“A Tiny Splash”

Sometime in the night there had been a karaoke contest, a standup comic, and a conga line. A bearded man dressed in a hula skirt had gotten into a fight with a Navy retiree wearing his old uniform. Someone’s drunken wife flashed her sagging tits. A wobbly man from Kansas City drank too many “Tours of the Caribbean” and had collapsed in a heap against my bar. When he fell he shattered dozens of cheap tequila bottles, causing the Journey cover band to end their show early and the cruisers to retire to their cabins for the night.

Andre left me to clean up after everything. I couldn’t use a mop because of the broken glass. Using a mop would scratch up the wood and he would give me another boring lecture about professionalism. So I kneeled on the dance floor at 4AM and picked it up by hand: the wastebasket glittering under the lights of the still-shining disco ball.

Amidst the broken glass lay a small ring. I held it up to the light and sighed. Cubic zirconium. If it had been real, I might have pawned it when we stopped in Nassau. Instead I put the ring in my pocket and resumed picking up glass and dropping it into the wastebasket.

I cut myself a few times by accident. Some of the pieces were still slippery from the tequila.

About 4:15AM a woman stumbled into the bar. Her dress was stained from where she had tried and failed to clean up vomit.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m sorry to bother you.”

I continued to pluck glass and drop it into the wastebasket. Words poured out of her mouth as a barely decipherable cocktail of apologies and excuses.

“Do you speak English? Excuse me. I’ve lost my ring here. Can you help me find it? Please. I’m sorry.”

“I haven’t seen any rings,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “I guess I can help you look for it.”

She bent down beside me and started searching through the glass. Every now and then she would carefully place one of the larger pieces in my wastebasket. Her eyes searched the floor carefully.

“It’s my wedding ring,” she said. “A family heirloom from Bill’s side. I’m not sure how to explain this to him.”

I nodded and kept picking up glass. She stumbled and nearly tipped over the wastebasket. Eventually she stopped looking for herself and instead watched me work. The ring felt light in my pocket.

After a while she got bored and left. The wastebasket gave a satisfying crinkling sound when I threw it in with the rest of the garbage. I locked up the bar and walked outside to the main deck. It was quiet. Not many of the passengers were up besides a few joggers and a red-eyed man gripping a paperback novel.

I took the ring out of my pocket and threw it into the ocean. The churning wake of the ship seemed to stretch on for miles behind me.

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