Scott Douglas’ Terse Bloviation

Third Date

Here’s a (really) short story, called Third Date, that I wrote on a plane. Let me know what you think, even, or especially, if it’s “stick with the how-to running stuff.”

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“And I said, ‘Spatial relations aren’t my forte.’ She said, ‘You know, it’s pronounced ‘fort.’ I said, ‘Yeah I know. But I didn’t know you knew. So I said ‘for-tay’ because I didn’t want you to think I’m a snob.’” John regretted telling the story before he’d finished it.

Meghan laughed. Or maybe she chuckled. John took a long draw from his beer glass. He wanted to take a longer drink but didn’t want to have to order another one too soon. Last Thursday Meghan had had two goblets of red wine. This time she was nursing an ale. Did she feel more relaxed with him, less in need of wheel greasing? Or was she starting to shut off the wild-girl side? John wished he’d ordered a martini, which he’d downgraded to wine, then beer, as Meghan ordered her drink.

“What about ‘formidable?’” Meghan asked.

“Hmmh? Sorry, what?”

“How do you say it? ‘ForMIDable’ or ‘FORmidable?’”

“I say ‘formiDABluh.’ Make people think I’m French.”

Meghan smiled a “hinh” and reached for the buzzing phone in her bag. “Sorry, forgot to turn it off,” she said while, it seemed to John, lingering over the screen longer than necessary.

“So you were saying your mom started doing yoga?” John said.

“Yeah, since Trump. She told me, ‘I can’t straighten out the country but I can straighten out my posture.’ I was like, ‘C’mon Mom, where’d you get that?’ She ignored me and showed me how much better she is doing Tree pose on her left foot.”

John had told himself to remember Meghan had texted about her mother doing yoga. He waited. Was that the end of the story?

Meghan pulled off two-thirds of the remaining hunk of bread, then stopped, hovering over the olive oil. “Sorry, that’s a lot.”

John flicked his fingers toward her, saying, “No, no, go ahead.” He liked this sign of her comfort. Or maybe she didn’t care if he thought she was a pig.

“So say you’re watching a movie,” Meghan said. “How far into it do you give it?”

“You mean before giving up?”

“Yeah. The beginning’s sorta there, you look at the progress bar and see you’re only like 15 percent through. What’s the point of no return?”

“Before you watch the rest no matter what?”

“Right.”

“Concorde fallacy,” John said.

“Humh?”

“Concorde fallacy. Sunk cost fallacy—you stick with something because you figure, ‘Well, I already invested this much time in it, now I can’t back out.’ So you’re bored halfway through a book but you finish it because otherwise it feels like you wasted your time. But really you should be willing to bail whenever, because otherwise you’re wasting your future time. Like when they were building the Concorde….”

“How we doin’ here?!” The waitress was suddenly beside the table, head leaning low between them. “Everyone okay on drinks?!”

“I’m good, thanks,” John said, thinking about the tequila shot he’d almost had at the bar before Meghan arrived.

“Can I have a gin and tonic?” Meghan said.

John’s eyes shot up. Meghan was settling in, loosening up, and in 20 minutes would be even looser. She downed the rest of her ale. John felt the warm rush he’d get from the martini he was about to order.

But the waitress was walking away. John said, “Excuse me,” but she kept going. If he’d been with Steve, one of them would have whistled or yelled, but he didn’t want to seem condescending or sexist.

“Excuse me,” John said. “I’m going to go to the little boys’ room before they bring out our food.” He would order at the bar on the way.

When John returned, Meghan was halfway through her gin and tonic. Her face had a new softness to it, her eyelids a little droopy.

“You know what I’m really bad at?” John said. “Those sinks in the bathrooms at airports, where there’s not a knob to turn to water on? I always think the one I’m at is broken. So I go to the next one and it doesn’t work either. But everyone else’s is. Sometimes I rub my hands under the faucet and it works, but most of the time it doesn’t. Or I’ll tap the nozzle, but that works like 25 percent of the time. Where did everyone else learn how to use these? It’s not like I’m going to ask the guy next to me what the trick is.”

“Hmmmmm,” Meghan said. A scene seemed to play behind her eyes. “Now I have to go.” She grabbed her bag and headed toward the bathrooms.

John thought about how they’d lingered outside the pub last Thursday. “Do you…?” Meghan had started. John had waited, then a guy had burst out the door on his phone, and the moment passed. They’d smiled at each other and said good night.

The waitress appeared with his martini. “Your guys’ dinners are ready as soon as your friend gets back,” she said.

John pursed his lips over the rim of the glass, took a long slurp, then pushed it away. He wanted the right balance between emboldened and thinking clearly. He also didn’t want Meghan to come back and see that he’d finished half a drink she didn’t know he’d ordered.

After a while, John speared one of the olives in his drink and nibbled it. The couple who’d sat down after them had started to eat. He pretended to need to stretch his neck and scanned the room. He pulled the martini toward him, lowered his head, sucked up as much as he could, and reached for his wallet.

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2 Comments so far

  1. Greg Crowther December 13th, 2018 3:47 pm

    Well, I like it, though I’m not quite sure what happens at the end. John’s going to get another drink? Anyway, the rhythms of dating are, to me, a rich source of fun dialogue etc. After I got divorced, I kind of wanted to write a rom-com novella based on re-entering the dating game. Hey, I requested and received “Running is My Therapy” and I’m looking forward to reading it.

  2. Allison January 13th, 2019 7:33 pm

    This reads to me more like a short play than a short story. You clearly love dialogue (and write it well), and there’s not that much in the way of introspection, primarily because it’s not needed given the implications from what is spoken and actually done by the characters. You should take a shot at writing a one-act play! (Also, total pet peeve/indication of my snobbery, but ?! drives me up a wall. Typically the ? will suffice, and anything you needed to indicate by the ! can be accomplished through the words being said or an action on the part of the character.)

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