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Distilled Spirits: Ch. 1 — Sidney

July 22, 2013

Want to know what Distilled Spirits is?

Episode 1: “Distilled Spirits”



Like most Americans, Sidney wakes up early because he has to work.

Like many Americans, he only does this because he has to.

Like all people approaching 30, Sid is supposed to know where his life is going.

Like some people approaching 30, he’s stuck on what to have for dinner.

Deadlines and decisions.

High school existential problems that continue well past college graduation.

Sid wants to know many things, but what he doesn’t want to hear is that he isn’t very different than everyone  else.  And right now his employer is telling him that, in fewer words.


“It’s shit,” his boss said.  “It’s nothing new—nothing different than what’s been done.”

Sid had never heard his work described like that.

“You have until midnight to fix it.  Call me.”  His boss scanned the line of impatient customers that had formed.  “Now, welcome to Burger Palace.  How may I help you?”

Surveying the backlit menu above his boss’ register, Sid eyed the combos, weekly discounts, and deals that weren’t really deals.  He didn’t want anything.  He wasn’t hungry.

“Small fries.”

“For just fifty more cents—”

“Small,” Sid said, dropping exact change and taking his number.

The place was busy with an after work, after class, in need of terrible calories crowd.  There was nowhere to sit, and when one family finished another slipped into their seats.  A loosened-tie suit stood up from the counter and a student smoothly replaced him, probably discussed in the morning meeting.

Five hours.  Five hours until Sid’s boss clocked out of his day job and expected a new line.

A couple waited beside Sid for their order.  A couple, or two friends with one wanting more—lingering eye contact, a touch on the arm, stuck smile at a joke that wasn’t very funny.

“That wasn’t very funny,” the man said.

“I know,” the woman said, “I just can’t stop thinking about my promotion.”

“Head of Sales, right?”

“Yes,” she said.  “In six months I could be Director of Sales.”

Sid crumpled his receipt and left Burger Palace.

The apartment he shared with Cait was four blocks away, enough time to finish an order of small fries, a bottle of beer, or a cigarette, but never all three. Past liquor stores, laundromats, and only one Mexican-Thai fusion joint—his neighborhood was low on the list to be gentrified, still hosting a few genuinely, not-playing-around homeless people.

But just a few, and Crazy Man Joe was the most interesting one he had met so far.

Sid climbed his building’s steps without checking to see if the elevator was fixed and tried to unlock the door to his 4th floor apartment.

“Hello?” he called into his own home when his door just swung open.  “Cait, you okay?”

The apartment smelled like Jamaican spice, chili powder, and chicken.  Like cooking—real cooking, not microwave pizza and burned waffles.

“Geno, is that you?” Sid tried again.

“Come in—dinner’s up in ten minutes.”  Geno.  One of many people who didn’t live in the apartment.

Sid closed the door and dropped his leather briefcase.  It was an empty briefcase, but it gave him authority when he had to meet people.

“Caitlyn left it unlocked,” Geno explained in between microwave beeps.  The kitchen sizzled and smoked and so did the dining and living room as only a couch divided them.  “She’s gone, by the way.”

“Gone?” Sid reached for the doorknob.  “What—which hospital?”

“No, I mean gone.”  Geno turned the stove down and looked over his shoulder.  “She and her boyfriend are passed out in her room.  Out for the last two hours.”

Sid flopped onto the couch that faced the entertainment set.  He watched the half-dozen different fish go about their important duties.  Sometimes there were seven, other times five, and one time Sid swore he saw eight—separated on either side like it was some kind of soccer scrimmage.  But most of that night with Cait was fuzzy.

Most people would call the entertainment set a fish tank.

“Wait,” Sid said, “you’ve been here for two hours?  Don’t you have like five jobs?”

“Three hours.  You shoulda seen Caitlyn and him.  They hit it pretty hard.”  Geno opened a cupboard and another, taking out some plates.  “Your mail’s on the table.”

“Where the shit is Glenn, anyway?” Sid muttered.  “Why are you here?”

“He’s in South America for a bit and I wanted to make chicken tacos.  My place is too quiet.”

“Wanna swap apartments?” Sid reached for the dimmer switch and the fish tank backlight faded to a more subtle blue.

“Where’s your furikake?” Geno asked.  The sizzling had stopped.

“Next to the fish food.”  Sid followed the only goldfish as it darted among the others.  He wasn’t sure where that one came from—Glenn only stole from Chinese restaurants.   “Are you gonna ask how it went?”

“He didn’t like the line?”

“ ‘You’re a winner’—what’s wrong with that?”  Sid sniffed the air—dinner would be over spiced, exactly the way he liked it.

“Pretty classic,” Geno said.  “It has some retro appeal. Wait, what was the game again? Who was the final boss?”

“A dragon vampire,” Sid said, sitting up.  “Don’t laugh—hold on.  It’s not that stupid, and the girl he got to do the art is the real thing.  Cooper Mellon student or something.  And listen—it isn’t just a dragon vampire: it’s the last of it its kind.”

Geno had stopped plating the food to listen, spatula at his lips.

No response.

“Hey,” Sid said, “I just wrote the script—I didn’t design the game.”

“Last of its kind, right?” Geno said suddenly, biting burned bits off the spatula.  “You could use that.  What if—after you kill the boss—the line is: ‘You’re a winner, but at what cost?’ ”

Sid glanced back at the fish tank.  The goldfish stopped moving for a moment.

“Goddamnit,” Sid said.

“Whhabt?”  Geno had half the spatula in his mouth.

“No—fuck you, goddamnit.  That’s actually kinda good.  I’m gonna try it.  Don’t say anything.  We’ll eat in a second.”

Sid found his phone and stepped closer to the bubbling fish tank, away from whatever Geno might say or sounds he might make while devouring utensils.

He dialed his boss’ number and told him Geno’s line.

“That’s it!  That’s what we need,” Sid’s boss shouted—sounds of Burger Palace in the background.  “I’ll publish the game next week.”

“Great—fine,” Sid said.  “If you, if you or someone has some work, send ‘em my way.”

“Sure, Sidney.  Now,” his boss lowered his voice, “do you want the $100, or can I get you some pot?”

“Just the money,” Sid said, hanging up.  “Don’t say anything.”

Geno removed the spatula from his mouth.  “Dinner’s ready.”



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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Distilled Spirits: Ch. 2 — Geno | Devon Claytor
  2. On the Number 58: Story Continuity, Editing, and a Peek at Episode 3 | Devon Claytor
  3. Distilled Spirits: [Season 2] Ch. 21 — Glenn | Devon Claytor

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