The martini was sloshy and cold and essentially perfect.
Perhaps having three olives was overkill when two would have been sufficient, but the bartender, Daisy, was only a week removed from bartending school and hadn’t yet realized she’d leveled up. She was still using extra garnishes to mask her relative inexperience. Yet while her over-the-counter alchemy had almost spontaneously transitioned into top-notch, her logistical skills were still underpracticed; she’d accidentally read the order ticket twice and made this second, near-impeccable drink — subtly yet immeasurably superior to the one that preceded it — for nobody.
Anne, a professional second-guesser who’d knocked off work early after a rough day, was the one who’d ordered the martini. She would have preferred to sit at the bar, rather than get table service near the noisy game annex. However, the establishment’s espresso machine, a two-boiler La Marzocco, had busted a gasket. The bar was dripping with still-scalding water when the coffee machine repair guy shooed Anne away. It was the cleanest the bar had been in years.
The first incarnation of Anne’s order was delivered by a waiter whose name was “Dante,” yet everyone called him “Dane” due to the owner’s misreading of his initial application. It didn’t bother him; Dante thought of “Dane” as an alter-ego. “Dane the Superwaiter” picked up the drink from the bar faster than a breaking cue ball, and brought it to Anne with the grace and efficiency of a dart achieving bullseye.
Anne just stared at it, clouds swirling on a crystalline surface, and began to relive what started as a normal day, a good day. She started to replay and second-guess her responses from the management meeting, but, with a sharp shake of her head, stopped herself. She was proving their point.
By the time she decided to take a sip, Daisy’s duplication rested on the rubber green bar mat, waiting for a server who would never come. The difference between the two drinks was palpable and tragic; Anne sipped at the drink in front of her and felt a haunting chill. There was nothing wrong with it — it was a good martini, just slightly overbalanced with vermouth. But a nexus of possibilities surrounded both the drink at her lips and its bar-abandoned twin. Anne had a ghostly inkling that she was missing something spectacular. If Superwaiter had been less swift and grabbed that second one, or if Daisy’s skill set had magically clicked only minutes earlier, then Anne might be having a transcendent moment where she could truly throw off the shackles of a damned awful day.
Instead, Anne chewed an olive off of the jagged plastic toothpick and watched the coffee machine repair guy poke and prod the espresso machine.
“Making sure people can get their coffee,” she murmured. “Honest, important work. Tangible results.”
But his face was furrowed, and Anne, ever analytical, also noted that his teeth were perfectly white, rather than the mostly yellow of most chronic coffee drinkers (or, as was common in her field, the ultra-bright white of those who overcompensated for staining). She left two $20 bills on the table, underneath the half-full drink, gathered her coat and briefcase, and went to catch her train.