Quisby; not working, an idler.
Two young women sat across from him, a mixture of professional aplomb and surreptitious condescension mapping their cosmetically enhanced features. One had dark red hair swept up in a tight, rounded bun; a pair of large, hazel eyes ringed by a heavy border of black eyeliner, blinked at him occasionally like a pair of lighthouse shutters. The other woman had long, wavy blond hair that hung about her slight shoulders in loose coils, framing a heart-shaped face caked with a generous layer of concealer. She was smiling at him, neutral shaded glossy lips curved up in such a way to convey either robotic vapidity, or genuine professional interest. He wasn’t quite sure. He did not want to be here.
“So,” he said, spreading his hands in an encompassing gesture. “I’m ready to start testing your product. Which one should I drink first?”
The redhead saw this as her cue and stood up from her chair. She pointed at one of the non-descript looking bottles, the one marked with the letter, ‘P’ placed on black leather coasters in front of him. There were two others. One marked with an ‘I’ and the other with an ‘X’
“This one,” she said, “We like to start with this one first, to establish a baseline.”
The blond nodded, winking at him.
He poured some of the yellow liquid into the clear plastic cup (also marked with a ‘P’) and took a caustic sip.
“lemonade?” he asked, genuinely surprised by the beverage.
“Not just any lemonade,” said the redhead, her tone suggesting a scripted nature. “A vintage lemonade.”
“What? Like a wine?”
She nodded. “Exactly.”
He shrugged, reaching for the ‘I’ bottle. “Whatever you say.”
He poured himself a generous amount of the ‘I’ liquid, noticing that it was a slightly paler shade of yellow than the previous bottle.
The two women watched him impassively from across the table as he drank.
“Well,” said the blond woman. “What do you think?”
He rolled his tongue along his teeth, purposely delaying as if seriously considering his response. “It’s good,” he said finally.
They looked at each other. Then the blond asked, “Just good?”
“What do you want me to say? It tasted a lot like the first one. Actually, they tasted pretty much the same. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference, although I did notice that the second one was paler in colour.” The redhead seemed to withdraw a little, her smile fading into no more than a smirk. She flicked her gaze to her partner, and they shared a brief look that made him uncomfortable, like he was missing some valuable point or piece of information.
Instead of voicing his irritation, he sighed and reached for the last bottle, the one marked, ‘X’.
This one was much darker - almost neon.
After taking a sip, he started bobbing his head, knocking back the final swallow like a shot of whisky. “Yes, this one’s the best one,” he said, and the redhead made a face as if he had just slapped her.
“Okay,” he began, not bothering to mask the annoyance from his voice. “What the hell was that face for? What’s the matter with you? It’s fucking lemonade.”
The redhead looked close to tears now, biting her lip and staring down at the tabletop.
“One of you better tell me what the fuck is going on here. And by the way, vintage lemonade? Come on. Ever hear of limoncello? It comes from Italy.”
“Sir,” said the blond, avoiding his eye. “The lemonade in the ‘I’ bottle is made from Italian lemons, non-alcoholic of course. It’s the competition, too.”
The redhead whispered, “The first one is from Poland. It was supposed to be special.”
“It’s fucking lemonade!” he roared, and immediately composed himself, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose.
“What was in the last one,” he asked evenly. “Bottle, ‘X’”
“Just plain lemonade, sir,” the redhead replied, her voice flat and resigned. “Made from quisby lemons. I bought it on my way into work at the corner store. It wasn’t supposed to be the favoured one.”
He had finally had enough.
“Get the fuck out of here, both of you. And take this silly shit with you. Jesus.”