Two friends sat on one side of a large round wooden table. One ignored his beer. The other finished number two.
“Those don’t drink themselves.”
“No they don’t. Sorry. Want it?” Carter picked it up and extended it to Martin.
“If I wanted your warm beer…”
“…I’d be in Richmond.”
Both laughed. Neither had intended to quote Seabrook–their dead friend.
“What the hell does that even mean?” Martin asked.
“I never knew. It was just something he said that day we met.” Carter swigged some of the Corona off the top. The lime juice puckered his chapped lips. He removed a tube of Carmex from his sport coat’s breast pocket. “What is it with New Mexico?”
“I guess it’s the elevation that dries everything out. Arid. That shit comes in a jar you know,” said Martin.
Carter ignored Martin, again. Martin was an old-school evangelist. In a business meeting Martin could be counted on to bring a notebook while the others carried laptops. He’d wear flannel instead of Gore-Tex. He’d picked Eske’s over Taos’ first sushi place for them to meet tonight when he knew Carter wanted to try Pescado Fresco over on the Plaza.
“It sounds like he was recycling an in-joke on us. But I didn’t know he had other friends,” Carter said.
“Ha. Seabrook made friends everywhere. He just made you feel like you were his only friend. Remember that time in Denver?”
“That big party on the Mall? What happened?”
“You came late to that?”
“Yeah, my plane was delayed so you guys made me take a bus in,” Carter grumbled.
Martin laughed and lifted his empty pint glass to a passing waitress for another.
“That’s not ours, dumbass.”
“She knows where they keep the beer, right?” Carter could only agree with Martin’s crude logic. “Anyway. That wasn’t supposed to be a party. That was just gonna be the three of us and some other dude. I don’t even think that guy showed.”
Martin’s third beer arrived. Carter declined another.
“No. We were just sitting there–musta been waiting on you–when some hot blonde asked if she could have our extra two chairs. Seabrook said something about sharing till we needed them back. Next thing I know the whole patio is one big love fest.”
Carter recalled the hot blonde. Just in his thirties it seemed he was still dating girls–this one was adult sexy. She didn’t have to flirt or be coy or dumb to attract men. Everything she said was funny in a sophisticated way. Except she alluded to Monty Python at one point. When Carter called her on it she brushed it aside. He could still recall the way her neck gracefully curved into her shoulder.
“I remember her. I thought she knew Seabrook.”
“No, man. He never met her till that night.”
A comfortably dressed older man tapped Carter on the shoulder. “Sorry, I was sitting at the table behind you guys. I overheard you talking about an old friend.” Martin started to respond, but the gentleman pressed on quickly. “I apologize, but did he pass away recently?”
Martin was blank faced with beginning anger. Carter nodded, “Yes. Why?”
“Tall man? My age? Ate constantly, but was always thin? From Northern California, but claimed LA as home?”
Carter nodded four more times for each.
“I think I knew your friend. My name is Bud Tillman. I live in Denver now, but I’m originally from Richmond.”
Word count: 547