Vegas, Baby.

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Wondering if it’s about time, I started a tradition on my blog. Since traditions are meant to be started and not necessarily kept, I thought I could at least attempt one. And it’s not even New Year’s Day. *Insert shocked look*

So every Friday, I will attempt [key word “attempt”] to write a short fictional piece. It might be a short story, an excerpt, a dream I had last night [they’re mostly make-belief!] or flash fiction. Every once in a while, I might even take a jab at writing a poem. I know, crazy, right! But I just want to mix it up a little. Because, I know this might come as a shock to you [it did to me :) ] not everyone wants to read about my life and the madness of it all. Although, I have to admit, strange things began to happen to me the moment I came out of my tree house [my house seriously has no closets!] to tell the world I’m a writer. Well, to be completely upfront, [cuz that’s how I roll,] odd things happen to me all the time. And after the dust of ‘Oh Shnap!’ settles, I tuck my pen behind my ear and start tapping, because no one writes down things with a pen anymore, do they? And I look back at the random incident that happened and think, “Dang, that might make a good story!” 

Not in the reporter sense, because as you might already know, I dropped out of journalism week two when I couldn’t keep up with the deadlines. The prof wanted a newsworthy piece every day, and he didn’t think my 4:00AM wake up to work the breakfast shift at McDonald’s warranted Pulitzer Prize material. Hey, if you met some of the shady characters that wake up before the sunrise to get a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, you’d want to write about them too. Or at least read about them. But apparently, my prof was more of a black coffee, I’ll eat my first meal after 10:00AM, type of guy. I’ve forgiven him.

All this to say, the failure taught me something, as most set-backs can if you give them a little time. I was never meant to be a journalist. Because I like to embellish my stories. And news reporters only tell the truth, the whole truth and … yeah, riiiight! Anyway, there’s a cure for my condition. It’s called fiction!

Took me another decade-ish after college graduation to test out my wings, but trying to fly now. One story at time. Join me won’t you. Every Friday, here at “In Search of Waterfalls,” for a dive into the land of make belief. And if you ever read something that sounds vaguely familiar, like I’m writing about you and the fight we had last night, I’m not. Mostly. That “everything you read is totally made-up and nothing to do with you or me” is a bunch of bull…arky. Everything has to do with everything. And nothing too. So just ignore the details that sound like you, like the tiny mole over your right earlobe. Yeah, I’ll move it to your left ear. No one will ever know.

And just like that, I’ve said too much. And this blog is now too long. So, I’ll leave you with the story below. Enjoy and have a great weekend all. And if you like this little ditty, LIKE my FB page if you haven’t already. SUBSCRIBE for a Free Story, and mail me a gallon of gas. No. really. I mean that. The lines here in Long Island are still freaking me out. And I don’t want to be the girl who got beat up, because she flashed her hubby’s medical I.D. to get to the front of the line.

I did note one encouraging detail as I drove past the mile long line of parked cars waiting for the morning’s petroleum delivery: Everyone is sitting in their drivers’ seats doing the thing that keeps us writers in business: READING! Yeah to the yeah!

And now, without further ado… a story.

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“Vegas, Baby.”

I get paid to rate things. Movies. Restaurants. Professors. Employers. And my personal favorite: Hotels.

My name is Caleb, but you can call me Cal. I work for the infamous online company OPR.com. Stands for Only Positive Ratings. I am the CEO, the CFO, the Book Keeper and the sole employee. You could say I run a one man show. I’m the one man. Unless you count Mindy. She’s my Mac. I named her one night when the walls started speaking to me. Maybe it was the wind outside the windows, but I needed someone to confess to. So I looked into the lit face of my MacBook Pro and asked her if she was in the mood to listen. She blinked. Sort of. Her lights dimmed. I took that as a yes.

“Can I give you a name?” I wanted her to feel special.

She didn’t seem to “mind” and she didn’t ask “y” so I named her Mindy. I know. Clever right? Inspiration often asks me for a dance at night—when the world sleeps and silence serves me a midnight cocktail. The kind that buzzes you past the gates of traditional thinking. And that’s when I first got it. Nothing like an extra limey, mint-crushed, blackberry infused mojito to birth my greatest idea. Two triangular fluted glasses filled with virtual rum clink in the corner of my screen whenever I have a eureka moment. Yes, I have to click the arrow on them. It’s not like Mindy can read my mind. Just yet, anyway.

That was a year ago. A Friday night that turned into Saturday morning. Around 3:33AM,   labor and delivery culminated with a two millimeter pass from my fingertips to the screen. A scroll. A line-up. An historic click of the return key, and the baby was born—launched right between the moon set and the sunrise. At the first glimpse into her eyes, I knew her name. And she shall be called…OPR. Not to be confused with Oprah. Or OPP. Mindy agreed. OPR it is, and the glasses clinked a cheers worthy of a NYC ball drop!

We were proud parents of a newborn company that would grow to double digits in the first month. Yes, we went from five to fifty-five followers after only four weeks. Then someone of the Oprah calibre got wind of OPR.com and the next thing I knew, she grew one hundred fold. Out with the diapers! It was time to ride a bike! Six months in and we had over six thousand followers with a thousand plus daily visits. Somebody up there loves me. Or at least hasn’t found me out. Yet.

So, a year later, on this beautiful June afternoon in the Big Apple, Mindy and I are proud parents of a graduate. Mindy knows she’s the Big, and OPR is the Apple. Misunderstood fruit is a common error in this business. Yeah, you could say my main gal does not have a problem with self-esteem like most women out there.

Back to the cap-bearing, tassel-tossing, robe strutting graduate: OPR is heading to the real world, rubbing her virtual shoulders with three piece suits all over Manhattan. To celebrate, we’re going all out. With the one thing I haven’t given her. Ever. A vacation. Yes. She deserves it as much as I do. Maybe more. We all do. The site is on auto-pilot for close to seventy-two hours, and I’m going to Vegas, baby. Without Mindy. I know. She’s a little upset by the last second change in plans, but I don’t want her to get jealous in case I hook up with a chica on the strip. Did my research. Know exactly where I plan to meet her too. If time and timing work with me, I’ll buy a crimson dress. Find my lady in red before dinner Friday night. She’ll hang off my shoulder at the roulette table for the weekend. Whether she shares her lady luck or just makes the fellas jealous makes no difference. And I’ll be home on a red-eye by 7:00AM Monday morning.  Back to life. Back to the grind.

Mindy will be waiting. Faithful Mindy. She’ll get over it. I’ll bring her an I heart Vegas sleeve and we’ll kiss and make-up. We’ll go to work with a double espresso to combat the jet lag, and no one will even know I left. That’s the plan. And you gotta have a plan.

Fail to plan and you plan to fail. That’s what my father used to say. Explained why he and mom ended their marriage before it began. He got her pregnant. Walked away. Came back once a year to see me, drop off a gift, a few Benjamins and with a kiss on my forehead, he’d say “See you next year Champ!” like he was doing me a favor. By the time I was old enough to realize next year came after a whole heck of a lot of days, I hated him before the words came out of his Chapsticked lips.

One year, shortly after I turned thirteen, I bleached my brown hair David Bowie blonde and told him, “No.” I didn’t want my hair color to resemble his. If I couldn’t change the bridge of my nose or the shape of my stone blue eyes, I could change this.

“Come again?” His matching blue eyes read genuine confusion.

“Don’t bother.”

“Whatever Champ. I’ll see you next year.”

When next year came, I left for the movies with friends for the evening. Mom told me Dad waited around for a few hours, checked the front window every so often, dropped the package and cash on the kitchen table and then disappeared. He never returned. And that’s that.

Mom moved to a condo in Michigan, and she runs an import business in downtown Ann Arbor. Selling colorful satchels and beaded jewelry from Sri Lanka. Even has her website up for online orders. She keeps busy doing her thing. We came to a mutual understanding the day before I left for college. Neither of us calls unless we need something. It works for us. Haven’t heard from her in a few months. Texted her “Merry Christmas” a week into the new year. She texted back, “Same 2 U” and that was that. Love mom. And that’s enough.

Back to the plan. Scanning my studio apartment on the east side of Brooklyn Heights, I nod to myself. Traveling light appeals to me since I don’t need much and I don’t collect things either. The flight is at six tomorrow morning. I decide to buy a double shot espresso from the Starbucks down the street, cab it to La Guardia, and camp out at my gate to avoid the 4AM wake up call that I am cursing as I glare at my phone. I am not a morning person.

On the taxi ride over, the cab driver asks with a heavy accent, “Wegas, huh? Business or pleasure, sir?”

“The business of pleasure.”

“Vat is that? Ahh. I get it. You goin for the vomen. Vat happens in Wegas…”

I tune out as the city lights to the right of the BQE zoom by at eleven at night. At least there’s not as much traffic this time of night. Even lady Liberty bids me farewell as if I were leaving for good.

“I’ll be back.” I tell Lady.

“Eweryone comes back.” Mr. Taxi driver answers while eyeing me in his rear view mirror. “Vat time is jor flight, sir?”

I glance down at my phone. “In a few hours.” Can’t Mr. Man see that I don’t want to be bothered. I put my phone to my ear and say a few “uh-huhs” and “sure sures” to shut this guy up. Just not in the mood today. Maybe it’s the drowning in gushing reviews of OPR that have left a bittersweet taste in my head. I don’t want to be nice. No one’s paying me this weekend. I can be a jerk and no one will ever know. Hopefully I won’t like it so much I have trouble coming back to OPR with a smile on my face.

I click my phone shut when I see the Airport billboards ahead. I pull out my wallet to pay Mr. Chatty Pants, and tip him a hundred shmacks. I plan to blow several at the blackjack table anyway, so what the hay. He scurries out of his door to open mine and makes to hug me with gratitude. I hold out my hand to interrupt that thought.

“Thank you sir. Thank you wery wery much.”

“No problem. Thanks for the ride.”

“Hawe fun in Wegas, sir. I know you vill!” 

I push through the revolving doors and find the signs for security, dumping my Starbucks cup into the trash before getting in line. The yawning woman in a navy uniform scans my phone screen without so much as glancing up, and I move toward the conveyor belt, taking off my shoes and placing my keys into the plastic basket. One item I cannot lose and the other I have no plans of keeping after today.
Bon Voyage NYC. See ya on the other side of tomorrow. Two tomorrows actually. To tomorrow. Clink the glasses for me Mindy, will you? From ting ting to cha-ching. Vegas, here I come.
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***Ever been to Vegas? Have any plans to visit NYC? If you’re driving, remember to fill up before you hit the New Jersey border. Better yet, ride your bike. Just remember to wear earmuffs. :) It’s a chilly November morning in the Big Apple. But the sun is shining. Yes it is. :)

 

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