Ferguson was burning. The smell of pumpkin spice lattes was in the air. The Baby-Boomer FM stations were already mixing in Xmas favorites. At 10 AM, Bill wasn’t surprised to see that the parking lot of the Library Lounge was already half full. He picked a shady spot between a palm tree and the dumpster.
It was unseasonably cold out, for Florida. The snowbirds still wore t-shirts and shorts; the natives were breaking out their winter gear. Bill split the difference with a jean jacket too heavy for normal wear, but refused to button it up.
Jake had the door, and nodded Bill in; the lights were set for eternal twilight, except for the blazing spot on the stage, but the music was off. A flat-chested young black woman was on stage, a half-dressed librarian doing a slow strip while reading aloud passages from The Way of a Man with a Maid, little black nipples pert as she gave herself a tweak. No one needed a pounding beat at this hour in the morning.
Bill started out his two-drink minimum with a double whiskey and a beer chaser; he could drink it slow and nobody’d pay him any mind. He ended up, looking for a place to sit, sharing a table with Frankenstein - a scarred young veteran of the sands that had been blown up by an IED and stitched back together again; Frank liked to joke that they’d missed a few bits, but the VA picked up the tab, so that was fine. They shook hands awkwardly; Bill was a righty, but Frank was a lefty by elimination.
They watched the stage. Two girls in masks had brought out a small red couch, and one of them had brought rope.
“Kinda artsy,” Bill noted.
“Manager’s kid is running the show,” Frank said, “Theater major.”
They watched, and listened, and drank. People came in and out. Hollow-eyed men and and a few women that needed a break from family drama, visibly unwinding in the quiet anonymity of the crowd, the shared hush-hush of staring at strange titties and firm little asses working their way through college. Bill and Frank were as rocks, rarely moving except to piss or get another drink, part of the shiftless crowd that had nowhere better to go.
They lived in a world without turkey - because what was turkey, anyway? Or a ham, or cranberry sauce, or dressing. Mashed potatoes and green beans, rice and black beans, brown gravy and yellow corn and the unnatural store-bought orange of pumpkin pie. They could have any of that any time of the year, on their own. There was nothing special about it today. Traditions are empty, unless they’re shared.
Around 4 o’clock, the art wound down, the stage lights dimmed, and the implants took the stage, silicone funbags working the pole in a Buccaneers cheerleader outfit as a DJ cued up a set. An hour or two more and Thanksgiving would be over for a lot of people, and the crowd would pick up. Bill finished the dregs of his sour, crushing the ice in his teeth.
“Reckon I’m done, Frank.”
“See you around, Bill.”
They shook hands again.
“Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.”