What You Want
by Karl Lykken
My eyes almost relax in the split second of darkness before my apartment’s lights switch on. I kick off my shoes, drop my bag, and make my way straight to the fridge. A long day’s work earns a longneck beer.
I open the door and see the last bottle of brew, but as I reach out my hand the bottle disappears, leaving behind a line of floating text. My earpiece reads it out loud in case I look away. Lasso up some Cowboy Brew, lasso up some fun!
God, I wish I had the money for the ad free augmented reality set. I mean, why trick me with an ad for the beer I already always buy? Who does that help? I would just pull my AR lenses out if I had any real decorations in my place, but I suppose I’d rather look at gorgeous landscapes plus ads than barren walls. Besides, I’ve gotta go back out. I’ll get a Cowboy at the bar.
I slip my shoes back on and head into the hallway. My feet are begging me to take the elevator but I use the stairs on principle. I reach the bottom and push the door open into the bright night. I cross the street and head into PJ’s Pub.
It’s more crowded inside than I would like, but there’s nowhere close by that is likely to be better. I spot an open seat at the end of the bar and head over to it. There’s a pretty brunette on the stool next to it, so I ask her, “Is this seat free?”
“I generally charge twenty bucks for it,” she says with a raised eyebrow, “but since I’m feeling generous, yeah, you can have it free.”
I smile back at her and slide onto the stool. “Well, I generally charge the people next to me for the whiff of my heavenly aroma that they get, but I’ll let that slide, too.” Why do I say things to people? I know I’m no good at it. She gives me a courtesy laugh and I flag down the bartender to give her an easy exit from further conversation.
“Want a Cowboy?” the bartender confirms as he walks over.
“Yep. Thanks Larry.” I hand him a $10 as he puts a bottle in front of me. I pick up the bottle and I take a long pull.
“I guess you’re a regular here, huh?” the brunette asks me. I guess she’s a glutton for awkward conversation.
“Yep. Come here at least once a week. This your first time?”
“That’s right. I’m still deciding if there will be a second.” She gives me a little wink. My God, she’s pretty.
“Well, I’d recommend it. Good drinks, decent prices, chill vibe. And don’t let me fool you—most of the patrons are actually pretty cool.” My self-deprecation draws another small laugh. Maybe she just also has a terrible sense of humor?
“So, you like the quiet places, huh? Not into the club scene?”
“Nah, I’m not much for clubs. I’m a pretty low energy guy. You?”
“I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘low energy guy’,” she says, her lips halfway to a smile, “but I’m not into clubs, either, no. I like the quiet places, too.”
“Well then, I think my recommendation about coming back might be on target.” Because that needed saying. I should actually look into those conversation prompting apps when I get home. Maybe if I was reading from a script I could at least be a generic guy instead of an exceptional loser.
“Yeah, I suppose so. You know, I could really use another recommendation.”
Why doesn’t she blow me off? “For what?”
“For what to do with a bonus I got at work today. A thousand dollars. I just have no idea what to do with it. What would you do?”
“I would put it in my bank account, and I wouldn’t mind if you put it there, too!”
This time my joke doesn’t land. She just looks vaguely annoyed, and I feel a sudden urge to try and squeeze inside of my beer bottle to hide. “Really?” she asks. “You’d just put it in the bank? There isn’t anything you’d buy if you had a thousand extra bucks?”
“Sorry. Yes, there is. I’d spend the money to go on a trip. Maybe to the Outback, though that would probably be more than a thousand bucks, I guess. But somewhere with a lot of open land and open skies, where I could kind of reconnect with nature. Or maybe really connect with nature for the first time, you know? Just get away from all the hustle and bustle and get unplugged. Just try and experience something real, you know?”
She smiles. “I do know. That’s a great idea. That’s exactly what I’ll do.”
“Wow! Well, congrats on your decision! Here’s to a safe voyage and a wonderful trip!” I raise my bottle and try to clink it against hers, but just as the bottles seem to touch she disappears. A line of text hovers over her seat. Need a little love in your life? Meet beautiful women online on soulmate.love!
I turn away and drain the remnants of my beer. I set the empty bottle down on the bar and see another line of text floating behind it. Want to get away? Trips to the Outback starting at just $4,500 at travelbug.journey!
I start to reach for my eyes to pull out the AR lenses, but I stop and take another look at the floating text. I don’t have $4,500. Maybe I can take a VR trip for cheaper.
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When not scouring the Gobi for death worms or munching on tarantulas in Siem Reap, Karl Lykken writes both fiction and software in Texas. His flash fiction has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Nanoism, and Deadman’s Tome.