Fiction Submission- "Grind" by Mario Piumetti Jr. PART 2!

Hey all, I really love Mario for trying to help me get features on this blog to take off. He was the first to submit to my call for stories and asked if he could submit it as a serial. My reaction was “Fuck yea” so you can find the first part of the serial that I posted last year here and for part two, here is GRIND.


 

Grind
            Can I have a chocolate martini?  How about a purple haze?  Fuck it.  What’s a shot of Jack between friends?
            Andrew had been saying things like this throughout the night at The Englishman, and Lara the bartender was all too happy to oblige, largely because it meant more dollars flowing into her bar, and by extension, into her own pockets.  Lara served up the Jack to Andrew who downed it in one swift gulp.
            A fellow patron remarked, “Jesus!  Look at that guy go.”
            The man probably thought that Andrew hadn’t heard him, but Andrew did.  He didn’t care.  He looked down at the shot glass, saw a single drop of whiskey remaining, and knocked it back to join its brethren.  He held the glass to his temple for the eight seconds it took the alcohol to reach his stomach, and then set it down on the counter.
            “You need to go easy on that stuff,” said Lara.
            “No,” said Andrew.  “I needs me another fuckin’ shot!  Got something of the Irish persuasion?”
            Lara knew him well enough, and shook her head.  “No Irish Mist yet, Andrew.  Sorry.”
            “Fuckin’ distributors,” he mumbled.  He and Lara had this talk before, and it usually ended with her saying that The Englishman got its alcohol through particular vendors.  Andrew could run to Glendale and pick up a few bottles of Irish Mist in no time.  Still, Lara had served him many a fine drink in the past, and so Andrew placed his trust in the woman’s judgment.  Besides, it seemed like bad etiquette to question the knowledge of a bartender.  Andrew substituted his order with a dirty martini.  He balanced the glass carefully by the stem, not wanting to waste any of it.  The first sip slithered down his throat like a meth whore.  Andrew felt alone with no one to talk to, and that was when he noticed the blonde down at the other end of the counter in a white dress with a red handkerchief tied around her neck.  He summoned Lara with a quick wave.
            “What can I get you, honey?” she asked.
            “Nothing for me,” said Andrew, “but how about a chocolate martini for the lady down there?”
            “She’s not really into talking to strangers.”
            “I don’t care,” said Andrew.  “I just feel like getting her something.”
            Lara smirked and went off to ready the cocktail.  And although Andrew had no true intension of talking to the blonde, a delightful smell drew his attention her way.  It wasn’t the woman’s perfume, but rather the appetizer newly arrived at her side.  Andrew salivated at the scent of green onions and cheese, and he inched towards the blonde.
            “You know what?” he said.  “I’ve been here quite a few times, but I’ve never smelled anything quite as wonderful as that dish you’ve got there.”
            “Really?” she said.  Her accent was distinctly southern.  “Well, you can have some if you want.”
            At this, Andrew grew playfully serious.  “Oh, no.  I don’t want to intrude on your meal.  I was merely complimenting.”
            “You’re not a bother,” she said.  “I really don’t think I’ll be able to finish it all.  Help yourself.”
            Andrew smiled.  “I’ll just stick with my drink.”
            “I’ve never been here before,” she said.  “I really have no idea what to get.”
            “Well, personally I’d say the chocolate martini is a sure thing.”
            “Really?”
            “Oh, yeah,” said Andrew.  “I mean, it’s really smooth and it’s got chocolate.  Can’t go wrong there.”
            The blonde bobbled her head from side to side.  “I’ll have to try it.”
            Lara passed by them with a fresh cocktail, and said, “From the man you’re talking to.”
            The blonde looked at Andrew in amazement.  He was just as surprised, not expecting such perfect timing, and said, “Well, ain’t that a coinkeedink.”
            The blonde smiled.  “Okay, now I have to insist you have some food.”
            “Oh, all right.”
            Andrew scooted over closer to the blonde and bit into a piece of food he plucked off her tray.
            “That’s amazing,” he said.  “Wow, this is the first time I’ve eaten the food.”
            “Really?” asked the blonde.
            “Truly,” he said.  He held out a hand.  “I’m Andrew.”
            The blonde smiled, taking his hand in hers like a flower taking on the weight of a sequoia.  “I’m Gina.  You really never ate the food here?”
            “I guess you could say I’m on a liquid diet.”  Andrew nodded at the chocolate-infused drink before Gina.  “Give it a try.”
            Gina sipped the drink, groaning approvingly.  “That is good.”
            “Of course it is.  Who can go around saying that anything with chocolate is bad?”
            Gina smiled, and Andrew felt himself in the clear with this woman whom, by some sick and fucked up twist of fate, was spending her Friday night in solitude.  That just would no cut it for him.  Upon Gina’s invitation, he sat closer.
            “So what do you do?” she asked.
            A standard icebreaker, he thought.
            Andrew said, “I’m an artist.”  Gina’s face soured enough that Andrew quickly revised himself.  “But I also tutor little kids during the day.  It’s my daily grind, you might say.”
            “Oh.”  Gina’s tone had a measure of sympathy.  “I’ve got a kid in the second grade.  She can be a handful sometimes.”
            “Oh, don’t I know it,” said Andrew.  “Sometimes – and this is no offense to your kid – but sometimes I want to just scream at them.  I mean, I had to be tutored myself when I was little, but even I didn’t have this sort of struggle.”
            Gina scooped up a bit of cheese onto a slice of flatbread.  Andrew closed his eyes and whiffed in the aroma of the food.  He adored the hint of garlic.
            “So what do you do then?” she asked.  “With the kids.  You don’t really scream, do you?”
            “I’d be out of a job if I did.  The secret is to keep it bottled up until the day is over.  Then you come to a place like this and drown out your sorrows.  But enough about selfish me.  What about you, Miss Gina?  What’s your profession?”
            Andrew diffused the stuffiness of the word by leaning on the counter and cocking the edge of his mouth up in a half-smile.  It seemed to work.  Gina gave him an actual grin, one hundred percent.
            “I’m an actress,” she said.  “I also do some modeling, and I host a podcast.”  She narrowed her eyes and gave a slight nod down the bar.  “But that guy over there, I swear he probably thinks I’m a hooker or something.”
            Andrew looked away to search for the biggest douchebag he could find.  The guy stood out like a white tiger on a black mat.  He was tall, scruffy, and wore a bright green beanie.
            “That guy with the cap?” Andrew asked.
            “Yeah.  He was winking at me and grabbing his chest.”
            Andrew glanced over Gina and said, “He’s just jealous because your boobs are better than his.  But don’t be discouraged.  That guy looks like he’s got a misshapen condom on his head.”
            “Really?  See, I thought he looked like a really bad dildo.”
            “I like the way you think.”  She laughed and Andrew ordered them a couple more drinks.  Lara removed the martini glasses and returned with two shots of a pale, mossy beverage.  Andrew raised the glass and knocked the drink back in two sips.  It tasted like vanilla with a strong note of citrus kicking him across the face.
            Gina drank and saluted with approval.  “That’s very good, very sweet.”
            “It’s like drinking pie, isn’t it?” asked Andrew.
            She nodded again as she checked her cell phone for the time.  It was white accented with black and decked out with a bluish vine like a Steve Vai guitar.  “Oh, my God.  It’s getting late already.  It’s almost midnight.”
            “Gotta get home to the kiddo?”
            “Yeah,” said Gina.  “It’s her birthday this weekend.  I’ve got stuff to do tomorrow to get ready for it.”
            Andrew swatted the air.  “You know she just wants a unicorn that talks and smells like fresh cookies.”
            Her head bent back.  Her mouth opened wide and Gina held her breath to stifle laughter too loud for even The Englishman.  “You should write comedy.  You’re very funny.”  She leaned in, the tip of her chin grazing his shoulder and her breath warming his ear.  “You’re very cute too.”
            The remark surprised Andrew.  He never thought of himself as a MILF magnet.  Then again, he thought Gina looked too young to be a MILF, but having a kid qualified her.  She stayed a little longer, waiting for Lara to bring up her check.  Gina sat cross-legged on the bar stool with a leg overlapping Andrew’s knee.  His shoulder served as a pillow for her.  Andrew considered making a move, but held back; he didn’t want to be like Dildo Head who looked envious.  Gina lightly drummed the edge of the counter with her fingers as she waited.  She wore no rings; likely divorced.  Lara brought the check.  Gina paid and said goodbye to Andrew.  She was endearing and he hoped a little to see her again.  She was fun to drink with.
            Andrew drank for another twenty minutes until Lara gave him the heads-up that The Englishman was preparing to close for the night.  He closed his tab and advised her to keep warm.  It was far too cold an evening for her to prance around in shorts and knee-high socks, but Lara insisted that she was cooking behind the counter.  Even wearing a sweater, the night stung him when he stepped out.  He looked up and down the street.  Gina had left and he was alone.  He wished her well when they parted, and meant it.  Andrew didn’t pry, but something in her voice and the way she carried herself told him that she wasn’t the instigator of her solitude.  He didn’t wish that on anyone.  It hurt to be broken-hearted.
            The alcohol pumped through his arm and he reached into his pocket for his phone.  He didn’t realize it until the screen glowed up at him.  His thumb flipped around, bringing up the address book and a phone number he hadn’t dialed in six months.  Andrew brought the phone to his ear, and a woman’s voice came through after a few rings.
            “Hi, you’ve reached Charlotte Rose.  I can’t get to the phone right now, but leave a message and I’ll call you back.  Adiós.”
            “Hey, Charlotte,” Andrew said.  “Uh, it’s about midnight right now on December 7th.  You’re probably sleeping, but give me a call when you can.  It’s been a while since I’ve talked to you, and I just wanted to see how you’re doing.  I hope you’re okay.”
            He hung up, watched his breath rise and reflect the light of the streetlamp, and then went to his truck.

 

Mario Piumetti Jr. was born and raised in Los Angeles.  He has a B.A. in English from California Lutheran University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles.  His primary genre is science fiction with survival and culture clashes forming the central themes of his work.  He maintains a blog on writing called My Corner of theCatacombs.

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