A while back my buddy Indian Macgyver over at Chic Prune posted a wonderful photo he’d taken with his phone for a minimalist challenge. The photo was beautiful but it was his comment about a teeny vodka bottle not being included with the dolls that led to our exchange in the comments which in turn led to this post. So, go check out his photo and the comments. Then come on back here and read the story it inspired. Happy weekend everyone!
Victor stumbled into the dim living room, barely missing the body curled into a fetal position near the end of the sofa. Damn, his head was splitting. He should call out sick, he thought. Then a gauzy shred of sanity hit him and he remembered today was the office holiday party. Victor had been waiting months to give his boss the gift to top all other gifts. He had to go to work, hangover or not. What on earth had possessed him to drink all that Scotch?!
After avoiding at least two other lumps on his floor, Victor made it to the kitchen and on autopilot started the coffee maker. Victor couldn’t see the sunrise because it was overcast but, looking out the kitchen window he also did not see the lacy mist gracefully draping the tree limbs in the backyard. His head was filled with too much crap to notice the peaceful beauty. Hell, the party had just started getting interesting at midnight. What the hell time did he finally get to bed?
Victor opened the cupboard door but there were no mugs on the shelf. He checked the dishwasher which was empty. Perfect, he grimaced. Looking around the kitchen he realized there were dishes stacked on every available surface and overflowing one of the sinks. How had he missed that on his way in? And just how many people had been in his house? Grabbing a mug from a nearby pile he squirted in dishwashing soap and stuck it under the tap to add hot water. After giving it a good wash he rinsed it carefully and reached for a paper towel. The roll was as empty as the cupboard. Victor practiced deep breathing for a few moments, then wiped the cup on his tee shirt.
He reached into the refrigerator to get cream and cringed. Where had that come from? Shuddering, he grabbed the quart of half and half and slammed the fridge door. Victor checked the date on the dairy container and sniffed experimentally. The cream appeared safe to ingest so he splashed some into the clean cup and set the container aside. Pouring coffee into the cream served to mix the two well enough he wouldn’t have to hunt for a clean spoon. When the cup was filled to the brim he set the carafe back on the warmer before lifting the cup very slowly to sip hot, aromatic nectar.
“God I needed that,” he muttered to himself.
“What?” Connie asked as she entered the kitchen. She wore a camisole with a pair of his boxers hanging low on her hips and he noticed they looked a lot better on her.
“What?” Victor asked, his head still a bit fuzzy.
“You said you needed something,” she replied. “What did you need?”
“Coffee.” He took another sip. “I need coffee.”
“Me too.” The black-haired beauty went to the cupboard and before Victor could say anything she opened the door and pulled down a cup.
“What the hell? Where was that?”
“Where was what?” Connie asked, moving to the coffee maker.
“I just checked that cabinet and there weren’t any cups.”
“Are you sure?” she furrowed her brow, giving him a concerned look over her shoulder. Turning back she poured coffee and lifted the cup to take a drink.
“Of course I’m sure,” Victor growled. I had to wash my cup because there weren’t any clean.”
“Maybe you just missed this one,” she replied, turning to lean against the counter. Taking another drink she let her blue gaze circle the room. “What a mess.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” he commented, nodding. “I was just wondering how it got so out of control.”
“Well let me think,” Connie began with a slow smile. “Take a house full of young people, loud music and add alcohol.” She shrugged. “I think it was destined to be out of control from the beginning. At least the neighbors didn’t call the police.”
Victor thought she’d explained it succinctly and he was extremely grateful the neighbors had decided to join the party rather than complaining. But something, some thing kept niggling at his mind. What was it he was trying to think of?
“Victor?” Connie raised her voice. “Victor, are you okay?”
“What? Oh, yeah. Just trying to figure out what it is I’m missing.”
“Missing? Is something gone? How can you tell?” She caught his eye and winked, grinning wickedly.
“Ha ha, very funny.” Victor looked around the room again, hoping the elusive memory would surface. “I’m serious Connie. There’s something not quite right; something I’m forgetting.”
“Well I’m sure it will come to you,” she replied. “Can I grab a shower before I head out?”
“Go ahead. Use the guest bath and be sure to lock the bathroom door. A few of the mooches who drank all my booze stayed over and you don’t want anyone wandering in while you’re wet and naked.” Whoa, he thought, hiding behind his coffee cup. Did I say that out loud?
She gave him the eyebrow waggle. “Oh don’t I?” Victor looked shocked for about a second and then he was laughing out loud. Connie grinned impishly at him as she topped off her coffee. “Don’t worry, I’ll lock the door; there was only one guy at the party I had any interest in and he didn’t know I was alive.”
“Oh yeah? Who was that?” Victor was interested. He’d known Connie for years and during that time she’d never seemed to stay long with any one man.
“That’s my secret,” she said over her shoulder as she left the room.
Alone again, Victor’s mind went back to what was missing. Connie was right, he mused. How in the hell can I tell anything is missing? If it’s actually a real thing and not only a thought. Geez. He refilled his mug and after splashing a bit more cream into it, he returned the carton to the refrigerator. The party favor was still there damn it. When Connie discovered a cup in the cabinet he’d already checked he had hoped the grisly offering in his fridge was a hallucination. Putting that aside for the time being, Victor took a fortifying sip of coffee then put his cup out of the way and got started clearing party debris.
Fifteen minutes later, the dishwasher was full, and what wouldn’t fit was soaking in a sink of hot, soapy water. Empty pizza boxes and Chinese carryout containers were stacked near the back door ready for the recycling bin. Sponging off the kitchen table, Victor took a look around. Not spotless, he thought but not embarrassing either. He straightened, tossed the sponge into the soapy water and rested his hands on his hips.
“What is it I’m forgetting?” he wondered.
“Huh?” The tall, grungy-looking blond stumbled into the kitchen looking a bit like death warmed over.
“Hey Stan,” Victor said. “There’s still coffee if you want some. You’ll have to wash a cup.”
“Cool,” Stan said. “You got cream?”
“In the fridge.” Victor watched as Stan washed and rinsed a cup. He didn’t bother drying it, just filled it, then set it beside the coffee maker while he opened the fridge. Victor didn’t warn him, waiting for Stan’s reaction. “Hey, nice arm!” Stan added cream to his cup, stirred the contents with his finger and put the cream back. “I didn’t know Jerry was here last night.”
“Jerry?” Victor raised his eyebrows.
“Jerry Garza, or Carson, or something. He has a fake arm; I’ll bet that’s his.”
“Right.” Victor rolled his eyes. “Wait, what? Fake arm?” He opened the refrigerator door and looked inside. Well damn, he thought. Fake arm.
“Sure,” Stan said. “What, did you think it was real?” Stan laughed, choking on his coffee.
“In my defense,” Victor replied huffily, “I was still half asleep and hungover.”
“Uh huh,” Stan grinned. “A likely story. Hey, aren’t you going to work?”
Victor looked at the clock on the microwave and felt the kick in his stomach. He was going to be late damn it. There wasn’t even time for a shower and he still didn’t know what it was he was missing!
After a quick wash-up in the master bath, Victor threw on a dress shirt, khaki slacks and tucked a tie in his jacket pocket. He ran a comb through his hair and went in search of his keys and phone. The phone was plugged in where he usually left it so that wasn’t what he’d forgotten. His keys were hanging on their peg just inside the front door, along with a few key rings he didn’t recognize. Probably Stan’s and the other two lumps’ he thought. Victor started to open the door and remembered again the party at work. He snapped his fingers at the memory because that was what he was missing! The boss’s gift – which would make him stand out above everyone else!
Victor did an about face and ran for the kitchen, jumping over one body and side-stepping the other. He went directly to the cabinet above the refrigerator and opened the doors. Inside was a beautiful, hand-blown cobalt blue and crystal bottle. The lovely blue bottle contained Ultimat, the only vodka in the world – so he’d been told – made from a blend of potato, wheat and rye. The 750 ml bottle had cost him almost $150! But Leonard Dearborn claimed to be an aficionado of fine alcohol and once Victor had learned that he had a soft spot for vodka, he knew what he was getting the boss for Christmas.
He reached overhead and carefully removed the bottle from the cabinet. As he was bringing it down Victor noticed it felt different. He looked closer and realized it had been opened. What the fucking hell!?
“That was some fine wodka,” Stan said. “I was shocked you wanted to share it.”
“I wanted to sha…what? I didn’t open this!” Angry and confused, Victor set the empty bottle on the kitchen table before he threw it at something.
“Oh yeah,” Connie added, coming in. “You did.”
“But it was for Dearborn,” Victor said desperately. “I wouldn’t drink his Christmas gift!”
“I don’t know what to tell you bro,” Stan replied. “You said something about what a jackass your boss was and that he didn’t deserve it. Which, I might add is completely true.”
“Stan,” Connie interrupted. “There was more to it than that. Victor was downing Scotch like it was water beforehand. When we asked him what was up he started complaining about Dearborn making him work weekends through the end of the year.”
“Ah,” Stan nodded, remembering. “That explains the week night party!”
“Hmm,” Victor said. “I was wondering why I would throw a party on a Tuesday myself. But I was planning on the Ultimat giving me an in with him; I wouldn’t drink it!”
“Sober maybe,” Connie said. “But you were so far gone by then honey, you were practically passed out.”
“She’s right man,” Stan agreed. “You pulled that bottle out and said ‘I’m going to drink until my internal organs start a revolution and leave.’”
“Oh god,” Victor groaned. He remembered saying that and a lot more. “What am I going to do now?”
Stan shrugged. “No idea. But Dearborn didn’t deserve it; I’m glad you drank it.”
“It would have been nice if I could remember what it tasted like though,” Victor said mournfully. He’d never spent that much on alcohol before and he didn’t even get to enjoy it.
“For what it’s worth,” Connie replied. “It was wonderful.”
“Thanks,” Victor smiled. “So do I pick up some cheap vodka on the way to work or what?”
“Wait!” Stan said. “Wait, I’ve got it!” He disappeared through the kitchen door and they heard a thud and a groan, then Stan hollered back, “I’m oh-kay.” There was the sound of glass clinking and a door closed.
A few seconds later Stan was back and he was holding an unopened bottle of Smirnoff Vodka.
Victor looked from the bottle to his friend’s face. “What? You want me to give him my Smirnoff?”
“Yes,” Stan said.
“Yes!” Connie nodded, realizing what Stan was getting at. She took the Smirnoff from him and twisted off the lid.
“Great,” Victor said. “Now how do I give that to him?”
“Watch and learn oh Slow One.” Stan and Connie shared a grin over that. Then Stan took the crystal and cork stopper out of the Ultimat bottle and set it safely on the counter. This wouldn’t work if they broke the stopper.
While Stan held the Ultimat bottle securely, Connie carefully filled it with the Smirnoff. Thankfully, the Smirnoff bottle was the same size so it completely filled the blue bottle. Then Stan replaced the crystal and cork stopper. He dug through Victor’s junk drawer and found a rubber mallet which Victor didn’t know he owned. As Victor watched, fascinated, Stan tapped the stopper with the mallet, driving it in as far as it would go.
“But aren’t these bottles sealed?” Victor asked them.
“Got me,” Stan said. “But I didn’t notice any kind of wrapper when you opened it last night.”
“And according to you, Dearborn’s a tightwad,” Connie added. “I doubt he’s ever shelled out $150 for a bottle of this so how would he know?”
Nodding, Victor looked from one to the other of his friends. “You guys rock! How can I thank you?”
“You’re welcome. Now get out of here, you’re already late.” Connie said, smiling.
“Right! Thanks again, lock up when you leave, okay?” Carrying the blue bottle in both hands, Victor headed for the door.
“Hey Vic.” Victor stopped, looking over his shoulder with raised eyebrows. Stan finished, “Too bad about the vodka.”