Sample My Work

Currently sampling Three Ways
New as at 05/06/2017

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            The woman sat alone at a solitary table, her face buried in the backlit glow of her phone, and her hair spilling over her repeated efforts to tuck it behind her ears. Dressed simply but attractively, cream blouse loose enough to shroud but not hide her form, jeans belted high enough to accentuate her hips, she unknowingly had Cole Brodas hooked.

            In front of her stood a forgotten drink, the tall glass too full to rouse the bar backs into collecting. She was too engrossed in her phone, thumbs playing regretfully over the on-screen keyboard, at least to him. Probably Faceplant, he presumed, nothing of a social media junkie. Still, from his vantage and despite the phone, he liked what he saw.
            It took a rude shove to the shoulder to realise he was staring at the woman, then Jimmy proffering a schooner of Heineken to drag Cole back to a vulgar reality.
            “Fucking hell,” Jimmy snarled as Cole took his beer, “you’ve been drooling over that since you sat down!”
            Cole could not stand Jimmy. Sure, he worked and got along with him, but James Honour with a schooner in his hand was the antithesis of his own name. Crude, opinionated, homophobic and misogynistic, the only thing Cole had in common with him was being a human being.
            “That?” Cole asked, looking firmly at Jimmy, eyebrows raised.
            “That chick, dumbarse!”
            Cole rolled his eyes. “I know what you mean, Jimmy. Be nice.”
            “Ooh!” Jimmy said, his sarcasm set to stun, “All prim and proper!”
            Graham joined in, putting a posh British accent to say, “Mr. Darcy, at your service, a-hem!”
            “You’re both pains,” Cole said, wanting to say something else.
            He took a sip of his Heineken, savouring the hops but missing the imported flavour, the stuff on tap brewed here in Australia. He sipped again, his wandering eyes finding the woman at her table, still glued to her phone, and still as attractive as he had last found her.
            “‘And now back to the wall,’” Graham grated, impersonating Moe from The Simpsons.
            “What’s that, Lassie?” Jimmy added. “You smell some pussy?!”
            Cole almost spat his beer. “Fuck, Jimmy!” he rounded, his schooner dropping to the table as he sniffed a fight. “Are you right?!”
            “Well I ain’t a lefty!” Jimmy said, draining more beer.
            Cole shook his head vehemently. “That’s the same half of the species as your mum!”
            “And like you’re not thinking of fucking her brains out.”
            “I—well—” Cole ran aground on Jimmy’s sneer. “Shit!
            Jimmy gloated, victorious. “Yeah, you are!” He looked the woman over. “Sweet looker, probably not a princess either” Cole glared vindictively at him. “What’s your problem?”
            “Just because a girl’s hot it doesn’t make her a slut. Let alone if you paid one to take her clothes off.”
            “Meh, just moral proselytising,” Jimmy spat, looking away.
            Suspicious, Graham asked, “Where’d you learn a big word?”
            “Ah, piss off, you faggot!” Jimmy said. He drained his beer and planted the glass heavily on the table. “C’mon, there’s nothing else going on here. Luck’s running out downstairs.
            Cole shook his head in Jimmy’s wake, his stomach tightening. “I don’t fucking believe him.”
            “Well, don’t be too sensitive,” Graham said. Cole shot him a dirty look. “Mate, you know what he’s like even when he’s off the turps.”
            “Yeah, backwards and wondering why he has to pay for a root.”
            “His lost pay, not yours. Anyway, could be worse.”
            “Seriously? Him, worse?
            “Imagine if he was Tony Abbott.”
            “Oh, God!” Cole groaned, then started laughing. “Shit, ‘The price of a root’s gone through the frigging roof thanks to the Carbon Tax.’ ‘A great big new tax on everything, blowies included.’”
            Graham chucked with an easy smile. “Boy, you nailed it.”
            “I try my best.” Cole said absently sipping his beer as he watched the woman tuck her hair back behind her ears for the umpteenth time.
            “Again?” Graham asked.
            Cole shook his head and shrugged. “What do you reckon?”
            Cole nodded towards the woman. “What do you think?”
            Graham judged. “She isn’t too shabby, but she’s busy on her phone with her friends while waiting for them to turn up. Forget it, mate.”
            “Just passing time.”
            “Don’t bother. She’s too fat anyway.”
            Cole turned incredulously to Graham. “You’re—she’s normal!”
            “That top is hiding her gut.”
            “You pick up sticks!”
            “She’s at least a size twelve, I don’t go over eight.”
            “You and your curves! You coming down or what?” Cole thought about it, then shook his head. “Shit me dead,” Graham breathed. He looked at the woman, then Cole. “Well, you going to sit and stare at her all night, or cause a disturbance in the Force to get her attention?”
            Cole laughed, his joy soon quashed by age old nerves and dark fear. The confidence bug had bitten him before, but it seemed Freudian more than effort. At least, that was how it seemed to him—and he had had his share of casual sex and handing money over, too.
            His doubt had the last word. “I don’t have a shot with her.”
            Graham plonked his empty schooner on the table. “Geez, mate, give yourself some credit!”
            “What am I going to say? ‘Nice phone. I’ve been checking you out for a bit. You wanna drink?’” He sighed. “I don’t know. It’d be easier to run up to High Hrothgar.”
            “Fuck, you love that game! You’ve finished it what, five times?”
            “Graham, if I could shout you downstairs right now, I would.”
            “Well you’ll never get a girl unless you pack up your X-Box.”
            Cole groaned. “How many times have I told you? I. Own. A. Computer! What makes you think I’ve got an X-Box?”
            “You bitch about your controller all the time!”
            “You can get controllers for PC, too.”
            “Whatever,” Graham murmured. “So I take it you’re coming?”
            “Yeah, just—oh, why the hell not?”
            Cole gave the woman one last look, pity and regret fighting in Gojira suits in the cardboard Tokyo of his heart. He took his beer, gained his feet, and reluctantly stepped away from the table.
            Graham laughed. “Oh, bloody hell! Cole, that’s it,” he pointed. “I dare you to go chat her up.”
            “I don’t do dares,” Cole said, shaking his head.
            “Bullshit! I bet you haven’t got the balls to talk to her.”
            “Graham, I’m not going down this path.”
            “Where’s your pair, mate? Strap ‘em on tight, you’re going in.”
            “It’s not going—”
            “Oh, it’s going to work. Do you want Jimmy taking shots at that?”
            “Christ, she is a human being!”
            “Well, you want that caveman—”
            “God no!”
            “Then go over! I dare you.” Cole shook his head. “Double dare!”
            “Graham,” Cole sighed, “no.”
            Graham cracked his neck and knuckles for a title fight. “Right, physical challenge—”
            “Whoa, wait!” Cole lifted and swigged his beer to one quarter.
            “Mate, you’re not wrestling crocs! Dutch courage is for karaoke.”
            Cole wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Look, I’ll go, alright? Just—just don’t tell Jimmy.”
            “He’s looking for free spins tonight, Cole. He's not going to care.”
            “Can you just keep him in the gaming lounge? I don’t want him rocking back up here and trashing everything.”
            “Mate, relax! C’mon, I dared you, you gotta go through!”
            “Yeah, fine,” Cole muttered.
            “Happy trails!”
            Left to feel like a dickhead, Cole thought about his first move when an immaculately collared man approached the woman’s table. His heart froze, vapid jealousy served up on a bed of a punch to the guts. Seeking a curse to invoke, the woman kept texting, withdrawing imperceptibly.
            The man sneered and moved way, the woman glancing foully at his back. Returning to her phone, Cole smugly watched his pointy shoed, slicked haired enemy retreat. Yeah, fuck off back to your sales pitch, he flared, quickly shaking his vindictiveness off.
            Focusing, he saw the woman pause to read a message, laughing before she replied. “Good conversation,” he said—the ultimate opening, he smiled. Sucking up his pride, he purposefully crossed the floor.
            Gut emptied, his heart thrummed viciously. Sweat beading, Cole wiped his clammy palms on his jeans, taking a shaky breath as he crossed the point of no return and coasted, disembodied, the rest of the way
            He arrived at her table, nerves in a knot. Forcing it before things got awkward, he asked “Is that an interesting conversation you’re having?”
            Time froze. Sudden agony was served on a bed of, “Come to Butthead.” Taking forever, the women stopped mid text, Cole surprised when she turned towards him and caught his gaze, her eyes and face brightening as she asked, “Sorry?”
            The gears halted, backtracked, rolled on. “Is that an interesting conversation you’re having?”
            “Maybe,” she said, glancing at her iPhone. “What’s the difference?”
            Cole picked his words. “Well, if it’s an interesting conversation, I’d ask if could interrupt you from it.”
            The woman mulled on his answer. “And if it’s a boring conversation?”
            “I’d ask if I could save you from it.”
            “Hmm.” The woman sighed and looked away.
            “But since that doesn’t grab you, how about a compliment or a lame pick up line?”
            She hissed coolly through her teeth, and asked sidelong, “Such as?”
            “It’s cute how you tuck your hair behind your ears, but I like how it frames your face.”
            “Whoa!” She looked at him strangely—then grinned brightly. “Have you been watching me?”
            “Yeah, from the table over there,” he indicated. “Sorry, but my mate caught me staring at you.”
            “Really?” Cole nodded sheepishly. “What about the pick up line?”
            “You might not get it.”
            She folded her hands beneath her chin. “Try me.”
            Cole racked his brain, and like Gozer’s Destructor, it just popped in there. “Are you an adventurer like myself? Because I just took an arrow to the knee,” he said with a hopeful smile, the crowd booing loudly.
            Her eyes blank, the woman shook her head. “Yeah, I don’t get it.”
            “It’s a pathetic Skyrim joke,” he said. “In this game I play, there’s whole bunch of town guards who got shot in the knee by arrows.”
            “It’s not much of a joke if you have to explain the punch line.”
            “Well it plays to my interests. At least you know I’m a bit of a gamer.” She raised a dubious eyebrow. Think, you’re losing her! “But, yeah, fair point: the peril of real life is that there’s no save point to go back on.”
            She frowned deeply. “No save point?”
            Hope was rekindled. “Yeah. I can’t just reload and get it right by asking if you’re tired, because you’re running through my mind right now.”
            The woman leaned back with half a smile, clicking her iPhone off and turning her right shoulder towards him. “That’s more like it!”
            Okay, stay on target. Loosen up, but stay on target! “Yeah, better,” Cole agreed.
            She bit her lip. “I’m guessing you’re not here to pass the time?”
            “No, um.” He held up a hand, swallowed his courage. “Sorry. I rarely chat up girls in bars—”
            “So what brought you over here, then?”
            “Well, truth be told,” he said—don’t say it, he thought—no, I can work it, he reasoned, “and risky as it sounds, my mate dared me to come over.”
            The woman paused, all but unimpressed. “You got dared—wait,” she rambled. “Just dared, or double dared?”
            “In all, brutal honesty—”
            “It took you a physical challenge to come over here?!” She blinked and bit an uncertain lip, the magic lost.
            Cole held up a restraining hand “I know what you’re thinking, ‘needed a dare to come over here, physical challenge, what the hell?’ Something along those lines?”
            “You catch on quick,” she smirked, and turned away.
            You’ve gone from a royal flush to the fucking cesspit. Cole shook his head, searching quickly for an answer. Looking back at the table he had left, hoping he was not wasting time, he remembered everything that had stopped him coming over in the first place.
            “And you’d be right. But even if I was tipped out of my chair, I’ve challenged myself and my fears to come and ask if I could get your next drink,” Cole smiled. “And I don’t care if you say no, because now I won’t spend my night wondering what might or might not have been.”
            The woman took his words. Moreover, she looked sidelong at him, then quickly up and down. “You’re not giving up, are you?” she posed rhetorically.
            “Nope,” Cole grinned brightly.
            She looked away, biting her lips again, then back fully. “Can I be honest?”
            The woman smiled kindly. “You’ve given me two good pickup lines, a lame one, a worse one, sweetened it with a compliment and topped it off with some honesty—even if you blurted it out.”
            “I agree, not my best move.”
            “Well, I’ll give you points for boldness,” she chuckled, then ducked her head shyly, “but you really had me with your eyes.” She met his gaze. “And, um, that’s—I don’t know, but I wanted to see what you had, and, well, sorry—” And shook her head, lost for words and thought.
            Cole nodded. “It’s okay, I get it—”
            “No, you don’t.” She turned towards him and parted her arms, left wrist falling to the table and right hand falling atop her thigh. Her legs moved languidly between them, closed, the right knee protectively forward. “I’m sorry for being difficult, but I didn’t want you to stop.”
            Her words sank in, Cole smiling and beginning to laugh. “Well, you’re something,” he said brightly. “I thought I was toast with the game reference.”
            “Then you used your save point,” she grinned, flicking her hair and leaning forward. Cole instinctively pulled his stomach in, planted his fists on his hips and widened his arms out. Seeing it, the woman gave him the face all men trying to pick up dreamed of and asked, “What’s your name?”
            Oh, shit, you are the man! “It’s Cole Brodas,” he smiled.
            She looked briefly away. “Cole—Brodas?” she checked. He nodded. She frowned, warmly perplexed. “Is that from anywhere in particular?
            Cole shrugged. “I seriously haven’t looked into it. As far as I know, it just is,” he said. “And you are?”
            “Oh,” the woman smiled, remembering the exchange she was in. “I’m Jane.”
            “Jane,” he nodded. “No surname?”
            “Not at the moment,” Jane said evasively.
            “Fair enough,” Cole smiled. “Can I get you another drink?”
            Jane drew her lips to the right. “I don’t like guys buying my drinks.”
            The taciturn bent surprised Cole. Unfazed, he asked, “And what if you accompanied me to the bar, and carried your own drink?”
            “I could lose this table.”
            “I’m sure we could find an alternative.”
            “Looks like you thought of everything,” she said, still hesitant.
            “I know what you’re worried about over the drink, and we’ll definitely risk losing the table, but I’d be honoured if you joined me.”
            Jane’s eyebrows shot up. “And a charming gentleman to boot!” she said, impressed enough to bite her lips. “That’d be very nice indeed.”
            Cole sighed and rolled his eyes playfully. “You know you’re making me pull out all the stops, right?”
            “I know,” she smiled and winked.
            Cole pursed his lips. “Not just plain Jane.”
            “Not at all,” Jane said with a slightly suggestive look.
            Cole smiled winningly back. “I like that.” Jane bit her lip, leaning forward and touching her neck, briefly picking the collar of her blouse. She smiled again, Cole enjoying the way her face moved. “Shall we hit the bar?”
            “Of course!”
            Shoulders steady, Jane slid demurely off the stool. Cole stood back and let her go first, her lips firmed in worry of him checking her out as she passed, but all Cole cared for was the caress of her perfume, floral, sweet, not overdone. He savoured it, devoured it, wanted more. Hell yeah!
            Jane looked back over her left shoulder, finding his eyes level with hers. Unsure his gaze had flicked to her backside, respect quelled her anxiety, as they joined the crowd at the bar.
            Cole leant close to her ear. “What are you having?” he asked.
            Jane turned partly to him. “What are you having?”
            “I’m on Heineken, but not looking to have too many.”
            “Careful drinker?”
            “Pretty much,” he smiled. “Anyway I was only staying for a couple of hours. I’ve got a bit of a long way to get home.”
            “Oh!” Jane scratched her neck. “So you’re leaving at what, ten?”
            “Probably nine-thirty.”
            “Pretty early.” Cole shrugged. “Well, I’m meeting, um, friends later.”
            “Girl’s night out?”
            “Ah—yeah, just girl’s night.”
            “That’s plenty of time to talk. So what can I warm you up with?”
            “Just a vodka lemonade, thanks.”
            A man at the bar turned triumphantly around, the pair separating for him to weave carefully between them with his tray of drinks. Taking his place at the bar, they waited for the bartender to return.
            “You want to talk for all that time?” Jane asked to re-break the ice. “What about your friends?”
            Cole shrugged. “Down on the pokies. They don’t do anything for me.”
            Jane nodded. “Anyway, there’s bound to be another trip to the bar?”
            “Most certainly,” he grinned and winked.
            The bartender materialised, asking Jane what she wanted. Cole leaned in and said, “A vodka lemonade in a tall glass for my companion,” Jane impressed by his manner and memory. “And a Heineken for me, thanks.”
            “No problem,” the bartender nodded. “A slice of lemon for the vodka?”
            Cole went to answer, then deferred to Jane. “No thanks,” she said.
            “Coming up.”
            The bartender took a tall glass and a bottle of Smirnoff, pouring first then scooping in the ice. Waiting, Cole shifted closer to Jane. Sensing his imperceptible move, she tipped her head to the side, seeing him raise his eyebrows at her through the corner of her eyes. Enticed, she smiled, her lips briefly and subtly mimicking a kiss.
            Cole froze at her gaze, phenylethylamine shovelling dopamine and norepinephrine onto his emotional fire, an army of goose bumps storming his arms. His right arm dropping, he shifted a fraction closer to Jane.
            The drinks were served, a straw Jane’s. “Nine dollars, thanks.”
            Cole took his wallet from his front right pocket and passed over a red twenty-dollar note. The bartender rang up the drinks, returning a blue, ten-dollar note and a dollar coin on a plate. Cole took the note and pushed the plate back, the bartender thanking them before they turned away.
            Cole let Jane go first again, returning to her side to find their  table taken by two lanky lads in tight, black jeans and punk tee shirts, their female friend in a thin, quasi-flannelette jacket. Doubting the trio were old enough to know the Ramones or the Sex Pistols, he looked for an alternative.
            “Here,” he said, leading her to the sliver of bar top next to the bar entrance. Smug in his triumph, he offered his glass and said, “Well, cheers!”
            “Cheers, indeed,” Jane grinned, clinking glasses with him and taking the first sip together. “So, what do you do for a living, Cole?”
            “I’m accounts admin, more on the processing side but I run a mean audit. Boring as, but it keeps me busy,” he said, earning a familiar nod. “What about you?”
            Jane took a sip. “I’m P.A. to the CFO. I’m in multinational corporate finance—well, Australia, New Zealand, but we’re going into Asia Pacific.”
            “Nice! Good money?”
            “It pays the bills and keeps me entertained,” she said, with a face that read, I’m unappreciated and overdue a pay rise “I do a good job, but my boss—” She rolled her eyes and made a yuerck face for good measure.
            “He’s not a sleaze, is he?”
            “I wish!” She shook her head. “Nah, he’s just a spoilt little so-and-so.”
            “Spoiled like what? John McEnroe, or Mr. Darcy’s poodle?”
            “Like John—like—what?” she tried, lost in a fit of laughter. Keep it up, mate, Cole chuckled, watching Jane fail at composing herself, covering her face and wiping her tears until her giggles died away.
            Clutching her stomach, Jane cried, “God, now I’m going to picture a yapping poodle when he goes off—oh, shit!” and broke into fresh throes.
            “Careful, you’ll fall over.”
            She got it under control, turning to Cole and tucking her hair behind both ears at the same time. Left hand dropping, she ran her right fingers down the side of her neck, arm covering her chest as she found the top collar of her blouse and drew it slightly out and down.
            Cole drank her in, taking a mouthful of beer and turning to mostly face her. Jane reacted, the pair leaving themselves just open enough to permit an escape. “So, where are you from? You live close to the city?”
            “I’m in Annandale.”
            “Cool. Near the Uni, Parramatta Road way? Or closer to Rozelle Bay
            “Northern end.”
            “Born and raised?”
            “We, ah, moved there from Haberfield.”
            “Just the one move?” She nodded. “I made a couple myself.” The moment unanswered, Cole quickly asked, “You take the light rail to work?”
            Jane fixed him with a mocking glare. “Who says I work in the city?”
            “Do you?”
            “Yeah,” she admitted. “But at least once a week I ride my bike, as long as the weather’s okay.”
            “Okay.” Trying not to imagine Jane in skin tight Lycra, he imagined her in skin tight Lycra. “Like, serious?”
            “Just to stay slightly fit. I don’t do the fancy pants or bullet helmets. And you?”
            “Oh, I’m, ah, down in Liverpool.”
            “Long way,” she said, understanding. “For the affordable rent?”
            “Not really, I get by. I did have a flatmate, but it didn’t work out.”
            “He too much of a hassle?”
            Cole looked away. “She,” he corrected. “We got along, but it was awkward. I sort of walked in on her twice.”
            “Sort of?”
            “The first time was at night, I accidentally copped a feel trying to get into the bathroom. Second time I heard this grinding noise, I’m thinking ‘What the hell is that?’ and just burst into her room.”
            “Oh, God no!”
            “Pretty much!” he admitted. “The poor girl screamed and rushed to cover up, while the, ah, the rabbit just went full tilt on the floor. It took a fair bit of scotch to cool it down and we didn’t talk for a week,”
            “You never made any moves on her?”
            “I thought about it, but I didn’t want to be a jerk, and yeah, after that there was no hope. In the end, she was just a Mister Walker deal.”
            “Who’s Mister Walker?”
            “‘For The Ghost Who Walks.’ From The Phantom.”
            Jane drank more vodka and lemonade, Cole enjoying some of his beer. “Sorry, Cole, I need the girl’s room. Can I trust you to watch my drink?”
            “Of course you can.”
            “I’ll be back in a bit.”
            “Or a bit of a line up,” he said knowingly.
            Jane smiled, chuckled, her eyes twinkling. “See you soon.”
            Cole smiled back, Jane biting her lip and turning for the bathroom. Watching her back, Cole contemplated when to ask for her number.


© Copyright 2016-17 Trent Michael Shannon
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