About 30 (Not Safe For Work short story - language advisory)
I started writing this a while back. Maybe about a year ago. I was just jotting down notes and sentences here and there on my phone or in a notebook. I kept telling myself that I needed to sit down and finish it. Then there was a famous tweet during the summer that made me think I'd waited too long, reality had trumped fiction, sort of. But later I reconsidered and decided to keep at it. I wanted the writing practice, and it was a story I thought I could actually finish rather than have bits and pieces of writing just floating around. I'm not really sure what it is - perhaps a one act play masquerading as a short film. Doesn't really matter.
I've obscured people's names a bit. But the characters are at least loosely based on a group of people I've been lucky to meet. They're all talented, (very) hard-working, and creative.
ONE MORE WARNING - There is some very salty language in here. If you're on a work computer, I'd recommend saving it for later. If you're under 18, you shouldn't be reading it. But if you do, don't get busted.
Setting: A bar, the northern end of Broadway in Capitol Hill, Seattle. A small group of professionals in their mid-20s to early 30s is at a table. There are some empty glasses on the table, a mix of pint glasses and shot glasses. A waiter comes over with a round of shots.
The oldest person at the table, a woman of about 30, raises her glass. The others stop their conversations.
Woman: “Good job today everyone. They loved us, and now we get to do some great things for them. Lauren, you killed it. You all killed it. Cheers!”
The group responds in kind.
Woman: “Right then…bill’s paid. Let’s call it a night and get some sleep. The hard work starts tomorrow. But not too early. Walk your dog, sleep in, or get reacquainted with someone.”
Laughs around the table.
Shots done, the people collect their things and head to the door. Several of them have their phones out to summon Ubers and Lyfts.
Woman: “Kate, Jack’s picking me up. We’re heading your way, happy to drop you in Northgate.”
Kate: “Sure it’s not a hassle?”
Woman: “Not at all. Lauren, can we drop you anywhere?”
Lauren: “No thanks, I’m on the Hill, just around the corner.”
Woman: “Great. See you tomorrow then.” Wanders off.
Kate lingers a moment. “You did great today Lauren.”
Lauren smiles. “Thank you. Everything just came together. We were on our game.”
Kate: “We were. See you tomorrow…get home safe.”
Lauren: “You too.”
Lauren walks south on Broadway, passing several restaurants and a tattoo parlor that have been closed for hours. It’s raining. More than a drizzle but not too hard.
Lauren’s phone buzzes; she glances at the screen. She stops as she reads the screen again. She looks around. There are people out front of B* drinking and smoking. There’s also a giant Great Dane the size of a pony. They are not looking at their phones.
Lauren reads her screen again. She starts walking but stops after a few steps. She sees that lights are going on in a few apartments. She checks Uber. There are several cars on the screen, but a few go dark. One comes up. 15 minutes. Lauren pauses momentarily in front of C*, a corner bar. She opens the door.
(Scene change.) Lauren steps inside. (POV shot of the interior of C*). C* is busy but not packed. Several people at the bar look up. The regulars usually look up, especially during the winter, when a blast of chilly to cold air travels the length of the bar. If it’s a familiar face, they return to their conversations and drinks. If it’s a stranger, they watch long enough to make sure the door closes. The owners fixed the door months ago, but old habits persist. Lauren is a familiar face.
The Twilight Zone is on the big screen. There’s no sound, and it’s not obtrusive the way that TVs are in other bars. A few people are watching absent-mindedly. A man with an Australian accent is explaining the episode to a younger man who apparently is not familiar with the show.
The bartender is about 30 and is wearing a sleeveless denim jacket and a hat. Both of the bartender’s arms have tattoos. They are well done.
Bartender: “Hey Lauren, what’ll it be?”
Lauren: “Double of Four Roses, Rainier back.”
The bartender pauses and raises an eyebrow before nodding and walking off to get the drinks.
Lauren looks around.
Conversations. Phones laying on the bar, glowing in the dark.
The Four Roses and the Rainier land on C*s wooden bar with a reassuring smack.
Lauren: “Thanks J*.”
J*: “Of course.”
Lauren checks her phone again. (Show a clock / the time somewhere.)
J*: “Long day?” Subtle nod to the double bourbon.
Lauren: “It was actually a pretty good day. But have you checked the news?”
Shows J* the phone screen.
J*: “Fuck. They did it. Hey everyone, might want to check your phones.”
People look up from their drinks and conversations. There is some confusion. The man with the Australian accent doesn’t hear J* and continues quoting the Twilight Zone. A few people check their phones.
Several people: “What the fuck?!” Some repeat it: “What the fuck?”
There is a man with glasses at the bar who has a book in one hand, his phone in the other. His name is S*. He looks at his phone.
S*: “The alert is time stamped about 10 minutes ago. It doesn’t specify the exact time of the launch. About midnight local time. They estimate about 30 minutes. They’re not sure of the target.”
Man: “Fuck this. I’m out of here. Car’s up the street if anyone wants to come. See how far we can get.”
A few people rush out the door with him. With the door open, the sound of sirens, speeding cars, and horns flood in.
J* pours out shots, sets them on the bar, and lights a cigarette. “Help yourselves folks. On the house.”
Some nervous laughter.
Lauren’s phone rings.
Lauren: “Hey Kate. Yep, saw that...I think I’m staying put. Looked up an Uber, but they started dropping. I didn’t want to get in one and keep it a secret. What if the driver has family here? Would have been a good time to have one of those bike share accounts....where are you? No, absolutely not. I-5 will be a parking lot soon. Keep going north. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
Lauren drains the bourbon. She takes one of the shots on the bar.
Lauren: “Any buses coming?”
J* checks their phone. “There’s one in 10 minutes. Heading for the U District. Cutting it pretty close.”
W*: “Fuck fuck fuck. Should we just start walking east? North? Any direction away from downtown?”
There are sounds of cars racing by. Sirens in the distance.
J* lights another cigarette, drinks a shot, and reaches for another. “Fuck you LCB.”
K* holds up her phone to film a story. “So they went and did it. Motherfuckers went and did it.” Gives the finger. “Fuck you Kim Jong Un.”
Australian: “Planet of the Apes, nice.”
Australian: “Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes. I thought you were having your Charlton Heston moment.”
K*: “Mate, I don’t know who the fuck that is.”
Australian: “He played the astronaut. He got captured by the apes. We should put it up on the screen. He was also the Soylent Green guy. You know…It’s humans! Or does he say people? Doesn’t matter. He went all NRA douchebag. J*, we should…”
J*: “Fuck that - we are not watching Planet of the Apes at the end of the fucking world. D*, how’re you doing, another Jameson?”
D* has his camera out and is assessing the lighting. “What’s that? Oh, yea, another Jameson would be good. Wait, the hell with that. Break out that expensive Japanese whiskey.”
J* nods. “Good call.” JR hops onto the bar and grabs the Toki from the top shelf. They set a new glass in front of D* and pour out a double. J* reconsiders and makes it a triple.
J*: “Are you going to try and race home to your cats.”
D*: “I want to, but I’d never make it. They’ll be fine however this goes, the little idiots. Thought about walking over to my parents’ house, but fuck that, let them sleep.”
A man at a booth calls home. “Hey mom and dad. Guessing you’re asleep and haven’t seen the news. They’re saying North Korea launched some nukes. Might be headed for Seattle. I just wanted to call and say I love you guys.” He ends the call and scrolls through his phone. “Some dude is shooting live from his roof. He’s doing a number on a bottle of Fire Ball.”
A*: “Definitely a tech bro. Speaking of tech…I wonder what would happen if I ordered a ton of shit off Amazon and sent it to my parents’ house in Boise. If we go up in flames, any chance they’d get the stuff for free?”
C*: “Not a chance in hell dude, Bezos is going to get paid no matter what goes down. Those fucking Spheres are probably covering bomb shelters. All Cloverfield and shit. He’ll be fine, and he’ll process your card a few extra times for good measure before your bank cancels it.”
Lauren drains her shot. “It’s a Tuesday, never thought the world would end on a Tuesday. I guess technically it’s Wednesday now.”
A*: “Internet’s going nuts.”
K* jumps from her stool and says: “Shit shit shit!”
J* looks at her. “What’s wrong, forget to pay the meter?”
K*: “Funny. My boyfriend’s tied up at home. Literally tied up at home. I can’t leave him like that. Shit, I shouldn’t have said that. If we make it through this, let’s never speak of this again.”
Her comment is greeted by several surprised looks.
K*: “Don’t look at me like that. Don't you read your Savage Love? I’m GGG - no kink shaming. J*, what do I owe you.”
J*: “Seriously? Get the fuck out of here already.”
P*: “Were any of you in the military? They had these ridiculous training manuals about surviving a nuclear attack. If you couldn’t get to a safe distance, you were supposed to find a ditch and look away from the impact zone. Can you believe that shit?”
E*: “You can try your luck under one of the tables. Or the walk-in freezer. It worked for Indiana Jones.”
Australian: “That fucking scene. Stupid fucking movie. They even made Cate Blanchett look stupid in that movie. That’s hard to do.”
K*: “I hope we get incinerated. I haven’t showered, and I have holes in my socks.”
D*: “Anyone know if you can delete your browsing history across the board? Asking for a friend.”
Australian: “Reminds me of the scene in Airplane, when they think the plane is doomed. That one woman starts propositioning everyone.”
A*: “I wonder if Seattle will become a new Pompeii. Maybe our shadows will be flash burned onto the walls of C*. Even if it doesn’t hit us, nobody’s going to work tomorrow, right?” He doesn’t wait for an answer and grabs a shot from the bar.
K*: “We’ll become C*’s next group of ghosts.”
T*: “Anyone have one of those day trading accounts? Should we be shorting stocks left and right? Samsung’s Korean right? I can’t imagine there’s going to be a Korea tomorrow. That whole peninsula will be glowing orange for a thousand years.”
D* throws back another whiskey and then lines up his camera on the bar for a photo. “My dad and I were set to visit Korea in April. Some jackass told me I had to fly first-class, that it was the only way to go. Who the fuck pays $10k for a first class ticket to Korea…OK everyone, stand over there. Group shot.”
Nobody but E* hears D*; the conversations continue.
D*: “E*, can you work your photoshoot set wrangling magic?”
E* nods. “Ok everyone, over there for a group photo. Come on people, get a move on!”
D* checks the self-timer, presses the shutter release, shoots another glass of whiskey, and then hurries to join the others.