another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
Surfinland by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | July 2019
by Mike Bozart
© 2019 Mike Bozart
Thirty-one-year-old Alexander looked at the digital clock-radio on the walnut nightstand in his apartment bedroom on a warmer-than-normal October 8th (2014) evening in southeast Charlotte. He was anxious and quite pensive. 8:57. Ok, now it’s 8:58. What are the chances of seeing the minute change? I guess if glancing for a whole second, the odds would be 1 in 60 – less than 2%. Can I do the math in my head? My mind is frazzled at the moment. Invert 6/10. Reduces to 5/3. So, it’s about 1.67%. But, did I look for precisely one second? Hmmm … What fraction-of-a-second gaze would result in exactly a 1% chance of seeing the minute numeral(s) advance? [0.6 seconds] Hmmm … Oh, why do I think such nonsense? Sylvia said that she’d be there – there being ‘the Queen City’s best dive bar’ – at ten on the dot. Which dot? The top one. Got 34 minutes to kill. Why so late on a Wednesday? Doesn’t she have to work tomorrow morning? Surf Inn. What kind of name for a bar is that this far inland? That suds-and-spirits joint is 171 miles [275 km] from the Atlantic Ocean! Odd, but maybe the owner is a former surfer. Who owned a seaside motel? And then hit hard times? Whew! Boy, I sure am nervous. Need to throw on some more cologne. Haven’t been on a first date in ages. Hard to go on a second date without going on a first one. When was the last time? Ah yes, Erie [PA] back in the spring of 2002. What a crazy chick she was. Wonder if Cindy is dripping hot wax all over some dude’s dong right at this very moment. No telling. Maybe she’s in Pittsburgh now. Yeah, psycho Cindy said that she wanted to move there. Hope she hasn’t died from a candle fire.
Alexander walked into the living room and switched on the old, 25-inch (63.5 cm), tube-style TV. Until it crapped out, he wasn’t going to replace it with a flat-screen model. The world news on Deutsche Welle arrested his channel surfing. Ah, so I missed the total lunar eclipse late last night. Darn. Well, maybe next time. Two more in 2015.
He then turned up the TV’s volume.
“Eric Betzig, Stefan Hell, and William Moerner have jointly won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy.” Good on them. Smart guys. Maybe I should have stuck with chemistry. Oh, well.
Alexander then changed the channel to ESPN. Highlights of yesterday’s postseason Major League Baseball games (National League Division Series game fours) were airing. Darn it! Both St. Louis and San Francisco won. C’mon Nationals and Dodgers – you’re the 1 and 2 seeds for Chrissake! And, look at that – they both lost by the same, tight, one-run score. [3-2] Man, I can’t take another Cardinals or Giants World Series win. Though if I had to choose, the Giants would be easier to live with. Not division rivals. Well, it’s about time to get rolling. Should scan the surroundings before entering this strange eastside saloon.
At 9:54/:55 PM, Alexander turned left off of northbound North Sharon Amity Road into an entrance for Eastland Office Commons, which looked more like an older townhome complex. He didn’t see any signs on the faded, viridian green, overtly-wooden-panel siding, except for a set of bold, stenciled numerals (3553) on a red-painted, horizontal trim strip. Where the hell is this place? Does it really exist? Well, it’s on Google Maps. If it’s just a joke, they sure have a lot of people in on it. No, it must really be in here … somewhere.
When he had nearly reached the rear lot in his silver, 2009, driver-side-door-dinged Nissan Sentra, he looked to his left and saw a small, very simple, black, business-directory sign encased in glass (presumably so that no one could steal or rearrange the removable white letters and numbers) mounted on the siding. He quickly parked his car and walked up to the sign box. Maybe we get lucky here. Sure hope so. Only three minutes ‘til 10. Please let this be it. Don’t want to be late. So tacky. And so rude.
The sign’s heading was the building’s address: 3549 (in much larger numerals). And the last entry on the white-bordered directory: The Surf Club. The Surf ‘Club’? Huh? WTF! Well, that’s got to be it. But, why an alternate name? This is wack! What kind of business would allow this to go uncorrected? Weird.
Alexander walked up seven red steps to arrive on a wooden, deck-style landing. However, none of the businesses on either side had Surf in their name. Well, it sure aint on this level. Maybe the entrance is above. Certainly hope so.
He then scurried up the wide-plank steps to the upper landing. Once again he studied the names next to the nothing-fancy doors. Drats! It’s not on this level, either. Guess it’s on the other side of the building. Must hurry. Don’t want to keep Sylvia waiting. That would be a terrible first impression.
After sprinting across the front of the 1980s-ish edifice, Alexander opened an unlocked apartment-style door. He then began a dimly-lit descent down a quarter-turn-every-six-to-eight-paces staircase covered with ancient, barf-yellow-green shag carpet with off-white streaks. Looks like they installed a remnant from The Summer of Spooge. Is this just a setup? Am I about to get rolled? Can almost feel a whack on the back of my head. This is nuts. Bet I’m greeted by a knife or a revolver at the next corner. Jesus, please, no.
Alexander safely arrived at a window-less, lauan, storeroom-looking door. It was eerily quiet. Cautiously he turned the old, faux-gold doorknob. It wasn’t locked. The door popped open.
Seven people came into view: a glum, gray-haired, 60-something guy at the bar donning a newsboy-style golf cap; a disinterested pair of 50-ish, black and white ladies; a 30-something Latino dude watching an overhead TV; and a trio of flannel-shirted, early-to-mid-40s, beer-bottle-upturning, video-poker-machine-hovering-about Caucasian fellows. And infused throughout this bunker-like, semi-subterranean, lost-in-time hideaway of a watering hole was an aura of ‘just leave me alone and let me drink in peace’. Sheez, what a place! Why did Sylvia pick such a bar? Well, maybe the beer here is cheap. Yeah, bet that’s it.
After scanning the bar a second time and not seeing Sylvia, Alexander walked over and sat on a wobbly stool. Woah!
The bartender, who was a sexy, svelte, 40-ish brunette, walked over. “Haven’t seen you in here before. I’ll get you a membership form. We can’t afford to get in trouble with ALE. [Alcohol Law Enforcement] You’re not from ALE, are you?”
“No, not at all,” Alexander replied as he looked up at a TV screen. A commercial for a pharmaceutical was airing. “Advertising prescription drugs. Only in America does the patient advise the doctor on the cure. You know what I’ve found to be very amusing?” Hope this guy doesn’t go into a longwinded diatribe. Not in the mood for it.
“No, what?” Sapphire inquired. What is this dude’s business? Hope he’s not another, trying-to-be-sly, bar-supply salesman.
“At the close of every ad, cheerfully whisper these words: ‘And you’ll be happy forever’.” Oh great, another cynic.
“Ok, mister, why are you here?” Sapphire sternly demanded with a serious look. She’s cute.
“I’m here to meet a dark-haired, 29-year-old lady,” Alexander plainly answered. “It’s our first date.”
“Oh, her; she’s in a nook on the patio.” This place has a patio? No wonder I missed her.
“Thanks. So, what’s your name?” He sure is curious.
“Sapphire. I’m Agent 13 in the psecret psociety.” The what? No, just ask her later.
“Oh, ok. Well, I’m secret-less Alexander. I better go meet her now.”
“Never keep a lady waiting.”
“True, Agent 13. Here’s your card back.”
“Thanks. I’ll be over shortly to get your drink orders,” Sapphire said as she saw an empty mug land on the heavily lacquered bar.
“Perfectamente,” [sic] Alexander replied, and turned to leave.
Blonde-haired, average-build Alexander then walked over to an attractive, seated-at-a-two-top, brown-eyed, just-past-shoulder-length-raven-haired lady. “Hello Sylvia. It’s me, Alexander. It’s great to finally meet you.” She looks part Native American.
“And, it’s so nice to finally meet you, Alexander. But you’re three minutes late, Mr. Pittsburgh Pirates fan.” How did she know that? Did I ever divulge that in our chats?
“I’ll make it up to you by buying you a drink.” Ah, a gentleman. He just might be the one.
“What makes you think that I drink? Do I look like an alcoholic?” She grinned maniacally. Huh?
“No, you certainly don’t look like an alcoholic, but, well, this is a bar and it’s not much more than that.”
“Hey now, it has darts and a pool table,” Sylvia retorted.
“Does it? Guess I missed that. So, are you in a league, Sylvia?”
“This proud Cardinals fan is in a league of her own.” So bold.
“Are you from Saint Louis?” Alexander asked.
“Originally. My mom and I moved here in 2002 – right after my dad got arrested for the third time.” For what? No, don’t ask.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“That’s life, Alex. Can I just call you ‘Alex’?”
“Sure. Feel free to slice off a couple of syllables, Sylvia.” Slice. Ha!
“Anyway, where are you from, handsome blue eyes?”
“Western Pennsylvania. Vandergrift, a tiny town thirty miles [48.3 km] northeast of Pittsburgh.”
“On the Kiskiminetas River, right?” She’s been there? / Bet he wants to kiss me and roll around with me. I can feel it. Typical male horndog.
“Yes,” Alexander dryly replied. She’s done some research on me. How much?
“Just checking to make sure you’re not lying, Alex.” What in the world? She’s loony.
“Well, I tell ya, this bar looks certifiably unfamiliar,” Alexander quipped. Why’d he say that?
“That’s funny,” Sylvia responded. “It is the most Bukowski-esque bar in Charlotte. I read an online review about it, or I would have never stumbled upon it. I just love the non-trendiness of it. There’s no theme, nor anyone to impress. I love it. Anyway, are you a comedian or a comedic writer of some sort on the side?” Why would she think that?
“No, far from it. Remember I told you that I work uptown. Well, to be more specific, it’s risk analysis. Solemn stuff.”
“Columns of solemns?”[sic] Solemns? She’s out there.
“What is that, Sylvia?” She has nice breasts. Can’t wait to fondle them.
“Oh, nothing I suppose. Though, I am writing my first novella. Guess what the title will be?” Something bizarre I bet.
“Oh, you’re an aspiring author. Nice. Sorry, I have no idea on the title. But, hey, I’ll guess that the first word is ‘The’.” What a smarty pants!
“You got it, mind reader!” Sylvia exclaimed.
“Oh, just a lucky guess, I would guess luckily.” He’s full of it.
“Well, the title is going to be – are you ready? – The 7-10 Split.” The what?
“Like in bowling?”
“Exactly! Except that the bowling ball is a just-decapitated human head – a certain man’s head no less – a worthless freaking cheater!” Oh, dear … She’s got female rage.
“Wow! That is some image. Oprah might like your story.”
“In the final scene, the scorned woman guillotines the sedated weasel and immediately rolls his semiconscious noggin down a makeshift bowling lane at a triangle of bowling pins. The bastard’s skull hits the head pin – head-on. Did you hear that? His head hits the head pin head-on. Is that great or what?!” She chortled uncontrollably for 7.10 seconds.
“Yeah, that’s some fine prose there, Sylvia. So, is that it – the ending?” I hope so.
“No, silly. There are a few more seconds to my justifiable revenge tale.” Justifiable revenge? Oh, boy …
“Ok, please continue.” How can I escape?
“All of the pins fall down, all except for the 7 and 10 pins – the classic 7/10 split. That’s when I yell: ‘Da split is da shit!’ And that’s the last thing his stupid-ass, whore-mongering, testosterone-saturated brain processes. Then it’s an all-neural-circuits-permanently-shut-off scenario for that faithless fucker.” She’s as psycho as Cindy. Wonder if they know each other. Maybe they’re on the same male-bash blogs.
“Uh, I think I need a drink,” Alexander meekly uttered.
“Me, too, you charmer. You need to relax and open up. Don’t be so shy. I won’t slice your head off. I promise. It’s just fiction. It’s just a release – a catharsis for me. So really, just lighten up.” Her sudden laughter came from an uncharted and unhinged place. Was she tortured as a small girl by an evil uncle?
“That’s a relief!” Alexander emitted a series of weak chuckles. I think I’ve rattled him. Need to ease up.
Sapphire walked over. “Ok, first daters, what are we drinking?”
“What would you like, Sylvia?” Alexander asked.
“Surprise me. I drink to slow my brain down.” Then let me buy you a case.
“Two semi-dry martinis, Agent 13,” Alexander stated. Agent 13? He knows her number? What else does he know? Does he know about my stolen jewelry? Holy shit!
“Coming right up,” Sapphire announced, and then walked away.
“Sylvia, I’ve got to hit the restroom.”
“It’s off on the left,” she informed.
Alexander then got up and walked back inside. There were two more patrons now. Another 60-ish, balding, Caucasian male was at the bar, completely sauced, just looking down despondently. A thirty-something Asian lady in waitress garb was looking at something on her smartphone. Everyone seemed to be in their own little world.
When Alexander returned to the patio three minutes later, Sylvia was gone. He dashed back inside and searched the whole indoor area. But, there was no sign of her. He then asked Sapphire if she saw her leave, but she hadn’t. When he returned to the patio, he walked up the steps to the next level. Ah, so I was right above this patio earlier. Why did Sylvia bolt on me? And I thought I was going to have trouble ditching her. Mission auto-accomplished. Well, guess I’ll pay up and enjoy my victory drink. Did Sylvia dash off with hers?
Once back at the bar, Alexander received his martini. He was still puzzled by Sylvia’s impromptu exit. Maybe she didn’t like me in person. Well, that’s fine by me. Glad she fled. Problem gone.
Sapphire walked back over to him. “Did she give you the slip, Alexander?”
“Yeah, you could say that, Agent 13. But to be honest, I’m relieved. She’s a basket case.”
“Did you call or text her?” Sapphire inquired.
“No, I’m content with this ending. Don’t want to ever see her again. She’s nuts, Sapphire. Severely damaged goods. Someone must have abused her. Sorry, but I’ve no interest in being the therapy guy.”
“You met her online?”
Sapphire rolled her eyes.
Back at his Randolph Road apartment in the Cotswold area, Alexander began taking his shirt off as he entered his dark bedroom. Before he could flip the light switch, he heard a recent female’s unmistakable voice emanating from his queen-size bed.
“Your lock was so easy to pick, loverboy. Ready to get busy?”