glassed face.

“Thanks.”

“Is that like, Turkish, or something?”

Zhellar sighed and jammed her hands into her hoodie pockets. “Or something.”

The man looked down, rebuked. Zhellar decided to be nice and make small talk. She pulled off her sunglasses.

“What’s your name?”

The man looked up, straight-lipped but with mirth in his eyes. “Tom. Thomas. Either or.”

Zhellar smirked. “Nice to meet you, Tom Thomas.” She extended her hand. Tom clumsily juggled pen, notebook, and camera around his arms until his right hand broke free and firmly shook Zhellar’s.

“Where are you from?” she asked mechanically.

“California.”

“LA?”

“No, actually. Santa Rosa.” He replied proud to not be from LA.

“Cool. Are you on vacation?”

“Yeah. I’ve been bumming around the country all summer. New York is my last stop before I head back home. I’ve wanted to come to Coney Island since I saw Big. Kinda cheesy, I know. But it’s pretty cool on its own anyway. You live in Brooklyn?”

Zhellar looked up at Tom from under her hood, he was younger than she originally thought, maybe freshly graduated from some small, beachy community college.

“You talk fast for a West Coaster.”

“Sorry. I haven’t really talked to anybody in a little while.  That sounded weird, but it’s not. I just mean, I was on a bus for a couple days and I’ve been running around trying to see as much as I can here in New York, so I really haven’t had an opportunity to talk to anyone.” He had almost run out of breath at the end. He inhaled loudly like a diver coming up for air.

Zhellar smiled at Tom’s embarrassment. “It’s fine. Want to get a beer?”

Surprised, Tom stared at Zhellar for a long moment.

“That would be great.” Tom smiled back. “Lead the way.”

Zhellar opened her sunglasses and once again hid her eyes behind them.

“This way.” Zhellar started off, again, not waiting for Tom. Tom had to power walk to keep up with the black hooded figure weaving in and out of boardwalker clusters.

At one point, Tom thought he lost her. He paused, stood on his tip-toes and scanned the backs of heads and hats. Before he could spot her, Zhellar had snaked back to his side and grabbed him by the elbow. Tom startled and looked down at his invisible assailant with fight or flight eyes. Zhellar chuckled.

“Come on. There’re too many people. We’ll take a shortcut.” She led him by the elbow at a right angle through a wacky souvenir shop. Zhellar marched him straight to the back and through an Employees Only door.

“Wait, won’t we get in trouble…?” Tom whisper-shouted at the back of Zhellar’s head. On the other side of the door, they were greeted by a green-haired girl wearing a purple polo with the shop’s name embroidered on it.

“Hey, Zhellar,” the girl greeted absently without looking up from her smartphone.

“Hey, Charlotte.”

Zhellar continued to lead Tom through the stock room of the shop and out the back door. They descended rain stained wooden steps and Tom realized that Zhellar had led him Behind the Scenes.

“Do you work here?” he asked in sudden awe.

Zhellar grunted. “If only. I live here.”

Tom chuckled at what he thought was a joke but quickly fell silent when Zhellar remained mute.

“Are you serious? You live here?” Tom asked like he had just been ushered into Santa’s Toy Shoppe. “That’s awesome!”

“It’s really not.”

“No?” Disappointment threatened to choke Tom’s reply.

“It’s fine, I guess.” Zhellar tried to recover, for Tom’s sake. She led him around a couple blind corners under a wooden walkway and suddenly they emerged into what appeared to be a beer garden.

“Here we are.” Zhellar informed facetiously. “I need a beer.”

Zhellar led the way to the bar, which resembled a converted fireworks stand with a random assortment of stools bellied up to its warped oak bartop. Zhellar waved to the bartender, a dreadlocked young woman with blazing red hair and blue skin. The blue bartender called out.

“Hey girl!”

Tom stood a little behind Zhellar, still mentally reeling from the recent revelation. Zhellar nodded her head over her shoulder at Tom.

“This is Tom Thomas, he’s visiting from California.” Tom took a confident step toward the bar and extended his hand.

“Just Tom actually. Or Thomas. One or the other. Or whichever.”

The Blue Lady tried to cover her laugh with her blue, webbed, fingers; unsuccessfully. “Sorry. My name is Druid. Just Druid.” She reached out and took Tom’s hand and gave a quick, single shake. “You a friend of Zhellar’s?”

“Uh, yeah. I guess so. We just met.” Tom informed. He thought he caught Druid giving Zhellar a wink, but he wasn’t sure.

“What’s your poison?” the bartender asked Tom.

“Uh…whatever she’s having,” Tom pointed at Zhellar.

“Corona.”

“Two Coronas, please,” Tom recited. A moment later, two cold, yellow beers with bright green limes stuck in the top appeared before the two patrons.

“Fourteen,” Druid informed. Tom pulled out a crispy twenty and set it on the warped wood.

“Keep the change,” he invited. Druid smirked and nodded and walked off to greet new patrons.

Tom shoved his lime down the neck of his beer then plugged the top with his thumb and flipped the beer upside down. He waited till the lime floated to the top which was the bottom, then righted his beer. He raised it to Zhellar, who was waiting somewhat impatiently for Tom to finish his procedure.

“Cheers!”

“Cheers,” Zhellar replied as they clinked bottles and sipped. “That’s quite an involved ritual for a beer.”

“I guess,” Tom conceded as he took another swallow of cold beer. “How long have you lived here?”

Zhellar sighed. “All my life.”

“Wow,” Tom exclaimed. “It must be wild living on the World Famous Coney Island!”

“Like I said, it’s really not. It’s actually kind of a shit hole. And the parks are only open during the summer so after that, it’s pretty boring.”

“So what do you do after summer?”

“I bartend across the street,” Zhellar replied between mouthfuls of beer.

“That’s cool,” Tom offered with too many nods. He was silent for a moment, contemplating the strange encounter he was having. He looked over and noticed he companion was almost done with her beer.

“Can I get you another one?” he offered.

Zhellar looked down at the nearly empty beer in her hand. She thought about it for a long time.

“If you have to go, it’s cool,” Tom tried to recover. “I’m not trying to get you drunk or anything. . . unless you want to.”

Zhellar chuckled. “It’s not that. You’re very nice but I think I’ll just have the one, thank you. I should probably be going. It was nice to meet you Tom Thomas.” Zhellar stood and extended her hand. Tom took and shook it.

“Maybe I’ll see you around,” he just about begged. Zhellar smirked again before she turned away.

“Maybe. Have a safe trip home,” she called over her shoulder.

Tom bellied back to the bar and finished the last half of his beer in one pull. He set the bottle gingerly on the bartop as the cold liquid cascaded down his throat. Like a ninja, Druid appeared.

“Another one?”

Tom looked back toward the direction Zhellar had disappeared.

“How about a shot? On me.”

“Sure,” Tom answered.

Two shot glasses appeared and immediately brown liquid began to fill them. Tom grabbed his and raised it to Druid.

“Thanks. Cheers.”

“Cheers!”

The bartender and the patron slammed their shots and dropped the glasses on the counter. Tom’s face contorted with whiskey burn, Druid smiled at the warmth.

“She liked you, you know?” Druid spoke with a sly smile.

“Yeah right.”

“She’s my best friend, I think I know. Why do you think she ran off so quick?”

“Because she had to leave?” Tom guessed.

“She doesn’t work ‘til seven thirty, she didn’t have anywhere to go,” Druid informed. “She was here fifteen minutes ago; she just went for a smoke break. I’m telling you, she liked you. You made her nervous.”

“I didn’t mean to make her nervous,” Tom replied, mortified. “Did I come on too strong or something?”

Druid threw her head back and laughed. She laughed longer than Tom thought was warranted. When she had regained herself, she poured them each another shot. They raised their glasses and took their shots. Tom exhaled like a seasoned fire-eater, Druid smiled again.

“You’re a nice guy. She’s not used to nice guys. Most of the guys who hang around here are dirtbags, except the sideshow guys, they’re cool. So she doesn’t know how to act around you, hence her being nervous. Don’t worry about it, you didn’t do anything wrong,” Druid reassured the over-worried Tom.

Then Druid smiled her signature sly-smile as the wheels and gears in her head turned and churned. She started nodding silently to herself all the while staring at Tom.

“What?” Tom’s face went ashen in anticipation of unfortunate news.

“What are you doing tonight? Do you have plans yet?”

“I thought about going into the city to check out some bars…” Tom trailed off.

“She works tonight across the street, that’s a bar you could check out, then we’re going to a house party after. Want to tag along?” Druid asked mischievously.

“Is that okay? I don’t want to be the dopey tourist crashing the party,” Tom replied wide-eyed.

“You’ll be with me, don’t worry.” Druid set the whiskey bottle down under the bar then looked back at Tom. “You might want to change though. Put on some jeans and a t-shirt maybe. Yeah, that will work.” She nodded in satisfaction.

Tom smiled. “Cool, what time should I meet you?”

“Leaving so soon? Stay and have another beer. I’ll be off soon, we’ll walk over together,” Druid answered.

Before Tom could reply, a fresh Corona appeared before him. He nodded to himself and got comfortable. After his beer/lime ritual completed, he sipped his beer and thought about the black-haired girl he had just met, her blue-skinned bartender friend and the unknown possibilities the coming night would bring…

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