I’m still trying to figure out if this toucan behind the bar is real, and I’m running out of time to ever know.
When the alarm first went off, there was a pantomime of general panic. I went up to our room in a daze and opened the door to find my wife, naked, surrounded by what looked to be every last hotel cabana boy. Honestly, I admired her for throwing whatever that was together so quickly.
By the time I came back downstairs, a good portion of the guests and staff had spilled onto the beach, faces turned up to the sun and arms outspread as if in ecstasy. I made for the bar.
It was empty except for Mike, the bartender, who was drying the giant margarita glasses. He held each one briefly up to the light, then chucked it at the wall paneled in fake bamboo. Crash.
“Are you still serving?”
“Sure,” he said. “Why not?” Crash.
“What’s a good last drink?” I ask, taking a seat just outside of the glasses’ trajectory.
He jumped up on the back bar to pull a bottle down from the top shelf, produced two limes and appeared to cut them in midair, shook the drink vigorously for no more than five seconds, then strained the pearlescent liquid into a tiny coupe glass that had materialized in front of me.
“That’s a daiquiri?”
“A real one.” He rinsed the shaker and set it upside down on the edge of the bar, ready for the next customer. “I’m not really sure how it ended up referring to those blended strawberry-pineapple things.”
I took a sip. It was crisp and tart, with an unexpected dry snap from the rum.
“Wow,” I said, and drained the rest. Mike was already shaking me a second one. I thought that despite everything else, there was nothing sadder in that moment than the fact that I had almost died without knowing what a real daiquiri was.
That’s when I noticed the toucan, nestled in a pile of rope on the top shelf behind the bar. It regarded me with an eye like a drop of crude oil.
“You’re not going to join me?” I asked Mike.
“Nah. I’m eleven years sober, as a matter of fact.”
“Well, sure, but you know…” I indicated the herd on the beach, each of whom looked as though they were accepting a hug from an invisible, floating friend. Mike laughed, more to himself than to me, and threw another glass. Crash.
“A promise isn’t worth much if you welch on it as soon as things start to go south. Even a promise to yourself.”
“Well, more power to you.” I raised the glass to him and knocked it back.
The toucan’s feathers look real enough, but I’m still not sure. Assuming it’s real, I feel almost as sad as I did about the daiquiri, thinking of the poor bird ending his existence pickled and stuffed, watching two poor loners cheerlessly await the end of the world.
A nearly subsonic rumbling creeps into the edges of our hearing. Mike and I look at the ceiling and shrug to each other.
“Another one for the road?”
“Coming right up,” he says. A moment later he sets the familiar coupe down with one hand and the toucan down with the other.
“I saw you looking at him, and I think you should have him.”
“You sure?” I pick up the bird like some precious orb and run my thumb over one of his leathery feet. “Hey, do you know if this thing’s real?”
“Course he’s real,” Mike says and tosses another glass. Crash. “For another minute or so, at least.”
I stroke the toucan’s head, bring it very close to my face, and peer into the inky eye. Nothing but blackness. Mike throws the last margarita glass (crash) and flips on the stereo, which starts to play “Iko Iko” by The Dixie Cups. I tuck the bird under my arm and stand up to take the last sip from the bottom of the glass.
Connor Saparoff Ferguson is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, Baltimore Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he lives in Boston.