The last martini at the bubble lounge

Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.
~Barnett R. Brickner

The whole thing started when my neighbor's son told me he had gotten a summer job at the Bubble Lounge. "What on earth is that?" I asked.

"The new martini bar. You haven't been yet?"

"No, I don't believe I have. It's called the Bubble Lounge? Cute name. The last martini at the Bubble Lounge," I said dreamily. "That would be a good title for a short story."

"Uh, yeah. Well, I guess I'd better get going," he said, not sure where the conversation was headed, but certain he didn't want to tag along.

Of course writing a story to fit a title would horrify my creative writing instructor at the community college's Department of Continuing Education.

"Build your story around strong characters," she said over and over, "and everything else will follow."

But I couldn't get that title out of my mind. So one evening I drove by the Bubble Lounge. It was the latest addition to the upscale shopping village that had established itself in the heart of our historically significant and recently "discovered" neighborhood. I pictured my neighbors, those endlessly energetic, creative, fixer-upper professionals, behind the bar's frosted glass, sipping elegant concoctions. They would be swapping the latest parenting tidbits, I supposed, or sharing landscaping tips and names of decorators before dashing off to the corner bistro or the gourmet take-out for their dinner.

I imagined it all as I opened a package of pork chops and put potatoes on to boil. It kept coming back to me. "The Last Martini at the Bubble Lounge." Why the last martini? A story about the closing of a bar? Set in prohibition times? I couldn't let it go.

My writing instructor says to start with character. Okay. A tortured soul's final toot before heading off to A.A. It didn't work. Maybe it was more symbolic and personal. In the Bubble Lounge of life, I was, after all, close to the last round.

I thought about it one whole afternoon as I strolled with my grandchild through the shops, passing the dark lounge that would come alive like a handsome, seductive vampire when dusk settled on the neighborhood. Plots and characters danced through my head as I chatted with some of the nannies in the park near my house. I knew I was getting obsessive when I couldn't remember the bid at my bridge group that evening. My mind was not on cards. It was at the Bubble Lounge! I had to write the story and be done with it.

The next day I called my husband, Tom, at his office.

"I thought you might want to meet me for a drink after work," I suggested.

"What's wrong with the back porch?" he said.

"What's wrong with a little change? It would do us good. We can grab dinner somewhere."

But the basketball game was on TV. He was tired. Another night, maybe.

Two weeks later, "another night" had not materialized. After dinner, I told Tom about my desire to visit the Bubble Lounge.

"I don't know what you're talking about. You don't even like martinis," he said and disappeared into his laptop.

I loaded the dishwasher, put on some lipstick and my new black slacks.

"Tom, I'll be back in a little while. I'm going to the Bubble Lounge."

"By yourself?"

"Oh, yes, we have drinks other than martinis," said the personable, young bartender who also happened to be my neighbor's son.

I sat at a tiny corner table by the window, sipping a cosmopolitan (vodka and cranberry juice, in case there's anyone left who doesn't know).