(Dear interested reader, remember, these are my first drafts for the novel – the entire book was 25 chapters – it’s been sent to the professional editors, so this version has some flaws…)
“I didn’t see that coming,” I said. It had been a late Saturday evening toward the end of June. I quickly walked inside The Moon after I scooted just past the hostess Britany who had been inundated with guests crowded in near her podium. I luckily found an unoccupied stool at the bar near the Guinness tap. “You all are seriously busy.”
“I know, it’s great,” Kate said. She wiped the sweat off her forehead with a wet rag. “Give me a second, kind of swamped.”
“No worries,” I said. I leaned onto the bar with my elbows. I was squeezed between others. I observed the unusually loud, colorful crowd that inhabited The Moon.
An older man was sitting next to me, he was enjoying a clear liquid beverage topped with green limb wedge. He was good-sized, with short salt and pepper hair, but he was meticulously dressed with razor sharp creased pants, and a multi-colored long-sleeved shirt.
“You’re not part of the team?” he said. He grinned over at me.
“Sorry,” I said.
“You’re not wearing any rainbow colors,” he said. He sounded just like his clothes, crisp and specific.
At that moment, I looked behind him at the back bar area, and I had realized most people nearby us were wearing some sort of rainbow shirt, or patch, or even a colorful rainbow colored tutu. I had seen those tutu’s earlier in the day.
“I’m not sure what to say,” I said. I looked down at my boring shirt and shorts, and black flip-flops. “I’m Rob.”
“Oh, Eddie,” Eddie said. He pushed his black framed glasses up the bridge of his nose. He grinned at me with perfect white teeth that were slightly askew. “My twin, Edwina works here, you know her?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. I nodded. “I sure do, really nice lady.”
“We are similar,” Eddie said. He twisted his head back over towards me. “But different, you know, well, maybe you don’t?”
“Am I that obvious?” I said.
“You’ll be fine, dear,” Eddie said. He patted me on the shoulder. “We aren’t contagious.”
“Sorry to ask a stupid question,” I said. “I’ve only been back to St. Pete for less than a year, what’s up?”
Eddie smirked back over at me as if I had told him I’d just invented the incandescent light-bulb.
“Oh, honey,” Eddie said. “It’s Pride day, didn’t you get it?”
“No,” I said. “I’ve been working over in downtown Tampa.”
“That explains it,” Eddie said. “Different world than St. Petersburg, but that’s not a bad thing.”
I sat up straight as Kate had quickly served me a fresh Guinness. It was not finished frothing, and the glass was caked with tan foam that had not been wiped off.
“Sorry,” Kate said. As she disappeared behind a dark column.
“No worries,” I said. I sat waiting for the light tan brown to evolve into a really dark red.
“Isn’t that filling?” Eddie said.
“No,” I said. “It’s actually low in alcohol, and calories, at least for beer, otherwise, I’d just drink water.”
We sat within the boisterous crowd, but as if a ship had suddenly been hit with a strong wave, several revelers swayed into us, pushing us up against the bar. But, I had expertly zen like gripped my Guinness until the brief squall had passed by us. Eddie had shoved his shoulders back up against them.
“He’s mine,” Eddie said. He smirked over at me from within the temporary human cave opening.
“I don’t think it’s ever been this crazy,” I said. I laughed. I sipped the Guinness.
“Oh, honey,” Eddie said. “Stay in St. Pete for a few more years, you’ll see.”
“You’ve been here a long time?” I said.
“Decades,” Eddie said. But then, Eddie’s smile faded. Perhaps age provided life experiences I thought, even if you do not want to accept the experience. But, Eddie’s eyes told me there was someone else that had once been close to him that was no longer with the living.
“Your eyes tell me another story,” I said.
“You’re a kind man, divorced, right?” Eddie said. He grinned at me in an attempt to conceal the tears that had emerged.
“I guess I’m obvious,” I said.
“You’ll find a good girl, again,” Eddie said. “Someday, just be patient, my dear.”
“I’d like that, I guess my face has turned into a lost persons billboard,” I said. I nodded. I lifted the Guinness. “Cheers, to?”
“Daniel,” Eddie said. “His name was Daniel.”
“Sorry,” I said. “But cheers to Daniel, he’s not forgotten.”
“You’re sweet,” Eddie said. He dapped his eyes with a napkin.
“What happened to Daniel?” I said.
“Oh, nothing special,” Eddie said. He stared down at the tile floor. “He just got old, like me.”
“It’s hard to realize,” I said. “Getting to be old is a blessing, he must have been a good man.”
“He was,” Eddie said. He looked over a me. He touched my right forearm. “It’s strange to talk about him in the past tense, you know, it’s like time has stopped, and all.”
“How long ago?” I said. I sipped the Guinness.
“Oh, just last year,” Eddie said. “He died at home, prostate cancer, the hospice nurse was a angel. I can hear his voice, he sounded like a New England lobsterman, with a silver pony tail.”
“They are,” I said. “It sounds like he went peacefully?”
“He did, morphine’s a lovely thing,” Eddie said. He tried to laugh, but he coughed. “We lived in the same old bungalow, maybe a mile from here, or so, it was an easy walk today.”
“It’s a beautiful area,” I said. “Almost timeless, in a way.”
“Yes, it’s changed a lot,” Eddie said. “It’s gotten a bit fancy, when we first moved here, it was, shall I say, The Burg was then under appreciated.”
It was not lost on me the first time I had come to St. Petersburg, I thought, I was then a young man headed to the children’s hospital. I was like any ambitious person, full of useless information, but I lacked aged perspective. In time, I had learned perspective, and I hoped my information was useful.
“You live in one of those houses,” I said. I laughed. “With the preserved banner out front?”
Eddie sat back. He pointed at me.
“In fact, honey,” Eddie said. “I do, we spent years restoring our home, we earned that banner.”
“They are wonderful, no kidding,” I said. I smiled. “I bike passed them, I think they have a simple elegance to them, and with the old brick streets.”
“Someday soon,” Eddie said. He huffed. “I’ll be gone. I hope they just don’t bulldoze over our home, concrete the streets, and forget we even existed.”
“From the looks of this crowd,” I said. I chuckled. “I don’t think anybody will forget about downtown St. Petersburg.”
“Party’s are fun,” Eddie said. He pointed over at a young lady wearing a rainbow colored tutu. She was fit, and she appeared quite happy. “But those tutu’s, they mean something, in a way, they are for my, Daniel.”
I nodded over at Eddie. I thought he had appeared content. He had a peaceful demeanor about him that he would have accepted what ever would have happened next. It was an expression that his life mattered.
“I noted those colorful tutu’s,” I said. “I was walking back home, I was in your neighborhood.”
“Oh,” Eddie said. “It’s wonderful area to stroll, it’s nicely shaded, and all.”
“Yeah, it is,” I said. I gripped the Guinness. “But, I thought I had stumbled into the opening for Gladiators, you know the opening, the part were Russell Crow and his Roman army are running through a thick forest?”
“Oh yes,” Eddie said. He smirked. “I love savage movies.”
“Well, a woman appeared at the street corner wearing a rainbow tutu, on about 9th Avenue N,” I said. “She sort of had acted as the forward military scout, and then, another, and another, until a colorful tutu army had passed by me.”
Eddie leaned back, he rapidly had waved back over at me.
“Did you think there was a Cher concert in town?” Eddie said.
“Come to think of it,” I said. “Yeah, I thought I might need to hide behind a tree, for safety.”
“Oh, honey,” Eddie said. He gripped my right shoulder. “No need to hide in St. Pete, everybody’s safe here.”