First Time Getting Drunk

First Time Getting Drunk

He was told he made a comical sight, hovering behind the bar with two tentacles perched at right angles to mimic elbows while a second set of delicate limbs rubbed a towel across the glistening wet surface of a mug. It seemed perfectly natural to him, but humans were particular about their norms.

When he finished polishing the mug, it didn’t exactly gleam within his sensory vision. Rather than a bright surface he detected a smooth, unblemished plain. Satisfied, he balanced the mug on the small tower in the corner and took up another. Had he vocal chords, he might have hummed while he worked. Instead he swayed the main section of his body back and forth, imagining one of his favorite ditties.

People didn’t expect to find a giant jellyfish running a bar, but regulars of the Mad Minister were well acquainted with its owner. They made a point of seeking conversation before their departure. It made him glow blue and green with pleasure. He had worked hard on his human skills. It had certainly paid off.

“You know, Ryn,” said his favorite employee as she delivered a new rack of mugs fresh from the dishwasher, “in all the years I’ve worked here, I’ve never seen you sample the goods.” He identified her not by her appearance, which he’d been told was odd, but by the particular frequency of her voice and a subtle, unique scent which only she produced. Every creature had one. He kept track of them in much the same way humans kept track of faces.

Ryn’dar’ud carefully set the second mug on the stack before he allowed his limbs to shuffle and shudder with mirth. <The Swarm aren’t really cut out for alcohol, Cazella, my dear. I believe you humans would call it ‘ironic’ that my greatest passion has always been to run my own tavern.>

“I think it would only be ironic if it was your intention from the start to drink water while you watched all your patrons get progressively drunker.” Cazella chuckled. He liked the sound of human laughter. It had driven him to hone his humor skills.

<Salt water,> he corrected, his tentacles shimmying with pleasure when her chuckles became full-fledged laughter. <In truth, I did not know my own limitations when I set up the Minister. I had always envisioned myself drinking with my patrons. For humans, this seems like an important cultural experience.>

“Just because people wallow away their evenings over whatever you’ve got on tap doesn’t mean it’s important,” Cazella countered. He could tell by her tone that she was grinning. Humans had a great many facial expressions, but their skin remained sadly dormant no matter how they felt. “It’s not like your first kiss or…” she stopped. Her body temperature rose by several degrees. If she had been a member of the Swarm, her skin would be barred with yellow by now.

Ryn’dar’ud raised one of his outer tentacles and carefully patted the woman’s shoulder with its tip. He couldn’t sting accidentally, but many humans were still wary so he always moved with caution. This, he had learned, was a gesture of reassurance. He was very good at it. When someone was upset enough, he could pat both shoulders simultaneously with multiple limbs. He believed that increased the amount of reassurance passed to the recipient significantly.

Humans put a great deal of stock in their mating habits. He assumed that accounted for the shift in body temperature.

<What about the first time getting drunk? I understand that’s an important milestone.>

“Only because it’s usually embarrassing.”

Cazella’s body temperature had returned to normal. Ryn’dar’ud took it as a sign she no longer required comfort and removed his tentacle from her shoulder. He lifted two and wrapped them around each other to simulate crossed arms; another human gesture he had mastered.

<Ah, but it’s an important cultural experience and one I share.> He waved the tip of one tentacle back and forth to simulate the hand gestures humans made during conversation. He was quite pleased with the performance. <I believe that means humans identify better with my company.> He preened.

Cazella rewarded him with another round of chuckles. “Only if they know the story, Ryn. I don’t think I’ve heard this one.”

<Oh?> He lifted two tentacles alongside his main body segment to indicate surprise. He was careful not to disturb the carefully crossed tentacles while he did so. He didn’t know how humans managed all these gestures with only the two arms. <Are you on break, my dear?>

“Just finished my shift, actually.”

<How perfect. Do sit down.> He waggled his tentacles at a nearby stool. As she settled, he poured her a glass of beer from the tap and slid it expertly across the bar. From a bottom shelf, he retrieved a special bottle from which he filled a glass for himself. Salt water, of course. He draped a pair of tentacles over the rim, dunking them into the cool liquid.

<It happened the first night the Minister was open. That makes it more memorable, you see, so I don’t mind as much the misfortune.>

“Humans aren’t usually this excited to speak about their misfortunes.” He could tell by the particular pitch of her voice, Cazella was teasing. Even so, he adjusted his tone. He curled one tentacle in front of his main body space and lifted it up and down twice, as humans did when they cleared their throat.

<I only wanted to try the beer from the tap. A good tavern owner checks the quality of his wares, doesn’t he?>

“He does at that.”

<Humans have told me that beer is among the lightest of alcohols, so I poured myself a glass. But I hadn’t accounted for the particular sensitivities of my people.>

“Did you react in the same way you react to toxins?”

Ryn’dar’ud could tell by Cazella’s inflection she was interested. Humans had very active imaginations; he considered himself accomplished when he could keep their attention for longer than a few minutes. He added an extra tentacle to his water glass.

<Not exactly, but I believe it contributed to the experience. We absorb liquid through our limbs, the same way we absorb oxygen out of the air. I have since learned that any drug will affect us more rapidly than they affect humans.>

“Goodness, Ryn! What happened when you finished the beer?”

<I knocked an entire shelf of glasses off the wall!> His tentacles shook with mirth. <My staff looked at me as though I had lost my mind – or so I am told. They had never before seen a jellyfish try to pick itself up off the ground. A few thought I was dying.

<When I managed to exit the pile of glass, I dragged myself toward a table, not realizing it was occupied, and spilled dinner into the laps of some of my first guests. The moment I moved toward the bar, the staff moved to intercept me. They must have feared broken bottles and a larger mess to clean.>

“How long did you remain in that state?”

<Several hours, though I don’t remember all of it. My staff tried to keep me in my office, to minimize the damage. I managed to knock over the bookshelves, though, and completely rearrange a package of important files. It was I who had to sort through them all the next day. That certainly taught me a lesson.>

“Oh?” Cazella rewarded him with another chuckle. “And what lesson was that?”

<The first time you try something new, only dunk your tentacle for a second.>

When Cazella laughed, he decided he had told the story well.

Please take a moment to check out what my writing partner did for this prompt.

The fabulous Beth Alvarez of Ithilear has done our funky book prompt. She got the sentence “The job of the artist doesn’t end with drawings of structure and anatomy.

If you’d like to participate, leave a link to your response in the comments and I’ll feature it next week.

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