Welcome back to my creative writing corner. This week, I’m briefly highlighting the main male character in the story of Bianca Barrowbone, the summer son: August Mendoza. Below is a short scene of August at work.
It’s dark and loud in the bar tonight. The jukebox blasts a stream of music 50 years too old and the walls are plastered with drunk twenty-two-year-olds laughing and sloshing their brightly-colored drinks, surrounded by friends. The bar, an L-shaped mahogany counter lit with dangling lightbulbs, now shines with spilled drinks begging to be wiped clean. People litter the counter, flirting and waiting and glancing at their phones, each expecting something different from the gin-scented night.
They are August’s favorite thing about this job, the people. They come in every night with their stories and their friends, anticipating something out of the night, whether that be a date, a call back from that interviewer, or even just a fun night out. It really shouldn’t be August’s business, but it’s not his fault that he’s nosy by nature and people have a habit of treating bartenders like their own personal therapists.
August flexes his long legs, his feet unsticking from the floor with a quiet but unnerving squish. Seriously, he’s been here for three months, and he still can’t quite get used to the feeling of the nasty floors in this place. He once tried to clean them off the morning before his shift: the biggest mistake of his life. He worked so hard, mopping and leaving everything spotless but by the time midnight hit, the floor was sticky and disgusting again.
Finishing a customer’s drink and handing it to them with a polite smile, August glances at a pair of tourists, probably college-aged considering their volume and the fact that they keep gaping at the venue like it’s the lost city of El Dorado. The girl is grinning from ear to ear, excitement seeping from her every pore. The guy, on the other hand, has a cocky grin on his face that screams “I am better than you” as he slides a slimy arm around the girl’s waist. In hindsight, August probably should have avoided them, but he senses a story there, so he straightens his black tie and walks over to the couple.
“Hi! What can I get you guys?” He asks with a smile.
August doesn’t realize that as he slides over to the couple, they get the barest whiff of the ocean with a slight, warm breeze.
“Two mojitos!” The guy answers with a loud, entitled accent. August isn’t exactly surprised by the order, but internally sighs as he pulls out the mint and muddler. Then, he works his magic.
“What brings you to Miami?” August asked, making eye contact with the couple as they eagerly gaze over the counter.
The girl snaps to attention. “Oh! We’re just visiting some of his family by the beach. I actually grew up in Tampa, so this is my first time here,” She answers with a smile. Generally, August finds, if you prod a little bit, people are always willing to brag about their life stories.
“No way! That’s so cool! I’m sure you’re gonna have a great time!.”
The girl nods, her blonde waves bobbing as she grins even wider.
“Yeah, I grew up here so I know the lay of the land.” The guy who August has nicknamed “Chad” adds, leaning his arms onto the bar with a pensive look. August bites back the urge to roll his eyes. August knows a thing or two about trying to impress girls, but this is just awkward.
August keeps his mouth shut and focuses on the drink as the guy keeps talking to his girlfriend. “Miami’s actually changed a lot since the last time I was here. The city actually had some dignity before,” He looks August up and down. “It looks like they’ll hire just about anyone nowadays.”
August pauses imperceptibly, the hot bite of rage beginning to flow through him. Who the hell does this guy think he is? August works hard for this job, definitely harder than this trust-fund prick. He oughta– August stops himself. He lifts his hands, seeing two dark scorch marks on the wood beneath his tightening grip. Not at work. He shakes his wrists, hoping they cool off a little as he looks back down to his work and pours the rum, mint, lime juice, and ice into a shaker.
He tries to block off Chad and focuses on the cacophony around him until, suddenly, he hears a loud scream from the other edge of the bar.
August looks over as he’s shaking the cocktail to see a guy frantically waving for him: Charlie. His heart swells at seeing a friendly face as his hands finally cool down. He doesn’t feel the cold from within the cocktail shaker as he strains it into glasses, placing mint leaves on top.
He passes one to each guest with a silent smile and turns to see his friend tapping his fingers against the table at the other end of the bar. He’s about to walk away from the guests when Chad snaps his fingers to get August’s attention.
“Hey. You. Raise the temp in here. It’s fuckin’ freezing.”
August turns back to the guy and his rosy-cheeked girlfriend. She isn’t smiling anymore, only averting her gaze.
August, fists clenched, gives the guy his biggest smile and responds with a noncommittal, “I’ll see what I can do,” before stalking off to talk to his friend.
August himself doesn’t feel the cold from the AC. He only feels his usual heat, the warmth of a summer’s day constantly curling beneath his skin.
“Damn, what a dick.” Charlie scoffs as August reaches him, giving the frat guy the stink eye. He leans an elbow against the counter and quickly lifts it, rubbing at whatever got stuck on his jacket.
“I know right,” August rolls his eyes. “but more importantly, why on Earth are you here?”
Charlie looks offended. “Maybe I just want to see my friend. Or maybe I just want a drink.”
“Dude, you don’t drink.”
“Yeah, well I could,” Charlie mumbles.
“Seriously though, why are you here? You know my boss doesn’t want my friends lounging around, not ordering anything.”
“I know, but I swear, it’s important.”
August looks around to make sure his manager, Lisa, is nowhere to be seen. He nods.
Charlie pauses for dramatic effect before proclaiming, “Jess is back in town.”
August’s eyes widen. “THE Jess?”
“Yeah,” Charlie answers with a triumphant smile. “She’s back for like two weeks tomorrow.”
“No shit. Didn’t she say she’d never come back?”
“I’m pretty sure she said that. I’m pretty sure she said ‘Haha losers. I am never, ever coming back. Get a good long look because this is the last you’ll see of Jessica Montenegro! Hahahahaha,’” August recalled with his most monotone voice.
“Shhhhhhh. It doesn’t matter. The point is that she’s back and we’re hanging out with her tomorrow.”
August was about to scold his friend when he felt a buzz in his back pocket. He knew who it was and that he needed to hurry. “Where?”
“She wants to go to this new cafe near the beach. I think it’s called The Frozen Bean or something like that.”
“Sounds good. Now I really should get going before Lisa comes back and yells at me again.”