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Friday short story time: "Opportunity #17"

Back for another week, this time with a story that has a number in the title. Never let it be said I don’t provide endless variety. Between my MA course restarting and getting this story out, it’s been a hectic week, so there is little news.

Oh, except it looks like I might be doing NaNoWriMo again, in some form. Not quite decided how yet. I know I said that exact same thing last year, and ended up just doing it in the normal fashion.

Anyway, fun time. More stories are available, as ever.

Opportunity #17

By Nick Bryan

‘Marcus, this is it. You ready?’

‘Okay, cool, just need a second to get myself psyched.’

‘Because no pressure, but you’ve blown sixteen chances already.’

‘That ain’t pressure? C’mon, I’m just a guy with a thing.’

‘Save the smooth talk for the ladies, Marcus. Now get in there.’

Thus encouraged, Marcus staggered forth into the bar. When his work colleague (he hesitated to say “friend”) Liam had volunteered to be his wingman, he’d imagined the two of them, together, cutting through crowds and helping each other out when the conversation lagged.

But it turned out Liam already had a steady girlfriend he was quite happy with. Furthermore, his approach to wingman-fu was more akin to a drill seargant. He sent Marcus into the battlefield, waited outside for about twenty minutes striking up conversations with the smokers, then summoned him back out again with impatient phone calls.

Which was how they’d managed sixteen bars by ten o’clock. It was like going speed dating with your crazed kidnapper.

‘Marcus, any luck in there?’

‘Look, I’ve barely reached the bar, it’s like handout time at the crack house in here.’

‘Come on, focus, you can’t let yourself be distracted.’

‘Distracted? Without a drink, I look like a crazed loner. Can’t you get down here and…’

‘Sorry Marcus, I’d only put you off your game. We’ll move on in ten minutes.’


Predictably, he had gone. Marcus thought he heard someone growl ‘Want another one, mate?’ as the call went down, so at least one of them was making progress with strangers.

At long last, he had his half-pint of pissweak lager. Swear to god, he wouldn’t normally be seen dead drinking this, but sixteen bars had left him with little option. If he’d had a pint in every single one, he’d be vomiting in the recovery position by now.

Unfortunately, picking up women was not going well. His one tactic that had shown any promise, complaining at them about the annoying friend who had abandoned him to smoke, had been abandoned because even he was starting to get bored of it. Not to mention, once he started moaning about what a filthy, life-ruining habit it was, that was invariably when they mentioned that they were a smoker.

His latest effort, a friendly-looking girl with brown curly hair, had proven to be a bit too aggressively talkative, as she was now making fun of him for his tiny, impotent drink.

And, just as Marcus thought nothing on earth could annoy him more, it was time for Liam’s latest motivating phone call.

‘How’s it going down there?’

‘Please get in here and help, you’ve left me in the shit.’

‘Marcus, you’ll never learn anything if you only ever rely on others.’

‘This is meant to be a friendly night out, not a fucking Jedi tutorial.’

‘Well, not to lecture, but perhaps if you’d been more helpful with that presentation last month, I might’ve…’

‘Wait, this was a trap?’

‘Maybe in the future, you’ll learn to consider others more.’

‘Oh, fuck off. You’re just a big twat.’

And, for the first time all night, Marcus hung up on Liam.

Still fuming, he took a big gulp of his drink and prepared to leave the bar. Perhaps the barely-alcoholic drinks were finally getting to him, but he could punch that guy in the face right now. Like, hard. This was big talk for someone who had never been in a fight.

He was readying himself for the evening’s last dregs, already angling himself to leap the stairs back  to the street, when, for the first time in all seventeen venues, a girl came over and said hello.

Considering his obvious loneliness and agitation, Marcus had not been expecting that. Nonetheless, she was friendly, even quite pretty, and seemed weirdly keen to talk. It turned out she was as annoyed with her so-called friend as he was with his, because she’d met some guy and gone off to grope in a dark corner.

Not wanting to intrude on such a romantic moment, she had stormed up to Marcus and, lubricated by alcohol and shared rage, they seemed to be hitting it off. There may have even been a nonchalant touch on the arm.

So it was, naturally, around then that Liam returned, gave him a manly slap on the shoulder and told him to remain calm because, don’t worry, he was here now. And, before Marcus could compose a coherent explanation, the woman realised the “real” reason that he’d been so upset about Liam’s absence.

And, as quickly and unexpectedly as she’d come, she was gone. Marcus turned to Liam with a sigh.

‘Very bloody funny. Well done.’


‘I finally talk to someone so you screw me one more time. Smooth.’

‘Marcus, you’ve got it all wrong?’

‘Have I?’

‘I felt guilty, so I finally came to help. You know, like you kept asking me to.’

‘I see.’

And that was the story of Marcus, the poor guy. If you liked this effort, I have a 12,000 word story in an anthology that you can buy for as little as £3. Otherwise, thanks for reading, please don’t steal, email me to discuss approved stealing, etc.


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