Note: This story will appear in my upcoming collection Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and that’s why I’m posting this teaser. However, it has already been published in “Kindle” format, and there is a link to that below, in case you cannot wait for The Cabinet to be published.
It was chilly bordering on truly cold that Thursday night, which had now become Friday morning. Paul Taylor stumbled through the rear exit of a popular bar, not too much the worse for wear, and headed toward the twenty-four-hour, self-pay lot in which his car was parked, a few blocks away.
When he’d left the car for the evening, to continue a group celebration of the closing of a major contract at the small ad agency where he worked, the whole area had been surprisingly crowded. In some circles, it seemed, Thursday was the new Friday when it came to partying. For Paul, however, this was a departure from the norm, as was having more than a few drinks in an evening. He’d stayed at the bar later than the rest of the team, both because he’d been surprised to find himself enjoying karaoke night—he’d happily and repeatedly punished all those present with his crooning—and because he’d wanted to wait out the effects of a frankly irresponsible binge of mixed drinks.
He’d used the occasion as an excuse to sample several cocktails he’d never tried before, including—but not limited to—a mojito, a fuzzy navel, a tequila sunrise, and a Manhattan. By ten o’clock, he’d been positively reeling, comically unsteady on his feet, and quite a bit more extroverted than usual. It was just as well that the team had gone out for a large meal before hitting the bar, or Paul surely would have been both barely conscious and violently ill. As it was, he’d apparently just become a charming buffoon; no one had seemed offended.
Finally, as others had begun to leave, a few had offered Paul a ride. When he’d declined, stating that he was still enjoying himself too much to go home yet, he’d been strongly urged to get an Uber or to call a cab when he did, but definitely not to drive in the state he was in. He had promised to comply.
The more he’d thought about it, though, the more he’d been reluctant to leave his car in the parking lot overnight. It was unattended—payment was by credit card, swiped first when one entered the lot, then swiped again when one left—and it was not cheap. If a car stayed overnight, or if a driver left without remembering to swipe a second time, the daily maximum charge of fifty dollars automatically applied.
Paul could afford it—his drinks alone had cost well beyond that amount—but he bristled at the notion. Also, he worried about what might happen to his car. This was not a terrible part of town, and his Nissan was not particularly tempting, but still…
Reluctantly, at about eleven, he’d started ordering alternating Coke and orange juice instead of alcohol, waiting for his intoxication to fade enough for him to make the trip. Now, at nearly closing time, he felt sober enough that he could drive without endangering the few other travelers still on the road. He supposed he might be wrong—advertising people were, he knew, at least as good at beguiling themselves as they were at convincing others—but he felt that his coordination was at least tolerable. His stumbling bar exit had been an honest case of tripping over an uneven spot in the doorway, and he had easily righted himself. That had to count for something. Continue reading