I’m doing this because it is National Novel Writing Month, and since I struggle with a whole big novel, thought I’d work at just one short story a day instead. Writer’s wicked self-criticism: It’s pretty obvious that I haven’t written a short story since 8th grade! While I hit all five criteria (Setting, Theme, Characterization, Conflict, Plot) and it has a basic structure, it clearly reads like a scene rather than a wholly complete story. I will keep at it!
Vicky Summers knew she shouldn’t have had that second martini when she saw herself floating across the room.
Well, someone or something who looked a great deal like her, but taller. And thinner. With long soft curly hair that actually bounced.
She blinked quickly, then squeezed her eyes shut tight before easing them open to look again.
Yep, that was something that greatly resembled her actually sitting on the bar at The Olive Jar Martini Dive between two investment banker suits talking with their whole bodies and sipping scotch on the rocks lowballs, oblivious to her presence.
Then it smiled at her and waved, one of those cutsie little hand-next-to-the-face “I’ve got a secret” waves from third grade. Raising a martini glass and nodding at her, it took a sip. The contents of Vicky’s own glass, conveniently situated on the table between she and the…the…thing, shrank. She picked it up and stared, right through the dirty vodka toward the bar, as the creature took another sip and a bit more of her drink disappeared.
“I think I better stop now,” she murmured under her breath just as Perfect Lil and Jenny guffawed like a couple of good old boys beside her. She stared at them, her face frozen with a fake smile. Perfect Lil, every strand of the exquisite blonde wedge haircut lining her wrinkle-free face, reached over and smacked Vicky in the back of the head. “What daydream have you been on Miss Vicky?”
Grin fixed, she watched both of them look at her again and burst out laughing. “What?” She looked down to make sure she wasn’t havng a blouse malfunction.
Lil slowed her giggling and pointed at Vicky, circling her flawlessly manicured index finger. “Jenny just told the best ever totally embarrassing sex experience, and you were off in lala land again, daydreaming about something.” She patted Vicky on the shoulder. “Thirty years since pledge class and some things never change, Dreamsicle.”
Vicky broke into a genuine grin at the mention of her sorority nickname from college. Dreamsicle. Yep, head in the clouds, nose in a romance novel or physics book. She had been missing the joke most of her life.
“Sorry ya’ll…” she glanced over at the bar, relieved to see the two must be thirtysomething guys still waving arms and heads in a heated discussion, with no one between them this time. She scanned the room quickly before coming back to see Lil and Jenny watching her, eyebrows raised. “I swear I saw someone I know, but I don’t see her now. So tell me the story JenJen.”
“I would, but first I gotta visit ‘la toilette’,” she batted her eyes. Jen had studied in Paris and loved to drop French into her conversation, even after all these years. In confirmation of the law of nature that dictates that women must visit restrooms together, Lil got up too. “Moi aussi! We’ll be right back Dreamsicle, try not to wander off again.”
Vicky watched them laughing again as they pushed through the crowd toward the two-stall ladies restroom, sure to be knee deep with a waiting line at this time of night. What had possessed them to stay out past “mom” hours anyway? The crowd was definitely younger and louder now than it had been at happy hour when they arrived.
Vicky froze and slammed her eyes shut. The voice sounded just like her.
“Don’t worry, you can talk to me and no one will know. I’m invisible to them.”
Vicky opened her left eye, winced, and scrunched both eyes shut tight. It was back, and sitting next to her in Lil’s chair. And it looked a lot like her, just better…everywhere.
“Sorry, can’t do that. It’s high time we met since you’ve pretty much been making me miserable since you were around 13. Puberty sucks for us.”
“Us?” Vicky turned and faced the image. “There are more of you?”
It laughed, sipping the martini again. The one on the table was almost empty at this point. “Not for you silly, I am just yours. But everyone has one.”
“One. One what?”
“Heart’s Desire, Inner Kindergartner, Muse…” she paused extending her shimmering see-through hand toward Vicky. “In your case, it’s ‘Bliss’,” she tilted her head and smiled the way a mother might to a grown child.
“My name is Bliss Universe, and I’m everything you want to be and could be if only you’d stop trying to be someone else.”
Vicky realized her mouth was open when Bliss reached over and pushed up on her chin. She couldn’t actually feel the touch, yet clearly she felt an upward pressure. She swallowed and looked around to see if anyone was watching her.
“Always worried about what someone thinks about you.” Bliss tapped her on the nose. “Like Lil said, some things never change. Which is part of the reason I’m here now. Puberty was awful, that’s for sure. You stopped drawing, and writing. Spent all your time worrying about your butt and whether or not Tom Orston knew you were alive. But that was nothing compared to menopause. Girl, you are killing us right now. I couldn’t take it anymore. We call this a come-to-you intervention, girlfriend. Homage a the big guy upstairs.” Bliss looked heavenward and closed her eyes in silent acknowledgement.
“And Vicky, my outer partner in life, it’s high time you got your shit together and started honoring your gifts. My job today is to get your attention.”
Vicky weaved on her bar stool a bit, dazed. “Umm….I’m talking to an apparition, so it looks like something is working.”
Bliss smirked. “I don’t think so. Tell me something. Who do I look like?”
“Me. Except better. Taller, thinner, prettier.”
“Umhmmmm….girl, I AM you. This is how the universes sees you. Full of light and love, smiling, pretty, happy. What you see in the mirror, that’s what you’ve created. Dull. Melancholy. Unaccomplished.”
“So, then what?” Vicky gestured to Bliss, “Do you have some sort of magical makeover you plan to do? Or am I just going to wake up with a raging headache thinking I had one hell of a crazy dream?” she stopped and closed her eyes while shaking her head. “Please tell me we aren’t going Charles Dickens or Frank Capra, because I’m really just not in the mood.”
Bliss floated around the table so that she was on Vicky’s other side. Still all glittering, ethereal, translucent light with great hair, and white teeth. She tapped Vicky on the head, that definite sensation, yet lacking the warmth of touch. “Nope, no movies or books for you. I’m going to tell you how to get what you want. And if you don’t do it, I’m going to pester the living daylights out of you until you do.”
“Well gee, that sounds easy,” Vicky blew out a breath. “Because I couldn’t possibly be almost fifty and have any idea how to get what I want.”
“Well, if you know, then why aren’t you doing it?”
“Because, hell, there’s a lot of people who need me to be what they think I am, not what I want to be, that’s why!”
Bliss tilted her head, not replying.
“And the things that make me happy cost money, and I don’t have any. And how come my hair looks like crap and yours is so gorgeous, huh?”
“I use better soap.”
“Oh well, that’s it then, the secret to happiness,” Vicky rolled her eyes. “Better soap. Okay, that’s great, you can go now. I’ll just waste some money on expensive shampoo and my life is sure to be what I want from now on.”
“It’s so much simpler than that,” Bliss whispered into her ear. “Just honor your gifts. Draw and write and make people laugh. Be happy. Smile. Choose. It’s easy really. You just have to decide and do. Decide. Do. That’s all there is to it.”
Vicky stopped short, whirling around, but Bliss vanished just as Lil and Jenny returned to the table and reached for their purses. “C’mon Dreamsicle, time to get you back to the condo and into bed”
“What? Why?” Vicky found her legs felt like jello when she tried to stand.
“Because you fell asleep on the table!” Lil laughed, tilting her head sideways and pretending to be asleep. “And you must have had some good dreams, girlfriend, because you had a silly smile on your face and you kept muttering something over and over.”
Vicky reached into her purse and grabbed a compact, dismayed sure enough to find an imprint of the buttons on the cuff of her blazer imprinted on her forehead. Crap. For a minute there Bliss sure had her going. “What was I saying?”
“Sounded like “Doodoo” to me,” Jenny laughed, pushing her dark shoulder length hair behind her ears as she picked up her bag and grabbed Vicky’s upper arm to steady her. “You looked really happy and kept saying, “Doodoo.”
“I had a crazy dream about my fairy godmother…she looked like me but she was prettier and she told me I was a mess.”
Lil and Jenny burst out laughing. “No more martinis for you!” they chorused. “Some fairy godmother. What did she want?” Jenny asked.
Vicky shook her head. Damned dreams…if you don’t write em down the instant you wake up they’re gone. “I don’t know…she wanted me to do something.”
“Right. Doodoo!” Lil took her other arm. “Come on Twinkletoes…time for bed.”
As they were leaving the bar Vicky couldn’t resist looking up at the Olive Jar Martini Dive neon sign. She stopped and squinted against the glare, thinking she saw something move on top of the sign, but then when she took another step there was nothing there.
As they drove away, Bliss Universe sighed from where she said atop the sign, swinging her legs and filing her nails. Some great source of inner inspiration she was. She finally gets an opportunity to get her message out, to make a difference in Vicky’s life. To get past all the cobwebs that clouded her choices for 37 years. And what does Vicky take away from it?
“Well, Vicky Summers,” Bliss watched the taillights disappear into the night. “I tried.”