This is the sixth installment of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, but the first one I have been able to enter. The theme of “Mystery” was set by The Drunken Cyclist who won the previous month’s challenge.
Normally I read the other entries which are posted to get an idea, but on a couple of occasions I’ve seen other people have already had a great idea which was at the back of my mind – and plagiarism isn’t good, even the appearance of it.
So for this challenge I’ve gone way out of my comfort zone and attempted a short bit of fiction – something I haven’t done since English class at school! A little inspiration came from the badge created by The Armchair Cyclist…
The door was unlocked so I let myself into the hallway; the rain was coming down like bullets into the night so I needed to get out of the rain. I peeked round the corner – nobody there, so I headed down the stairs and took a seat at the bar.
“How are you Frank? What’ll you have?” said the bartender. He was new. His accent was strange..somewhere from the mid-Atlantic. His pale skin and red hair made him look like he would get sunburn from a lightbulb. He must have heard my name from the boss.
“Champagne. Bollinger. Vintage.”
“No. A bottle” He obviously didn’t know me. Not. At. All.
“Two glasses then? Are you waiting for someone?”
“Do I look like I want company?” I growled. “Open the goddam bottle will you?”
The bartender opened the bottle with a brief sigh (the bottle, not him) and poured me a glass. He put the bottle in an ice bucket with a fancy towel over top. It said “Ely” on the towel.
I knocked back a mouthful – man, this was great stuff. Creamy, complex, red fruits and biscuit with a long finish. My kind of drink. In fact, it was my regular drink at Ely. Don’t get me wrong, I like some of the other fizzy stuff they had, but not the Italian or Spanish garbage – far too simple, far too easy.
I quaffed the rest of the glass then poured myself another. The bar owner walked in and nodded to me as he walked past. “On the usual, I see, Frank”. Obervant as usual. He was a nice guy, real friendly, but left me alone when I wanted to be.
“You still have eyes then, Fred” I muttered. “You know me, I know what I like.”
“Come on, my old friend, tonight you should try something else.” A raised eyebrow made him pause. “On the house!”
“Okay Fred, just to make you happy, I’ll try them again. Then you won’t ask me again, right?”
“Great, I’m sure you will like some of them, Frank!” He seemed excited, like a puppy. This had better be quick and had better get him off my case.
“Pour away, Fred. This here..” I tapped the bottle of Bollinger Grand Année. “This here is my benchmark. Whatever you give me has to match this baby.”
He took a bottle out of the fridge behind the bar and popped the cork. Reaching up, he grabbed a couple of glasses from the shelf above the bar.
“What the heck is that? That’s no Champagne cork!”
“My friend, this is frizzante Prosecco. It doesn’t need a big cork and wire cage, it’s not as fizzy as other sparklers.”
I didn’t like Prosecco. I hated it. In fact, I hated it with a loathing far beyond mere contempt. It was a chick’s drink. As Fred poured us both a glass, I looked round to make sure no-one else could see I was trying such an absurd drink.
Bam! Fruit all the way! But then it was gone, as quickly as it came, leaving a slight prick of acid in my throat. It was like using a water pistol instead of a real gun – surprise from the impact, but no lasting effect.
“Fred that’s nowhere near close,” I said. “I hope you’ve got something better than that”
“Coming right up, my friend.” He fished another bottle out of the fridge. This time it looked to have a regular Champagne cork.
Another pair of glasses. He poured again. At least this seemed to be properly fizzy.
“So you reckon this is better, huh? Where’s it from?” I asked.
“Just try it and see what you think, Frank.”
I took a mouthful. Nice and round in the mouth. Not sweet. Biscuitty. Chewy even. But then it faded quickly; far too simple. The label said Freixenet Elyssia. Sounded more like a medical complaint than a drink.
“Well Fred…it’s just like I thought. Those other drinks, now they’re just fine for other folks. But not for me, they’re far too simple. I need a bit of wonder in my beverages. I need mystery.”
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