Hadlock had these long dreads that spilled out past his shoulders like wriggling tentacles. His girlfriend was on her way over, and so, his liquor cabinet empty, he called her to grab a couple bottles of rye. Her phone was dead – just kept giving him the same robotic message – so he found a pair of shorts among the splattered clothes in the den of his apartment and slid downstairs to the Booze4Less. It was a dank and narrow place set into a space between two ancient brick buildings, a wonder the City had permitted construction of it at all. Each glass bottle reflected Hadlock’s reflecting shades back at him, an infinite, tiny regress like a barbershop. The rye was at the back – everything good is always at the backs of places – and there were only a few bottles left of Hadlock’s brand, so he grabbed them up between his fingers and under his arms. He maneuvered his body carefully so as not to shatter any of the wobbling displays of dark glass, and shifted atom by atom to the counter.
“Popular stuff,” the lady behind the counter remarked, scanning the bottles into her machine.
“Hm?” Hadlock said, as he fumbled with his pockets to find his debit card.
“Popular stuff,” she said again.
Hadlock swiped his debit card and found it declined. Declined, declined.
“Another customer just bought a bunch of this same rye,” the lady said, her smile fading as the declines kept piling up. “Maybe she’d share some with you?”
Hadlock left the bottles on the counter and walked back to his apartment, shoulders slumped. He found the door unlocked and music playing within, and his heart leaped. Inside, his girlfriend greeted him with a kiss, and the first sloppy pour from the bottles she’d just picked up on her way home.