Sam stood outside while he waited. It was a dismal day. Normally Sam would like that. The sky was dim, and rain drizzled. Sam loved grey days. Trench coat weather, he called it. Or brooding weather.
Sam was brooding today, but he wasn’t enjoying it. The brooding commenced once insomnia woke him at 4 a.m. Brooding rousted him from his bed at 5. The brooding was held at bay, briefly.
By the dishwasher, of all things. He hadn’t loaded it in a month and a half. He’d managed to eat without dishes for a while. He’d foregone eating a couple times. But he might as well wash the dishes now. He had better things to do. But he was too busy worrying about them to do them. So he rinsed off the crusty pot and dusty plates. There weren’t that many. He didn’t need many. He was by himself. He didn’t need many of anything. But had too many glasses. Tumblers, double old fashioneds, rocks glasses. Whatever you call them, they took up the whole top shelf of Sam’s dishwasher.
It had been a long time since he’d washed anything. That was his excuse. Still, he’d used 3 plates and 13 glasses in that long span of time. And he never had just one drink. Maybe he didn’t drink too much. He just drank more than he ate.
Sam closed the dishwasher and let it run. The case gnawed at the back of his mind. It exhausted him, though he made no progress. He stood in the rain contemplating the end of the case. He would celebrate. With a cigar. And some whiskey. Good stuff. Maybe Scotch? Sam normally drank bourbon. He knew he didn’t want Irish whiskey. Too light.
He couldn’t close the case, though. Not like this. Couldn’t think about the case. He couldn’t drink. Not till the case was done. Drops of rain slowly dripped off the brim of his fedora. He was exhausted at 9:30 in the morning. Sam did the only thing he could. He brooded.
He looked like a balding little gnome. Fat little men who grow ponytails to compensate for hair loss seldom look very good. This dope was no exception. His pasty face was unshaven. His short legs were stuck into hiking boots that made them look even stubbier. His enormous nose made him look like something that might be found deep in a cave. Or one of the troll villains in the a role playing game. The kind of game the gnome was always blathering about.
The dwarf was a misfit. A neckbeard. If his appearance didn’t give it away, his t-shirt would. It was black, and hadn’t been laundered in a while. Maybe the little cave troll still thought dark colors don’t show dirt. But the white stains on his shirt showed otherwise.
The tee had a stick figure on it. The figure was drawn as dramatically as you can draw a stick figure. “Stand back,” the caption read, “I’m going to use science!” Typical nerd. This gnome was well versed in all the arcana of science fiction. But he hadn’t introduced his shirt to the science of laundry detergent.
He was eager to take advantage of Spring. He shuffled down the sidewalk in dirty flip-flops and shorts. Worse, he had no shirt on. His arms were sinewy, but his paunch bulged out. Wasn’t what I wanted to see first thing in the morning. But I’d have been all right if that was the worst. It wasn’t.
His shorts sagged. London and France were to far away to see, so my consolation prize was the bum’s undershorts. “AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL” was embroidered on the waistband. It was probably a sacrilege to print that on underwear. Even if not, it was certainly a sacrilege to sell or give them to that guy. Ah, well. If nothing else, the underwear told me that the dope’s name was not America.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn by posting this. But it’s anonymous, so I can’t reply without posting it. So thank you, anonymous. My last writing post is not as hardboiled as my usual writing. (Much of what I write about it deliberately not very lovely.) But I’m glad readers seemed to enjoy it. I hope you continue to read and enjoy.
Thanks also for the feedback. I’m always glad to hear what readers like or dislike, whether anonymously or not.
You wake up one Sunday. This is not new. You wake up next to a beautiful woman. This isn’t new, either. But it’s good. You’re lucky. This isn’t a one-night stand. Neither of you will be doing the walk of shame. So you kiss her. She’s still sleepy, but he she stirs long enough to kiss you back. Then you read while she sleeps.
John D. MacDonald is a more than adequate companion. So is Travis McGee. It’s a good morning. Especially after she wakes up. So you read the news to her. Except no one subscribes to a newspaper anymore and you read it off a damned smartphone. But you enjoy being with her too much to worry about the future of newsprint or.
Sooner or later you both get hungry. So she is off to the kitchen and you follow. You notice the bottle of bourbon. It’s Old Grand-Dad. Good stuff. Maybe not the good stuff. Not too expensive, but good stuff. Stuff you recommended, she reminds you. And you’re proud of her. She was drinking all sorts of fruity pink shit when you met her. Now she’s drinking Old-Fashioneds and whiskey neat.
She peeling potatoes while you admire her. Admiring her taste in booze, and just plain admiring her. Even while she was grating potatoes. She notices and says you don’t have to watch her. Of course you want to. But you go and get your book so you can do it more surreptitiously. You sit down at the little table and set your book there.
She’s starting to fry the hash browns. You’ve read enough this morning, so you go take over at the skillet. She likes it when you fry things. You like to make sure everything gets suitably brown and crispy. You add some more oil to keep the potatoes sizzling. You add plenty of salt and pepper. You heap the hash browns on two plates and fry up two eggs, too. She likes hers sunny side up. You think that’s disgusting, so yours goes a little longer.
The eggs sit atop the hash browns. You’re ready for brunch. But maybe not. You decide an Old-Fashioned would be good. It’s already noon anyhow. Not too early to drink on a Sunday. Anyhow, you remind her, cocktails are so called because they were created to be had in the morning. Grab the cock by its tail. With whiskey, presumably. So you make two Old-Fashioneds.
Only as much water as sugar, you muse as you mix them up. It’s astonishing how bars get such a simple drink wrong. Water, sugar, bitters. That’s all you need. Then you pour in a slug of fine, sweet bourbon. Some ice.
The hashbrowns and egg are salty. The Old-Fashioneds are sweet, spicy and stiff. Your companion is charming and lovely. She calls it brunch. You’re not particular about the name, but you’re enjoying yourself. What more could a man want?
You glance at the little pulpy paperback. Its yellowed pages sit forlornly on the table. It’s gotten ignored as you prepared and then ate the brunch. But you don’t miss it too much. You’ll read it later. You don’t need it just now. It’s out of place in such a domestic scene. The eggs aren’t even hardboiled. But that’s OK. Not everything is. Not everything has to be.