Flash fiction: Fake the Clink
There’s a toast coming up and she knows it’s coming but like bad elevator conversation she’s trapped and can’t escape it. There’s her boss, a stuffed pig preening before the affection of his employees. There’s her cube mate, who must have her hand on the pig’s crotch under the table, the way he spasms in smiles. There’s the wait staff, hovering, obedient, dreaming of nothing but oblivion at the shit bar across the street. There next to her is a drunk guy wearing too much body spray and mumbling about horoscopes. She’s never seen him before and she’s pretty sure he crashed the party and every five minutes he tries to touch her thigh and she swats him away, feigning annoyance. But the truth is, his astrological ramblings supply the evening’s only oxygen.
The P.A. system tramples Pisces’ star alignments as the toast begins. The pig blah-blahs idle junk, something about pulling together in these economic times, bullshit bullshit. He roped himself a six-figure bonus this year. They raise their glasses, toast. Next to the pig, her cubemate smiles and smiles, the static kind that puffs out like a blowfish at each cheap punchline.
Vomit. She wishes she could. She calls for drinks, scotch and soda in a pint glass, two of them. It’s an open bar and she’s taking on the astrologer as a charity case. Each line brings another toast: kiss-ass acknowledgments, brags camouflaged as struggles, platitudes on risk and reward. She learned long ago to fake her clinks by just tapping the
champagne flute onto a nearby unused glass. Like a protest, ignoring glass clinkers searching for validation. And yet nobody gives her grief for it.
Henry from accounting beams trough each toast. The old fat man sits near the buffet and sweats like Santa in a sauna and why not? Any 50-year-old worker bee who hasn’t lost his job to a slaverwager twenty-something with multiple diplomas should count himself as blessed. Meanwhile, the pig spasms like an exorcism and she swears she can see her cubemate’s hand digging deep. Feed the beast, you bitch.
The drinks come. She searches her purse for cigarettes and asks a waiter how to get up to the roof. She’s about to engage the astrologer, to finally recognize his presence, his blind inebriation, his singular humanity in this evening of self-indulgence.
But he gets there first, clasping his hands atop hers at the table, falling into her eyes and shouting: LIBRA, REPENT! FOR THE FORCES OF LOVE LAY FAR BEYOND THESE WALLS!
The room stops. The pig senses a practical joke and chuckles. The entire office party cheers.
He was right. She was a Libra. And love lay indeed far away. So up they went, up, up to the rooftop, up and far beyond these walls.
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