This short story is part of a collection I’m working on. All the stories involve cars in some way, shape or form. A work in progress you might say. This is an unedited first draft. I hope you like it.
It had been a long night fuelled by expensive drinks and flirtatious encounters, one after another. It seemed every time he stepped to the bar there was another knockout, a bombshell of a beauty waiting for her next drink. If he managed to catch her eye, he’d ask what she was drinking and buy the next round. He called it The Gentlemen’s Game and hoped that it would score him some company for the evening. He’d been at it for hours with nothing to show for it except an incredible buzz and a good sized hole in his bank account. Truth be told, he’d been at it for years without even a hint of success. By this time, most of the women who frequented the same clubs as he did knew his game and timed their trips to the bar accordingly. Some of the younger women, university students mostly, would even keep an eye on him throughout the night and watch his drink to see when he’d be making his next pilgrimage to the bar. They’d take turns orchestrating encounters along the chow line to cash in on the game he was playing.
“Cash in – cash out,” they’d say to each other as they walked back, drink in hand, to meet the others and decide who would get to try their luck next.
Unfortunately for Richard, he was an easy drunk and after two or three doubles, his ability to recognise faces slowly faded away as the alcohol took hold of his system. Individual women became nothing more than “members of the opposite sex”. His ability to seek out women he was actually attracted to disappeared; its place filled with nothing more man’s primal urge to get it on.
At the end of the night it was always the same. Club patrons waited impatiently for their coats and jackets while some argued over he-said-she-saids, some appeared stuck together at the mouth and others like Richard, did their best to stand up straight, often relying on the nearest wall for support while doing their best to smile and appear slightly less intoxicated than they actually were.
Richard was hilarious in these end-of-evening situations, often wearing the largest grin and still doing his best to make eye contact with the ladies. His glossed over stare, red face and usual dishevelled appearance where topped only by his inability to react when addressed by anyone. He appeared to stare directly through women who kindly thanked him for the drinks along with their possessive, would-be partners for the evening, who often threw a defensive and sometimes aggressive glance in his direction as they made their way towards the exit as if to say, “Watch it buddy. This one’s mine.”
Once he retrieved his belongings from the coat-check and followed the well lit hallway that led to the street, he would find himself surrounded by the evening’s aftermath. It was usually a sea of drunken women struggling to stand in high heels, many wondering barefoot, shoes in hand. Beautiful, long legs on the verge of collapsing underneath blonds, redheads and brunettes who seemed to be surrounded men locked in battle like warriors from middle earth hoping to win the love of a fair maiden or at the very least, an evening’s accommodations in the royal chambers.
If he was sober enough to string two thoughts together he’d make his way to the line up of taxis waiting to carry him home to his lonely apartment where he could fall asleep in front of some mindless television, usually after shoving a few pieces of bread into his mouth and opening a can of beer that would soon be forgotten or possibly spilled on the floor. If he was past the point of clear thinking upon exiting the bar, his animal instinct would kick in, forcing him home on foot. The forty-five minute walk sometimes felt like twenty minutes and on other occasions, it felt like two days. Those night where he’d take liberty in creating new shortcuts often led to an overpowering, although often short lived sense of fear and panic.
Getting lost on the walk home was the worst. On two separate occasions he’d given up trying to get his bearings, deciding instead to sleep off the confusion in the closest possible nesting place – once in a stranger’s garden tool shed and on another occasion, below ground level curled up in a window well of a newly constructed apartment complex. The night spent in the garden shed worked out well, all things considered. He woke in the quiet backyard of an empty house. It wasn’t vacant. It was just empty. The residents could have just skipped out to pick up a coffee and the morning paper but for all he knew, they may have also been somewhere far away enjoying their summer vacation while a stranger filled their flower pots with urine and slept in their wheelbarrow.
The window well didn’t work out as nicely. Although he managed to squeeze himself into the pit lined with aluminum sheeting and filled partially with dead leaves and garbage, he longed for the comfort of a stranger’s wheelbarrow when he woke. The sound of traffic had first broke his slumber and although he tried his best to ignore its constant intrusion into his dreamlike state, he couldn’t ignore the sound of knuckles on glass as they seemed to pierce his skull, tapping directly on his frontal lobes. He painfully opened his eyes and found himself face to face with the tenant of a downstairs apartment, obviously irritated by his choice of evening accommodations. An angry faced, middle aged man stood in what appeared to be his living room, staring directly into Richard’s eyes. Two children sat behind the morning madman, their eyes wide open in disbelief.
“If you don’t get up right now, I’m comin’ out there and then you’ll be sorry.”
Richard fought his way to his feet, his spine temporarily locked in the shape of a fishhook. As he forced himself into a painful upright position and somehow managed to get his legs under him, the blind of the window snapped shut. Not knowing if that was a sign the angry tenant was on his way out to free the parking lot of riffraff, Richard quickly hobbled to the sidewalk and made his way up the street with the pace and appearance of a mindless zombie intent on finding his next meal of human flesh. All he really wanted was his bed and a large glass of water.
Thankfully tonight followed a much smoother, much more appreciated pattern. Upon exiting the bar and making his way to the waiting taxis, he found that not only did he not have to fight tooth and nail for a ride, but he was able to simply open the rear door of the cab and take a seat without incident.
“Where ya headin’?” the driver asked.
“550 George, front door,” said Richard.
“You’re not gonna fall asleep on me are ya,” the driver asked.
“No. No, I’m alright I think,” said Richard, as he watched the crowds along the sidewalk moving back and forth, pushing, shoving, hugging, and kissing. For a moment he felt like he was looking into some sort of human fish tank.
“Not a bad night out there tonight ‘eh?” said the driver. “I’ve seen it absolutely bonkers out here sometimes. Some nights ya get a real show. I’ve seen fist fights, all kinds of boobs, and some folks practically screwing.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen some f’d up shit happen after the bars close,” said Richard, his head now leaning on the window for support.
“Some of these guys are completely ridiculous,” said the driver. “I don’t think fighting really works to turn women on these days. This guy here,” he said pointing to a well-dressed, handsome man trying his best to hail a taxi. “This guy’s got the right idea. He’s sober enough to avoid a fist fight and still wear his clothes properly. Look at that, his shirt’s still tucked in.”
Richard had untucked his shirt and stuffed his tie into his pocket moments after arriving at the club. He was convinced women found the post-work-casual look attractive.
“Even though he’s trying to hail a cab like he’s in the movies or something,” the cab driver pointed out, “you’ve gotta admit, that’s a pretty attractive girl standing with him. He’s playing what I call The Gentleman’s Game.”
Richard, only half listening, now tuned his hearing and attention towards the cab driver.
“The Gentleman’s Game?” he asked.
“Yeah,” said the driver as he flashed a glance in Richard’s direction. “It’s when a guy stays within his limits surrounded by dudes out to get drunk. The Gentleman will nurse maybe two drinks at the most all night long. He’s not out to get drunk. He’s out to impress the ladies. He’s out to be a gentleman.”