Top Deck

He had work to do but the inside of a hotel room was less than inviting. Instead he found himself at the highest point in the city on a rooftop overlooking the river. His office building in New York was taller than this, but the view couldn’t compare.

The wind whipped his thinning hair and the setting sun beat on his face. He had ordered a beer and pulled out his laptop. Around him tourists were admiring the view and drinking wine. A group of five women cawed like birds over a bottle. To his left, a little behind him, was a young beautiful girl sitting by herself admiring the sky.

He began his work. He spent his time staring at the screen. The only movement his hands made were to bring his Bud Lite to his lips.

He was so absorbed in his avoidance of work that he didn’t notice the slow movement of the barge coming up the river until it was in front of him. It was massive, completely blocking the South Carolina shore on the other side, and metal containers piled ten high were packed tightly onto its deck. The name “Gwenhelen” was printed on the side in big, white letters.

Everybody in the restaurant had stopped what they were doing to point their fingers and phones at it.

“Isn’t it lovely?” Somebody said.

Rather than admire it, all he could do was sit and think about how much profit the boat was making.

He hated that his thoughts went to this. He wished that he could enjoy the view as it plainly was. He made a conscious effort to stop that train of thought and see the beauty of the boat cutting through the water. He focused on the oranges and purples and blues melting the sky and sea together. And when the Gwenhelen floated beneath the Talmadge Bridge all he could see were numbers.

Just how much was the cargo worth? he wondered.

The restaurant went back to normal. He turned from his work and looked around at the people. In a few moments he figured that the restaurant was only making around 700 dollars in sales, unless it picked up later that evening.

As he was calculating numbers in his head he was distracted by a sound of alarm. He glanced behind him at the young girl and watched with amusement as a yellow jacket splashed in her red wine.

She dipped a pen into the glass and the bug climbed onto it, and then, when safely out of the glass, flew away.

“That was a smart idea,” he commented aloud.

She looked at him and laughed, “No use wasting perfectly good wine.”

He thought about talking some more, but her smile faded and she turned back to the sky. His eyes lingered on her. Now, that was some beauty that he could admire.

He went inside and waited at the bar while the tender dealt with other customers. He gazed outside and saw the girl holding her wine glass up, fishing another bug out of it, and downing the rest.

“Another Bud Lite?”

“Yes, and whatever she’s having.”

He sat down. The waitress handed her another wine and the girl looked confused, “Oh, I didn’t order that…”

The waitress gestured at him and said that it was taken care of.

The girl smiled and raised her glass, “Thank you.”

This was the moment. “You’re welcome.” But he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

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