Nils Carmike glanced at his friend Milton Johnson across the table containing a half empty fifth and two covered glasses with straws. They took a seat in the corner of the Conrad Station Hotel Bar to avoid the other patrons.
“It’s quiet tonight,” said Nils.
“Yes, it is,” Milton said. The late night meant that most had departed, leaving only the bartender Alex. He was busy watching the stream of the Ducks and the Avalanche battling a third-period two-two tie. “Even Alex seems bored with the game.”
“Yup.” Nils confirmed again. The skylight from above shined the blue beam of Earthlight onto the bar’s dance floor. The two remaining patrons locked in an embrace in the center of the light, as though they were more than just tourists. Nils noted their awkward movements.
Milton picked up his glass, drawing another taste of the drink through the straw. Nils did so, wishing that he could drink out of a glass in one-sixth gravity. Someone told him once that it had something to do with the surface tension of the liquid overwhelming the gravity. Nils watched Milton savor the liquid. Milton set his drink aside and spoke plainly. “You’re still telling stories to tourists for drinks?”
“It’s better than paying my own bar tab. Have you seen these prices?”
“Still, it’s ridiculous. I hope you’ve retired that silly story of me discovering ice.” Milton grumbled as he drew the back of his hand over the three-day-growth of gray stubble covering his face. Though Nils knew Milton had gray hair, he could not recall him looking so haggard.
“It isn’t you,” remarked Nils.
“Yes, I know.” Milton shrugged. “It’s some guy you named Morgan Johnson. You should at least change the last names. It might confuse some people.”
“I made it up spur-of-the-moment. The people wanted a prospector’s story.”
“It’s kind of stupid.”
“It’s one of the crowd favorites.” Nils answered, wondering about his friend. Perhaps it was his imagination, but he never remembered Milton so disheveled or seeming so irritable. Something was going on.
“I cannot believe you’re still telling that fabrication to tourists.”
“It’s what they enjoy,” Nils replied.
“Regardless, I can’t believe you made up that nonsense.” Milt picked up his glass, “Come-on, I left you an ice sample in a lunch pail?! Then you track my ice down by following my tracks all over the lunar surface!?”
Nils shrugged. “They seem to like it. Besides, Alex wants fun rather than reasonable.”
“It’s silly! You should tell the actual story,” Milton grinned.
“Seriously,” Milton answered. “It would make a far better story.”