Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Hey Joe

So, I've decided to keep this thing going for a little long. Year 2 of Friday Flash Fiction begins today with a story that has deep sentimental value...

Hey Joe
Word Count: 600
“Hey, Joe,” I said, nodding to the barman as I took a seat. “Slice me a beer, would you?”

Joe pried a pre-cut sliver from a green tube and dropped it into a pint glass. He added a spray of seltzer water to bring the green drink fizzing to life. “You want a cup of pizza or something to go with it?” he asked.

“Nah,” I said. “My shuttle boards in twenty minutes.”

“Inbound or outbound?” Joe asked.

He knew, of course. Bartenders in spaceports always knew. My pappy used to say that when telepathy first manifested itself in humans a hundred years ago, any with the ability immediately became bartenders. Like anyone really believes in telepathy, though. They memorize the schedules because there’s nothing else to do when you’re sitting in a rotating tin can that’s three hundred miles at perigee from the nearest habitable rock.

Still, it’s more polite to ask.

“Outbound,” I said, and then I took a long, deep swig. It was bitter, ice cold, and perfect.

“Shipping or mining?” asked Joe.

“Exploration,” I told him. Technically it’s considered “research” to tap on rocks and see what comes out, but in reality it’s basically—

“Ah, mining… only without the glory,” said Joe.

“Yeah,” I said.

A few others drifted in, each with a polite “Hey, Joe” before finding a seat. I recognized a few from the flight in. No doubt we’d be sharing a shuttle heading out, too.

“I guess these fellers are going to be your family for the next eighteen months,” said Joe.

“Sixteen,” I said, taking another drink.

“That’s short for a contract, isn’t it?” asked Joe.

“No,” I told him. “It’s always sixteen. Didn’t you know that?”

“I suppose I did,” said Joe. “Must have slipped my mind. You ready for another?”

I took a longing gaze at my now two-thirds empty pint. “Not just yet,” I said. I am, I thought, but I shouldn’t. Shuttle bathrooms are tiny freaking nightmares. I took another deep pull. It tasted bitterer than before. Sixteen months. Jesus. A year and a half once you figure in travel time. How did I end up in this mess, doing off-world research while my ex-wife and our kids live in the house I paid for? How did it all just get away from me?

“How about now?” asked Joe.

“Yeah,” I said. “Go ahead.”

“It’s funny how things get away from you,” said Joe, spritzing another green slice, transforming it into creamy, fuzzy nectar.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Forget I said anything,” said Joe. “You should drink that quickly and be on your way.”

“Come again?”

Joe leaned forward on his elbows. “Wouldn’t want to miss your flight.”

I squinted at Joe. “Why did you say that? About things—”

“Getting away from you? Because it’s what you needed to hear.”

What in the hell—

“What the hell am I talking about?” asked Joe. “Look, there’s trade secrets and then there’s trade secrets. Know what I mean? Of course you don’t, but you’re going to go along with it for the time being because I’m freaking you out a little right now. Those two men in the corner are having a disagreement, and one of them is armed. I’ve alerted security, but I don’t think they’re going to get here in time.”

I looked at Joe. Then at my drink. “Why?” I asked. “How?”

“Because you’re a nice guy and you tip well,” he said, smiling. “Now, drink up and let’s be off with you.”

So I paid up and left before the shooting started.

Edited by Carolyn "I Love This As An Opener" Abram.

Like what you see? Help me out by liking my author page on Facebook or re-posting the story using the buttons below.

No comments: