Breakfast and a Cigarette: A Novella in Four Directions
by Bill McLaughlin,
Finally, Ray turned the corner and discovered a dimly lit bar wedged between an Asian grocery and a dilapidated guest house. He looked up at the neon sign and filled in the missing letters: Prospero's. In the window, a neon martini glass tilted and blinked above its scripted message: Cocktails. Ray counted his money. He had exactly twenty-six dollars and eighty-four cents. He removed a ten and placed it in his right front pocket. The rest he placed in his other front pocket. He would allot himself ten dollars for beer. The balance, he guessed, would get him on a bus to Miami in the morning. Ten dollars would keep him here till closing at 3 or 4 a.m. He would then have just a few hours to wait for the first cafe to open for coffee and breakfast. He couldn't afford a motel for the night, so he was going to rent a bar stool. A grim prospect for anyone, but Ray was now exhilarated by the challenge and wide open to the experience—any experience.
He walked in and took a seat at the bar. The bartender was in her mid-30s and pleasant. She brought him a draft of a medium dark ale for a buck-fifty. Cheered by his luck, he related his dismay at Sloppy Joe's over the price of a Budweiser. By his third beer, he was telling her about his stolen wallet.