The Standout

Comedy / A rooftop bar / A paint roller / 996w

When the second shift arrived for work that night, José confirmed the frightful rumors: half of Sky High was overrun by a bachelorette party. And worse, it was a bachelorette party from Athens–not Atlanta proper–which meant that by the end of the night, every single one of the partygoers would forget where they were staying, and would come wandering back up past last call, asking for a taxi to be called and did the bartender, by any chance, have any more vodka he wouldn’t mind servin’ up for her?

José looked inconsolable. He had only just finished remodeling the bar: new decking installed, new string lights hung, the wooden planters freshly painted. He hadn’t anticipated that a storm of this magnitude would blow through so soon.

Teddy had only experienced one bachelorette party at Sky High. It was a Friday, the last Friday night in October of 2015. They say that impactful events have a way of fossilizing forever the memories of an otherwise ordinary day. Teddy could remember the shoes he’d worn to class that morning, the notes he’d taken in lecture. They’d learned European options pricing, which, like his degree, hadn’t done him much good in the restaurant industry.

When they officially relieved the first shift and hit the bar floor, they quickly realized it was not a run-of-the-mill batchie they had on their hands; it was definitely a Category 4, more likely a Category 5. Sky High was a nightmarish jostle of spiked heels, strawberry martinis, moist cleavage, and lurid phallic accessories. It was easy to spot the two dozen or so guests not associated with the party by the dazed look in their eyes.

Nervously, Teddy set off across the floor with a drink order. The batchies were shrieking with laughter; the bar would no doubt get complaints from the neighboring buildings. The struggles of rooftop real estate.

“Hey! Excuse me! Hey!” He was summoned. Trying to act like the veteran he was, he turned and nodded at the maid of honor (it was always the maid of honor) with a vague smile, avoiding actual eye contact, to indicate that he would return when he had delivered his order. But he wasn’t quite seasoned enough, because as he turned away, he caught the eye of another member of the party. This woman was sitting quite still, sipping a drink, and he could tell by the set of her jaw how determinedly she was pretending that her straw was not penis-shaped. As she saw Teddy, she gave him an embarrassed half-smile. He had to keep walking.

But she stood out.

That was why he mostly looked at her when he returned to take the party’s fresh order (another round of martinis, but pomegranate this time). She seemed young–possibly his age. And decidedly sober. He wondered with a lurch if she was the bride-to-be. He couldn’t quite see her hands, to check for a ring.

Back behind the bar, he cajoled Jack, the bartender, into sticking a paper umbrella into one of the drinks.

“Why?” Jack wrinkled his nose.

“I just need one to be special.”

“But why?”

“So I can give it to the bride.”

“Do you even know which one she is?”

“Not yet.”

Jack began unloading hot glassware from the sanitizer. “You’re playing with fire, kid.”

Ignoring him, Teddy carefully placed eight of the sixteen martinis on a tray, including the one with the umbrella.

“This one’s for the bride!” he cried to the women as he approached, lifting the drink up with all the enthusiasm he could muster. As he expected, they squealed with delight and pointed out one of their number: not the still one, not the one with the soft-looking hair and the thoughtful expression. Good.

“Are you having fun?” Teddy asked her, the still one, as he set her drink down in front of her. The other batchies had begun a game in which, apparently, the primary objective was to smack each other with rubber dildos. One of them had found a paint roller, leftover from the weekend remodeling, and was wielding it as auxiliary weaponry.

The woman smiled at him again, and he smiled, and felt stupid for smiling too much. “Sort of,” she said.

He wasn’t sure what to say–wasn’t sure why he had started this conversation–and fled awkwardly to the bar.

Jack and Monique had been watching him, grinning. “Don’t hit on batchies,” Monique said as she set two IPAs on his tray. “They’re fierce. They’ll suck you dry.”

“I just asked her if she was having fun. It’s a social experiment. I think they’re all just pretending to enjoy themselves.”

“Sure.”

But as he walked to table nine, he looked at her again because he liked the way her lips curved up at the corners, and he liked the quirk of her one brow. As he was doing this, his foot landed on some cylindrical object; was it a paint roller, or a dildo? he wondered as he tumbled backward with a spectacular arcing of beer and foam, to a fresh round of drunken feminine screams.

A few minutes later he was standing in one of the empty VIP areas, leaning on the railing and staring skyward, wondering how many of the stars he was seeing were of the celestial variety.

She appeared beside him, her expression somewhere between apologetic and amused. “Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” he said. “I was the first casualty, but I won’t be the last.”

She laughed. “Sorry about us. For us. I’m Caroline.”

“Teddy.” They shook hands. “How do you know the bride?” he asked.

“Former college roommate. We’re both graduating this May. Well, assuming we pass our exams.”

“Soon?”

“Tomorrow.” She grinned and shook her head. “Any chance you know anything about options pricing?”

He laughed, gazing at her to watch her lips curve upward, and then glanced down at his shoes, even though he knew he would hardly forget them.

Writer’s Note

This story won 1st place out of 35 in round one of the competition. I was flabbergasted but obviously pretty thrilled to have still stood out (ha) with a story of corny lines and penis jokes.

Some of the feedback from the judges included the contrived-ness of the final line (good point) and the intro with José being misleading/distracting.

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