A Glass of Port

NYC Midnight flash fiction, round three
genre: action / adventure location: the middle of the ocean object: gavel

A Glass of Port

On her fifth Porto night, Sylvie is at a bar called The Auction House overlooking the river Douro. Every table is fitted with granite gavels and wooden blocks for attracting the servers’ attention. Well into the evening, Sylvie hammers the block, “More port! A round for my friends!” Liz, a fellow Canadian, shakes her head. “C’mon Liz! Just say yes! It’s an adventure!” When the waiter brings the wine, Sylvie decides to buy a replica gavel for thirty euro. She holds her weighty souvenir aloft to be admired.
The table hosts tourists from America, Holland, Australia and some locals. Using Google Maps, they measure the distance between their homes though Google won’t measure across water. The American hollers, “Show me by boat for godssake! Show me the miles walking – I’m gonna walk on water!” and they all laugh.
Damari says with only a hint of Portuguese accent, “I don’t use this Google for my wayfinding. I need only the stars.”
“Stars?” blurts Sylvie. “I don’t remember what stars look like. In London, Dublin, Madrid and now Porto. The sky is lit, all night.”
Damari assures her, “The stars are there, beautiful. Come down river to the ocean in my boat. I’ll show you the stars.”
“Tonight?” breathes Sylvie.
“If you dare.”
Overhearing, Liz objects but Sylvie crows, “Say yes to life Liz! We’re adventuring!”
“To adventure!” calls Damari, pounding Sylvie’s gavel and ordering another round. After the final toasts, the group departs and Damari walks the women to their hotel, then waits outside.
While Sylvie changes shoes, Liz insists she share her location on Google Maps. “Download the map of Porto and the whole damned ocean. You have five hours Sylvie, then I’m sending help. I’m serious.” Liz and Sylvie both work with addicts. They understand risk prevention.
“Maps won’t work on the ocean!” protests Sylvie.
“GPS will. It’s all you need,” answers Liz, setting it up.
Sylvie takes Damari’s arm to traverse the slick, cobblestone decline past centuries-old churches and decoratively tiled, derelict houses. At the Douro, past the Rabelo boats with their barrels lies Damari’s cabin cruiser; he assists her aboard. Taking out sherry glasses, he decants the port.
Making small talk with flirtatious glances, Damari deftly manoeuvres the boat downriver. Sylvie notes the stern is covered with cushions and blankets. “Do you sleep out here?” she asks.
“Occasionally,” Damari replies. “There’s a cabin, but it’s mostly storage.” Sylvie moves to look. “No, stay here with me,” insists Damari. “It’s a mess under there.”
Once they reach the ocean, away from the lights of Porto, Damari kills the motor and they behold the stars – all the heavens revealed to them. Overwhelmed, Sylvie shivers; Damari wraps his arms around her.
Breaking their embrace too soon, Damari offers a refreshment. “More port,” he suggests, “or if you’d rather, perhaps cocaine?”
“What?!” she exclaims. “Damari. I’m an addictions counsellor. I’ve seen what drugs do. I would never risk that.”
“I had no idea of your noble profession,” he refills their glasses. “Please forgive my oversight.” He kisses her, instantly forgiven, and leads her to the comfortable warmth of the blankets. Their kisses intensify. Sylvie sighs thinking, “It’s an adventure” and succumbs to his seduction.
Some time later she is tracing waves on his chest, breathing his scent intermingled with that of the sea. He kisses her forehead, saying he needs to attend to the navigation. He rises, strides across the deck and returns with more wine. She thanks him and looks overboard. Ocean spray mists her face and she pulls back laughing, losing her grasp on her glass. It disappears into the waves.
Not wanting to disturb Damari, she quietly pours herself a fresh glass then reclines, regarding the constellations. Soon the rocking boat lulls her to sleep.
She’s awakened by his voice; he’s on the radio, “… few hours from the drop, fully loaded. Short ton of the purest shit you’ve never tried! Yeah, alone – I have this tourist for company but she won’t know. I gave her a sleeping concoction.” His laugh holds none of the charm she’d admired at The Auction House.
Sylvie figures if she pretends to be asleep she’ll be safe. But what if this cocaine is enroute to Canadian streets? Does it even matter? If it leaves this boat, it will destroy lives. She pulls out her phone and opens Google Maps. The screen is all ocean blue; her GPS dot in the middle.
Feigning drowsiness she murmurs, “It’s been almost five hours! Are we headed back?”
He turns quickly, obviously surprised to see her awake. Into the radio he says, “I have an issue, await my signal.” Then he turns to her, all charm. “Feeling rested, sleepyhead?” He crosses to the bed and kisses her. He’s attempted to drug her. He has a boatload of cocaine. Yet his lips are soft and warm. She sighs, yielding to his kiss; he chuckles. Pulling away with a shy smile, she returns her phone to her purse. Content, Damari turns to stand, “I better make sure this barge is headed for home.”
She forces a giggle in reply and pulls the gavel from her purse while his back is turned. Swinging it hard she makes contact with his head. The granite bounces off his skull, vibrating in her hand. Damari grunts, lurches forward and spins to see her kneeling naked on the cushions, brandishing the gavel. He lunges at her and Sylvie swings again, this time clocking his temple with all her might. The sound of bone and flesh giving way sickens her. The weapon slides from her hand and she watches Damari crumple to the ground, his eyes astonished, then angry, then finally closed.
Sylvie shakily pulls on her clothes, averting her eyes from the pooling blood. Sitting waiting, she ponders adventure. Sometimes saying yes to life, she realizes, means saying no to risk. Dawn breaks with welcome brilliance. Seeing a police boat’s flashing lights approach, Sylvie gives thanks for cautious girlfriends and GPS.

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