Out With A Bang

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: September 11, 2019

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Submitted: September 11, 2019

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Out With a Bang

This ticket belongs to a dead person, Beatrice reminds herself as she waits in line to board the massive ship.  She’s eager to put the outdated luggage inside her cabin, head topside, and find the strongest beverage on the menu.  Beatrice packed light, but the handle of Scotch is making her sweat and she’s not used to thong underwear.

She got the ticket from her friend Davis four days ago, when his dad died from cancer.  This was supposed to be a dying man’s last wish, she thinks.  Everyone within a half mile of the ship twitches when the mighty horn blows.  Beatrice smiles.  She has never been on a cruise.  As a New York City public defender, she rarely gets time off.  Yesterday, Beatrice wrote her main objectives on two little pieces of yellow paper and stuck them to her refrigerator: (1) get drunk! (2) fuck a stranger!

She scans the other passengers and is disappointed with her prospects.  Beatrice is fifty-three, but some of these people are antiques.  Many of them are sitting in wheelchairs, being pushed along by young men in white uniforms.  The Carnival Crew.  Beatrice begins to panic, wondering if there is a minimum age limit…seventy-five perhaps? 

She flips the ticket over and notices shapes behind the words—the silhouette of naked bodies.  Beatrice puts on her glasses and reads the fine print:

 

Gulf of Mexico  *  Amazing Cuisine*International Waters

The final night includes celebrity guest performances and sexy surprises.

At Midnight: WE GO OUT WITH A BANG!

In addition to our pre-boarding clearance procedures,

passengers must possess notarized medical…

 

 

“Ticket please,” says a tan man in tiny shorts.

Beatrice stops reading and hands over the ticket.

“And your medical clearance?” he asks.

“I don’t have any,” Beatrice says.  She wonders, now watching an old man struggling to drag his oxygen tank up the ramp, if she is being asked to prove that she is healthy or sick?

 

...

 

The captain and two attorneys agree that Beatrice may board the vessel, but she is “legally prohibited” from entering the dining hall on the final night.  If her “certified medical forms” are “faxed and authenticated” her “attendance and participation” will be “reevaluated.”  This conversation is reminding her of work—Beatrice is happy to oblige.

 

...

 

Her room is small and clean.  She wants to fill it with a man.  Beatrice swallows a valium with Scotch from the bottle and heads topside.

 

...

 

Old people are marinating in the pool so she leans against the railing and overlooks the Big Easy while sipping red hurricane from a plastic cup.  This part of the city is unremarkable so she walks to the other side of the ship and watches tug boats push against the Mississippi.  The water is brown and polluted.  Beatrice finishes her drink and retreats toward her cabin, where the pills are.  Some dude with poorly dyed black hair walks by wearing a “Harvard Law” shirt.  He is gross and probably the most eligible bachelor on the boat.  Beatrice graduated from CUNY School of Law twenty years ago—monthly student loan payments help her feel connected to the institution. 

 

...

 

Beatrice has been drunk for two days.  All the Scotch is gone.  She has tried most of the on-board activities, but “live-band-karaoke” and “swimming-pool-volleyball” are sobering experiences when the participants are constantly testing their insulin levels and changing their colostomy bags.

The bubbliest crew members are paid to initiate games: “party-starters.”  These are the people Beatrice wants to play with.  She watches their firm bodies disappear below deck after each shift.  Beatrice wonders what kind of sinful fun they must be having in the belly of the ship. 

One young man in particular, Ricardo, is her idea of a good time.  He usually works inside the Casino, fetching drinks for the high-rollers.  Beatrice despises gambling but she’s begun to play Black-Jack at strange hours.  He’s not conventionally beautiful, but his teeth are straight and his smile always seems genuine.  Ricardo has been smiling a lot and Beatrice wants to initiate a game of her own. 

 

...

 

It’s the final day of travel and a Bloody-Marry bar has appeared overnight, as if in anticipation of the nervous energy.  The old folks are taking full advantage.  Beatrice adorns her beverage with three olives, two pickles, and a spoonful of horse-radish.  She doesn’t like bacon but Ricardo is dolling it out so she approaches his station.

“How’d you do last night?” Ricardo asks, now using his metal tongs to wedge a thick strip of bacon deep into her glass.

“I cashed out early,” Beatrice admits.

“Too bad,” Ricardo says.  “You are powerless without my mojitos.”

“It’s true,” Beatrice says.  “You have the magic touch.”

“Estoy mágico,” he says.

“You are!” she says, smiling like a barista.

Ricardo winks.

Beatrice walks away wondering how she might have continued the conversation.

Ricardo deals bacon to another patron.

 

...

 

Beatrice wakes from a nap and finds herself topside, beside the pool.  There is no moon but the stars have arrived.  She recalls the day: three Bloodies, two Coladas, and two shots of Patron.  It’s dark and she’s alone.  The sound of live music is coming from the dining hall.  Beatrice checks her phone: it’s 11:22!  She runs downstairs and slips into a dress she bought on Amazon five nights ago. It doesn’t fit right…but the tits look good.

If she had more time, Beatrice would take a long hot shower and think of Ricardo.  But it’s nearly midnight and she wants to see what all the fuss is about.  The freshly painted lips part and two valium disappear.  Beatrice leaves her room in search of the music. 

She’s relieved to find the tall doors wide open—no ship personnel to authenticate the documents she doesn’t have.  It’s dim inside, only candlelight tonight.  The music has stopped and a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt is on stage.  Beatrice looks to the big-screen and sees the man talking into the microphone is Criss Angel, a magician she saw on the late show with Jimmy Fallon last week.  He disappears into a bloom of red smoke as she sits down.  The overhead speakers are yelling: “Mind-Freak!” 

The buffet looks extra theatrical so she gets up and takes a look.  There is a buff little woman walking down a marble table wearing a blue bikini—she’s serving people crab legs and lobster tails upon request.  The roast-beef is being sliced by the captain himself.  He’s taking pulls from a bottle of rum, laughing so hard that tears are streaming down his face.  An entire table is reserved for exotic fruit.  The peeled flesh is arranged over ice in a mosaic of bright colors. 

But the most spectacular station is dessert: fountains of dark chocolate and mounds of caramelized nuts.  In the center of this gluttonous island is Neil Patrick Harris.  He’s on the opposite side of the sneeze-guard, scooping ice-cream for his old fans.  Like most of the people he’s serving, Neil Patrick Harris is sloppy drunk and wearing black leather.

These people…Beatrice thinks…are the drunkest I have ever seen. 

The overhead lights brighten and the dining hall becomes less dark.  Some folks are completely naked.  She had a feeling something sexual was going down, but Beatrice convinced herself that old people don’t orgy on cruises…they do.

It’s 11:39 and the stage is being set for another performer.  She strolls toward the bar, hoping to find Ricardo.  He’s gone so she orders a Martini from Sebastian.  Beatrice sees now, as her eyes scan the room, that some of these people are having sex and others are post-coitus. 

Beatrice wants to fit in, and somehow being less conspicuous requires undressing.  She finishes the Martini and grabs two shots of Vodka from Dylan before sitting down again.  Beatrice downs one and removes her dress.  She feels awkward and sexy drinking Vodka in red underwear.

Beatrice wants to order chocolate ice-cream from Neil Patrick Harris but an old man sits beside her at the booth, blocking her exit.  The cowboy hat is way too big for his old skull and it shifts back and forth like a thimble on a pinky.  His cloudy blue eyes are fixed on her tits.
“Wanna fuck?” he asks. 

“No thanks,” she says, having just seen him fooling around with a bearded man in a wheelchair.

“Oral?” he asks.

Beatrice looks at his mouth, which is literally drooling, and declines the offer by shaking her head.

“Your loss,” he says, struggling to regain his feet. “I have a sweet cock.”

Neil Patrick Harris is on the stage now wearing a tuxedo with tails.  He hushes the house band and makes an announcement: “If you haven’t gotten laid yet, you probably never will!”

Beatrice checks her phone: it’s 11:55.  She feels like crying.

“You’ll notice your servers distributing the last drink you’ll ever need,” Neil Patrick Harris continues.

The wait staff is handing out smokey Champaign flutes.  Dylan sets one down and Beatrice watches the strawberry floating inside, churning amongst the tiny bubbles. 

Neil Patrick Harris waits until the trays are empty and then leans into the mic and yells: “I wish all of you a Bon Voyage!” 

Beatrice looks around, taking in the grandeur of this moment. 

“And now,” Neil Patrick Harris continues, “it’s a pleasure to introduce my friends, your swan-songers, Hall & Oats!”

People are clinking glasses, laughing and weeping.

Hall & Oats link arms and tilt Champaign into one another’s mouth.  They kiss passionately and the crowd goes wild.  Then Hall walks to his keyboard and Oats picks up a guitar.  They begin playing “Rich Girl.”

Sebastian and Dylan are distributing pink pillows. 

Beatrice notices Ricardo moving chairs aside, making room for people to lie down. 

Ricardo sees Beatrice and approaches her.

Beatrice raises her second shot, winks, and swallows.

Ricardo gathers the empty shot glasses and asks, “Are you avoiding the Champaign?” 

“I’ll drink it,” she says, now raising the flute toward the ceiling.

“Now or never,” Ricardo says.

“First, I was wondering if you might want to…”

“I can’t,” Ricardo says, sliding Beatrice’s room card back across the table.  “We’re not allowed.”  He sees she is hurt and continues, “Taboo things excite me.”

“Taboo?” Beatrice repeats.

“Yes,” Ricardo says. “I have strange taste.”

She downs the Champaign and hands the empty glass to him.

“I’m sorry,” Ricardo says.  “You were a lovely woman.”

Beatrice holds the red berry between her teeth and smiles.

 

...

 

The chandeliers are swaying and Beatrice feels warm and tired. She lies down in her booth and chews the fruit.  The taste of strawberry is her last memory.  It’s quiet now, only the sound of Carnival Crew clearing cutlery.  Hall & Oats are naked and Neil Patrick Harris is taking their picture with his phone.  Oats is finally on top.  

Neil Patrick Harris hops down from the stage and helps the captain pry jewelry from the dead bodies.  Ricardo picks up the room card and clinches it between his teeth.  Nobody notices him carrying Beatrice out of the dining hall, as if she were a bride. 


© Copyright 2019 Dustin Hyman. All rights reserved.

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