A Selection From “Stockholm” : The Drinkquisition

In this scene: Anakin Carver begins to realize San Francisco has changed since he’d moved away, while childhood friend Tomas just longs to fit in.

We’d walked halfway across the downtown area on a jagged, nonsensical route zigzagging up and down fairly-steep inclined streets, while Tomas tried to remember which colored door in which abandoned alleyway to tip the bouncer too much money to open for us. I continued to regret wearing the blazer I’d chosen, up until the instant I’d caught my reflection in the bar mirror, but for the moment the anxiety was causing sweat to funnel down my armpits and out the tail of my purposely-untucked shirt. With the luck of a mild breeze I figured I’d be cool and dry by the time we sat down. I couldn’t visualize the print on the tag displaying the cotton/poly percentage from memory, but I would remind myself to check in the restroom. It wasn’t organic, that much I knew.

“Why’d you park so far away?”

“Because it’s right around the corner.”

“You’ve said that for six blocks.”

“I’ve been here a million times. It’s right around here.”

“Maybe you should just map it on your phone – oh, wait.  Phones manufactured ten years ago can’t do that.”

“I don’t exactly see you slingin’ the sexy tech.”

“I’m going to pretend you never, ever said that combination of words. So, is it the place with the surfboard hilariously jutting out of the front window? Or how about the place with the fake marble columns and plastic replicas of Michelangelo statues—”

“Right there, see? Was I right or was I left?” He held his fist out toward me.

I looked down the dark alley across the street he’d motioned toward and barely made out the glimmer of the doorman’s oversized watch and chin piercing in the glare of the security light. “Of course. Because all the hottest clubs are located down filthy–”

“Will you shut up and cross the street?” It was the second time in ten minutes he’d interrupted me. I made a mental note to bring it up later.

“Lead on. That way if some homeless person dives out with a… sharpened instrument I can… use you as a human shield.” The last half of my sentence was spoken in bursts as we navigated around the mass of cars waiting for the red light, a quarter-mile up the street. A green and white taxi pulled up in front of Tomas, braking well in time to avoid hitting him, which is why I found his reaction completely unjustified when he lightly banged on the front end of the hood.
“Hey!  I’m walkin’ he—”

I took my opportunity for revenge and interrupted him with a shove toward the sidewalk before he could further anger the driver. “Can’t you see he’s just trying to make a living?” I couldn’t understand why he looked so frustrated.

Once past the line outside, the other bouncer placed his hand up, blocking my way through the rectangular gantry separating the steel-reinforced doors from the contrived intimacy of the bar/lounge. His hand curled inward, beckoning me to step to the side of the body scanner and allow the patrons behind me to pass through. On the screen just to the left of him my profile picture was displayed, along with basic information like, “No Alcohol Restrictions” and “Low Antisocial Risk”. Tomas stood several steps away, I couldn’t tell for sure that he was shaking his head, through my peripheral vision, but I assumed he was.

“Sir, do you have any unusual metal objects on your person?”

“Define unusual.”

“Sir…”

“Look,” I began emptying my pockets before he asked me to, I knew the script well enough by then, “right-front pocket, phone, left-front pocket, keys, right-back pocket, wallet.”

“There’s nothing else in your pockets, sir?”

“That’s all I carry with me. Well, I have my watch, but it doesn’t work.” His head cocked to the left and his right eye narrowed. His forehead was shiny, but the glaze didn’t appear to be natural perspiration. “The battery died.”

“Please stand with your feet apart at shoulder-width. I’m going to scan you with a wand.”

“Fine.”

He lowered the wand, slowly, in a direct line from my head, down the length of my body. The device was surprisingly small and fit neatly into the palm of his hand.  A sinewave tone grew to embarrassingly loud levels as his hand neared my waist.

“Sir, is there anything else you’ve forgotten to remove from your pockets?”

“I’m wearing a belt buckle.”

“I’m not picking up a belt buckle, sir.”

“I’m not taking off my belt.”

“I’m going to reach into your back-left pocket, sir.”

“Fine.”

The meaty warmth of his palm against my forearm unsettled me. “Sir, what’s this?”

“You’re behind me, I can’t see what you’ve got.”

Tomas was now visibly shaking his head and turning his body away from me, toward the direction of the bar.

“Sir, do you mind telling me why you’re carrying this on your person?” The other bouncer stepped to my left and brought his thick fingers up several inches from my face, it took me a few seconds to focus on what he was holding, in the relative darkness.

“That’s… a bottle cap opener.”

“Sir, I’m only going to ask you one more time. Do you mind explaining why you’re carrying this on your person tonight?”

“I don’t know. To open remove metal bottle caps that would otherwise cause damage to my bare fingers or prevent me from enj—”

“Sir, I’m going to have to confiscate this. If you’d like to collect it at the end of your evening, you may do so in the manager’s office.”

“Wait a second. You don’t want me to bring a bottle opener into a bar?”

“Well, it’s intended as a bottle opener, but it’s also sharpened instrument, isn’t it?”

“Is this some sort of service-industry regulation? Like charging a corking fee?”

“Look, man. You and I may only see this as a way to open beer bottles but this can puncture a human body just like it can puncture a tin can.”

“So the bartenders don’t carry bottle openers?”

“They’re staff. Staff is allowed to carry paraphernalia associated with their duties.”

“If I walk over to that bar and order a drink, secretly intent on stabbing someone, what’s to stop me from just grabbing something from the dirty-utensil tub?”

“Sir, sir, I don’t have time to engage you in semantic
arguments. Go on in.”

“This isn’t semantic! We’re not debating the meaning of the term bottle-opener.”

“Listen, bro. What you say next is going to make all the difference between you enjoying your evening here at The Drinkquisition or being escorted out and receiving a behavioral mark.”

“That’s what this place is called? The Drinkquisition?!”

“Choice is yours.”

Rather than explaining to him that the very name of the establishment celebrated violence, torture and persecution on a massive scale, I nodded, lowering my shoulders and head in an obvious posture of submission. This seemed to please him. I realized if it weren’t for the crippling economic downturn affecting nearly every industry in the state, he would have thrown me out on my ass immediately. There was no way I was taking public transportation back to the studio apartment in this jacket and slacks.

 

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