Anne Marie Andrus
Gentle wisps of September breeze swirled through The Beach Haunt reminding Ajay of summer’s magic at the Jersey Shore. A single sharp gust warned him of the season to come. Flicking his eyes from the empty inbox on his smart phone to the televisions and back again, he zipped the collar of his sweatshirt up to his chin. Outside, his part-time cameraman wandered the abandoned boardwalk, puffing an electronic cigarette.
“What can I get the master of local turmoil tonight?” A lady with blue hair and an enormous dolphin tattoo slapped the bar in front of him. “Earth to Ajay!”
“Sorry, Gilda. I applied for a ton of newsroom jobs—they’re all playing possum. I’ll have ice water with a slice of lemon, please.”
“Freakin’ boring.” The bartender flashed a frown that rippled into a smile. “What’s really got you so distracted?”
Ajay stared at the screens surrounding the bar. Dressed in a navy pinstriped suit, the global affairs correspondent flashed her perfect teeth and plunging cleavage.
“You know her?” Gilda sopped mystery liquid off the bar and squeezed the rag over a rubber mat. “Oooo…you do. How well?”
“I went to journalism school with her, that’s all.” Ajay chuckled. “Pretty much.”
“She’s living the life, that’s for sure.”
“Chasing the dream.” Ajay pointed to the television and then to himself. “Eeeking out an existence.”
“Come on, you’ve turned YouTube tabloid commentary into a distinguished art form.” Gilda tapped her nails on a tequila bottle. She flashed the lace of her bra and leaned forward. “I’m sure your classmate had surgery. I’m just dying to know how much.”
“I’ll never tell. No swill.” Ajay pushed the cheap tequila away and winked. “Or l might…what else do you have?”
Gilda jingled her keyring and fumbled through a hidden cabinet until she found a green and gold bottle. She puffed dust off the cap, poured a shot for each of them and then filled a third.
Ajay waved the cloud of sand and ash away. “I’m not drinking all that again.”
“Just think about the parade of drunks you’re about to interview.”
“Sinking to new depths of stupidity every Sunday night, yet I still need to speak in coherent sentences.” Ajay grabbed the salt shaker and fished the lemon from his water. He licked the back of his hand before tapping out a healthy dash of salt.
“One for me, one for you, plus the emergency ration.” Gilda grabbed a fresh lemon. “Here we go. Lick, slam, suck.”
Ajay followed her instructions, gagged and groaned. Outside, a bus boy dumped three huge bags of garbage on the corner, turned around and flashed him a thumbs-up.
“My stage awaits.” Ajay closed his eyes and drained the back-up shot. “I’ll make those network execs sorry.”
“Enough of this crap.” Gilda snagged the television remote and hit mute. “Go out and smash it.”