A few weeks ago, my writers group starting offering prompts as a way to drive creativity and share stories related to a common theme. Basically, we pick a topic to write about, then a few words to integrate into the story. For the most recent prompt, we choose the topic of travel and/or Covid, as well as the words “shot” and “octogenarian.” You guessed it, that last word was my suggestion :P.
Given that I helped craft the prompt, I was quite excited to take a stab at it. Below is the short story I wrote based on the prompt. Ideally, it’s funny, and entertaining, with just the right amount of silliness.
TAKING HER SHOT, by R. SCOTT BOYER
The shot glass sat untouched on the bar in front of Betty. Moisture dripped down the sides, condensing into a tiny pool around the base. The octogenarian looked at the bartender, a twenty-something year old hipster with a man bun and a tribal tattoo on his right bicep.
“I don’t want the shot,” Betty complained.
The barkeep gave her a confused stare. “Then why’d you order it?”
“Not that shot, the other shot.” Betty raised a hand to her arm and mimed an injection.
“Ahh, Covid!” said the bartender, as if speaking to the elderly was a foreign language and he’ just discovered the Rosetta Stone.
“Yeah, my cousin got the shot and got cancer two weeks later.” He leaned over the bar, delivering this news in a conspiratorial tone, as if revealing a government plot, or proving the existence of aliens.
Betty’s eyesbrows shot up. “Wait, you’re telling me the vaccine gave your cousin cancer.”
The barkeep pushed himself upright. “Naw, he works in construction… pulling out asbestos and stuff. Got into his lungs.”
Betty sighed, relieved for the cousin she’d never met. “Well, they won’t let me fly without it,” she sighed.
“Asbestos? That’s strange…”
“The vaccine,” replied Betty, perhaps a bit too sharply. The barkeep might be soft on the eyes but the lights behind his were fairly dim.
“Riight,” said the bartender, his face illuminating with epiphany once again. “So whatcha gonna do?”
“My granddaughter is graduating from college. I wasn’t around for any of the others. Guess I only get one shot at it now.”
“The vaccine?” asked the barkeep, once again lost in the subtle terrain of their casual conversation.
“Attending the graduation,” replied Betty. She said it slowly, giving the barkeep time to absorb this obvious, but apparently elusive piece of information.
“Riight,” he said again. He faced scrunched up in concentration. “Cause those only come along like every four years or so.”
“Riiight,” parroted Betty. “But this is college… so it’s the last one unless she goes on to med school, or gets her master’s or something.”
Once again, she say the millennials’ face storm over in concentration as he tried to come up with a suitable response. Before he had a chance, Betty scooped up her glass from the counter and upended it.
“Another shot!” she declared enthusiastically.
The barkeep paused for only a moment this time before pointing a pistol finger at her. “You’re talking about the whiskey!”
“Make it moist and make it a double!” said Betty. The way she figured it, being an octogenarian had its advantages, like not having to worry about cirrhosis of the liver. If it wasn’t already winning the race of stuff trying to kill her, it was far too late for it to catch up now.
Betty slid the empty shot glass towards the barkeep and left her hand there, a miniature airplane hangar waiting for its next arrival. “Can I ask you something?” she asked.
“Shoot,” said the barkeep.
“Are you vaccinated?”
The barkeep pointed to a tiny discoloration hidden beneath his tribal tattoos. “See that scar? Got shot back in ’07.”
Betty pulled down the coke-bottle glasses perched atop her blue wig and leaned over the bar. Despite squinting, she could barely make out the alleged scar.
“Were you in the military?” she asked, searching for the connection.
“Naw, BB gun from my neighbor. Didn’t like my dog barking all night.”
“And?” said Betty, still waiting for the brain trains to hitch up.
The barkeep’s pale blues eyes went distant before snapping into focus. “And I don’t let nobody tell me what to do!”
Betty mumbled under her breathe, “apparently you prefer to be shot instead.”
“Besides,” said the oblivious barkeep. “I figure alcohol is toxic, right? So as long as I drink regularly, it kills all the germs!”
Betty raised her fresh shot to her lips. “Amen to that!” She threw back her head, letting the fiery liquid scorch the moist palette of her throat before dropping into the cauldron of a digestive system that struggled nowadays with a glass of milk. No doubt, she’d pay for this later.
Reaching into her purse, she slapped a stack of bills on the table and stood up. “Well, I’m off!”
The barkeep beamed at her. “To take your shot?”
Betty nodded back. “You betcha!”
“Wait… with the graduation, or the vaccine?”
Just to fuck with him, Betty strode halfway to the door before turning to reply. “You’ll figure it out eventually.”