(Flash fiction from SkyFireFox author Alyce Campbell. Copyright © 2017 by Alyce Rita Campbell All Rights Reserved. Candor Tasmanian Devil is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual incidents or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)
I can’t say I didn’t have doubts, after letting my betrothed, Lou, strong-arm me into buying the empty warehouse balanced on the edge of Candor Canyon. And I mean that literally—he won the arm-wrestling match that decided what we would do with our severance pay from The Service. At least I won the coin toss and got to name the place. I chose to honor Nero, my first, my only, and now my sadly long-dead, foster pet.
Lou guffawed. “Emma, calling our speakeasy The Tasmanian Devil is just inviting trouble, but I admit it suits you. Those little critters are tetchy and can fly into a maniacal rage when facing a predator or fighting with a mate!” He laughed again, giving me a hug.
I almost spat out a snarky retort but bit my tongue so as not to prove his point. Instead I very gently replied, “Lou, that’s ‘when fighting FOR a mate’, and I have never been maniacal. Besides, it’s catchy.”
So after a few months of exhausting grunt-work, we launched, and two buddies still in The Service, Milo and Elway, drove up at noon and started guzzling my homemade whiskey. I set out dried blueberries mixed with some candied mint as a snack. At three, they enthusiastically clapped when Eva, our belly dancer, started swaying to Lou’s jazzy sax. For an hour, they sat blissfully ogling her strategically placed flower-petal tattoos, visible under her sheer veils.
But then I served the fish and chips (fish from the farm in our pond out back, potatoes and lemons from the greenhouse). Milo took one bite and glared at his plate through boozy bloodshot eyes. He growled, “Emma, this belongs in the compost.”
I should have booted him out, as he was conspicuously drunk, the thin air amplifying his buzz. But being ex-Service myself, I knew homesickness when I saw it.
“Milo, don’t give me flak. I don’t have a long menu…costs being what they are…so it’s that or beansprout salad.”
Milo snarled, “Tasmanian Devil…even that scavenger wouldn’t eat this grub!”
He stood and snatched up the plate as if to throw it to the floor.
Now I could not abide waste. Every edible ounce was a little victory in the unrelenting struggle to make our freehold profitable. Whether we would succeed or leave with our tails between our legs was still to be determined. I jumped up and grabbed his hand. Lou jumped up and grabbed my hand. We scuffled for a few seconds but, in the end, all that got spilled were the blueberries, which formed a purple mass by Milo’s glass of booze.
Milo’s pique had died, replaced by acute embarrassment.
Then he scooped up the berries, dumped them into his glass, and took a swallow.
I watched as surprised delight flooded his face.
“That’s damn good!”
He handed me the glass and I took a sip. The mingling of blueberry, mint and rye reminded me of lazy summers in my native Raleigh but I was still able to smell the distinct aromas of grain grown on local soil.
The drink needed a little bite so I squeezed lemon juice into the glass and swirled. I handed the glass to Lou.
“Damn good,” was all he said after he took his sip.
A knowing look passed between us.
I smiled: “So I think we do need to change the name of this speakeasy, but I still can honor Nero. I christen this drink the Candor Tasmanian Devil.
And that’s the story of the first cocktail invented on the planet Mars.