The story takes place on July 2nd 2000
“Why do you want to sleep? You slept on the train,” Claire said, exiting the Sephora boutique.
“I’m tired. What do you want me to do?” Adam tailed behind. They had been shopping their way through Nice, France since they arrived that morning.
“I want you to come with me. We’re going to meet up with Alice and Sonia for dinner.”
“I’m sure you would have a much more fun without me sleeping through the meal.”
“We’re only in Nice two days and you want to sleep. When we were planning this trip, you insisted we see the French Riviera. You said you didn’t want to just go from Venice to Paris. You aren’t going to see anything from the hotel bed.”
“I’ll sleep on the beach.”
“What?” Claire stopped to paw through a collection of linen shawls hanging on an outside display.
“I’ll go down to the beach and take a nap. How many of our friends at home can say they slept on a Mediterranean beach?”
“Alright,” Claire gave in. “But don’t be out too late. I’ll miss you.”
Adam kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll be back at the hotel tonight. Enjoy yourself and say ‘hi’ to Alice and Sonia for me.”
After leaving Claire, Adam crossed the Promenade du Paillon. Hundreds of people sat on the grass watching a projection on a blow-up outdoor movie screen. Adam looked up to realize the mass was mesmerized by a football match. On the corner of the projection hovered the same EUFA Euro 2000 emblem he had seen on every newspaper and television screen since they arrived in Europe.
When he arrived at the beach, he found a bank of plastic lounges with blue and white waterproof cushions. Adam decided on one off by itself and climbed on. The sun shined clean and warm on his skin. He unbuttoned his shirt. The Mediterranean’s rhythmic roll soon lulled him to sleep.
The first thing Adam noticed when he woke was the unopened bottle of Kronenbourg 1662 resting on his crotch. The second thing he noticed was that it was dark. Adam thought of Claire waiting for him in the hotel room.
He lifted himself out of the lounge, causing a shooting pain across his chest. He looked down. Hours spent baking in the Riviera sun burned a neon red “V” into his exposed skin.
An echoing hum of human voices resonated from the city. Adam left the beach for the main road, Promenade des Anglais. A Toyota Land Cruiser screeched around the corner with five men joyfully singing and waving the French flag. One of the men gave Adam the thumbs up while another drunkenly screamed in French. The Toyota and its passengers vanished, turning down a residential street, their revelry blending into the city.
A beat-up BMW 316 blasting electronic dance music stopped on the opposite side of the Promenade. All its windows were down revealing two early twenties female passengers dancing in the back while drinking from a magnum of champagne. The driver, a similarly aged male, turned the volume down on his car stereo and called to Adam. “You American? Come on. Come. We won.”
“Won what?” Adam asked holding his unopened beer.
“The match. The match. Come drink with us,” the driver insisted.
“Can you take me to my hotel? I can maybe come with you for a little bit, but I really need to get back.”
“After. Come on.” The driver reached over the passenger seat and opened the door.
Adam slid into the seat. “How’d you know I’m American?”
The driver dropped the BMW into gear and sped down the beach side drive. “You don’t look right. It’s not hard.”
One of the women behind Adam offered the bottle of champagne. He took a good swallow, feeling the dry bubbles on the back of his throat before returning the bottle to the rear seat. “I’m staying at the Hotel Universe. You know it?”
“No problem.” The driver said as he drove in the opposite direction. “These are my sisters. It’s a big night in France. We won, you know.”
Adam looked over his companions. All three bore the same dark brunette hair and angular nose. “Yes, you said you won.”
“This car, is good. It’s very fast. Would you like to see?”
“I’m not really sure I know what’s going on here,” Adam confessed.
The driver ignored his passenger, “The car.”
“Fine, yes, let’s see it go fast.”
The BMW picked up speed as the driver shifted gears. The driver turned the volume of the music back to its original level. Each side street crawled with football fans carrying national pride.
“See?” said the driver. “One-hundred-forty, see?”
“I see, yes,” Adam played along in the driver’s enthusiasm. “Very good.”
The BMW slowed and turned off the Promenade towards the center of the city. One of the girls in the back said something to the driver in French. Then both the girls climbed up so they sat on their respective window frames. At every collection of football fans the car passed, the women cried out in unison. “Whoooo!” The crowd cheered in response.
“Are you taking me back now?” Adam worried he made the wrong decision getting into the car.
“Yes, but we celebrate more first. We won. You don’t understand, but we won.”
“I do understand that you won. It’s great. I’m just tired and my girlfriend is at the hotel.”
“Drink the beer.” The driver ordered.
“The beer, you are holding it but not drinking. Drink the beer.”
“We aren’t going back to the hotel, are we?”
The driver turned his head locking eyes with Adam. “We celebrate.”
“Whoooo!” shouted the women.
The BMW continued on its meandering course though Nice. Streetlights cast uneven shadows in the interior of the car. Adam wondered what Claire was going to say when he did finally get back to the hotel.
*Joshua Swainston has worked as a mechanic, merchant sailor, courier, loan shark, club promoter, Ryder truck rental agent, MC Donald’s grill cook, taxi driver, valet, coffee roaster, wine distributor, psychologist assistant, UPS man, Disney Store stock boy, and played Santa Clause. His short stories and flash fiction are printed in Out of the Gutter, The Frist Line, Revolt Daily as well as others. His self-published novel, The Tacoma Pill Junkies, was released in February of 2013 and can be found at tacomapilljunkies.com.