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Last Call · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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One for the Road
“Last selections, gentlemen,” came the call from behind the counter, as the clock flashed quarter to midnight. Orders came from around the noisy room. Bloody Mary, Black Russian, Irish Red…

“Smoky Widow,” I called out to the waiter. My buddy next to me was silent. “Not getting one for the road, Marv?” I asked.

“I think I’ve had enough, Joe,” he said with a little wink. “I’ll sit this round out.”

“Suit yourself,” I said. I leaned back in my chair with a sigh, and tried to remember the last thing we’d been talking about. “You know, I haven’t seen Stu around for a bit.”

“Stu? Stu got married.”

“No shit? First I heard of it. That musta been awful quick. He knock her up or something?”

“Nah. He didn’t look like he was in a panic, ya know? He just said that time is marching on.”

“That it is, that it is…” I sighed. I looked up at the thinning crowd, hoping my order would be on the way soon. The guys were mostly the same, familiar faces wherever I looked, but something nagged at me.

“Sometimes they just stop coming, you know?” said Marv, chiming in on my thoughts. “Get married, get religion, go on the wagon, get hit by a bus, haven’t got as much pep as they usedta. Just drifting away.”

I nodded. “Yeah. But, you notice? The old faces aren’t being replaced so much by young faces anymore. They’re not getting out so much nowadays. Whatever kind of bend they’re getting on, they’re doing it in private, in their rooms with their VR gear and sims.”

“I can understand some of that,” said Marv. “It’s hard when you go home and, well, there isn’t much waiting for you there. It’s like your apartment is a place where you grab a bite and sleep and wait to go back to work. Who’s got time to get out to the bar, or go dancing, or start a family?”

“I know that feeling, believe me. They could at least get outside once in a while, though.” I shook my head, looked at the clock, then glanced around the room for a sign of the waiter. “It can’t be healthy just lying on a couch or in one of those suspension tanks, with a scanner on your head and those implants that go in your eyes and those electrodes that keep your muscles from shriveling up, with an IV in your arm or tube of protein paste down your throat. You gotta get out, and meet people. There’s a whole big world fulla things going on, right? You’ve got one life, might as well go take part in it all, keep it moving along. Do something physical, something with meaning out here in the real world.”

Marv gave me a funny look. “I remember Stu talking like that. I think that’s what he was after, taking a place in the world, being a piece of it, doing his part. I remember now, he was saying that, if you think of all your ancestors, whatever they all did with their lives, every single one of them had time to make a kid, and if you don’t do it yourself, you’re breaking a chain, a winning streak that goes back thousands of years, and that’s gotta be worth some kinda bad luck…”

“Jeez, Marv. Way to put pressure on a guy, huh?” He looked somber for a moment, watching my face, then I laughed and gave him a little pat on the shoulder. “Who’s got time to worry about luck? I just take it as it comes, man. No one owes me, I don’t owe anyone, and I just do what I gotta do, and come here to relax. I have no regrets, buddy, don’t worry.”

I didn’t hear his reply, for the last round of orders was finally coming out. They all headed for the guys who had ordered them, and one, the one, that special one, she was coming straight for me. You couldn’t hear her walk; the motors were very quiet nowadays and her balance was inhumanly perfect, like her skin and her shape and that sway in her hips. As she looked me in the eyes with that smoky look and confident smile, my heart leaped in my chest and for a moment the years reeled back and I felt like a king of the jungle, like a sultan in his harem, like I was eighteen again.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Baal Bunny
I'm afraid I don't understand the message. I can tell there is one, but it's lost on me.

My best guess is that you're saying that although the young kids are wasting their time with improved technology, it's not like the other generations didn't have their own ways to waste time. But then, I agree with the protagonist about getting out of the house and meeting people, though I wouldn't say that going to a futuristic bar and getting a quarter-chub from a robot waitress counts.

Hang on hang on... There are drinks involved right? He didn't order the robot itself? All the drinking colloquialisms are used without adjustment (one for the road, I've had enough, etc.), and a Smoky Widow sure sounds like a drink to me. Did he actually order a sex doll? Why would you do something like that with a buddy????

Your story has befuddled me, author. I'm curious if you or other readers can clear things up for me.

And by the way, the bit where the protagonist lists all of the things off that the young people are doing at home with the electrodes and the iv and everything else, came off contrived. I can tell he's talking to me. I feel there are more immersive ways to get this information out.

But it was still a well written story, if a little hard to follow. Good luck in the contest!
#2 · 3
I'll give you a longer review tomorrow, but right now I wanted to share this before calling it a night.

Guy walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under arm. Says to the bartender: "I'll take a beer, and one for the road."
#3 ·
I agree the message is pretty much confused here. Okay, there’s a good subversion involving booze and robotic dolls, if I get you correctly. So I what I think is going on here is two old-timers who are regulars of this bar (including the robot girls which seem to be “served” in that place) are complaining because the new generation prefers using VR sets and various devices (sounds like Matrix-like to me) and stays at home rather than socialising.

So it’s a re-take on the common discourse upbraiding the youth for spending too much time in front of screen and living a virtual life rather than a normal one. Nods.

It doesn’t shoot for the starts but it’s rather frisky and well written, easy and pleasing to read. Good job for that.
#4 · 2

I didn't get what was happening till reading >>Miller Minus's comment, and then I found myself wondering what the folks in this noisy room had been doing before the "last call" that opens the story. If it's been a human/robot orgy, I'd like some description of the scents that must be lingering in the air--or conversely, what aromas the management pumps into the room to counteract said scents--some mention of the various aches and pains Joe's starting to feel that he didn't used to, things like that. It's a fun idea, author, and I think with more details--more clues, if you will--it could become something with a nice little wallop.

#5 ·
Midnight's pretty early for a bar to close. This whole conversation just strikes me as generic. Which, y'know, is probably realistic for a bar, but not entertaining. They're just saying common things about getting older and damn kids and such.

Okay, this description makes it sound like much more serious VR. I can't tell if he's exaggerating or if this is kind of an SAO setup.

I don't at all get what happened at the end. This lady is his order, yes, but is she just there to spend time with him at the table? Is she a prostitute? Is she going home with him? It seems odd to me that if everyone else ordered drinks, nobody reacted to his order. Is this sometheing he does so regularly that it doesn't surprise them anymore? It'd have to be rather expensive. Unless... I guess they all ordered women.

They're not really doing anything better than the damn VR kids. I mean, he's not off in some pretend world, but it's not any more real. Maybe you're just highlighting his hypocrisy? If so, it doesn't make a clear point of it.

It's more like "oh hey, that was unexpected" than there actually being a meaning to it. I'm not sure what message I'm supposed to take away from this, but the sentence-level writing was good.

I guessed devas just based on the rough idea that he was capable of the quality I saw here.