November 3, 2018

A Solo Cocktail at the Headless Horse

The evening that my boyfriend threatened with breaking up over my excessive drinking, I did what any other sane man would do. I went to my local bar to talk to my therapist. Over a drink.

I wasn’t intentionally ignoring my boyfriend. It so happens that The Headless Horse is the bar is where my psychologist works. The customers here come to get professional mental help and life advice. All the bartenders are robots who are both licensed shrinks and skillful mixologists.

I walked into the bar looking for a free stool. Xon, my favorite psycho-unit, was engaged in a conversation with an orange haired woman dressed in black. I sat on the bar and waited for my turn smoking a Liquid K and watching the hologram go-gos. Twenty minutes later Xon rolled my way.

“Good to see you again, Ray. What is it going to be?” Xon was smiling broadly. “The usual?”

“Hi Xon. I think it’ll be a chat over water today, thank you.”

Xon erased the smile on his face. “I’ll make you a screwdriver.” He isn’t only my favorite bartender. He is a friend. I have been coming to see Xon for 12 years now. He knows me. And he knows I never drink water.

“Tell me what’s up,” said Xon while preparing my favorite cocktail.

“It’s my boyfriend. Klark says he wants to break up.”

“Again?” If robots had eyeballs, I’m sure Xon would have rolled his eyes then. “Let me guess. He wants you to stop cheating, taking drugs, and skipping work to stay home and play video games. Am I right?” Xon gave me a serious stare. “Did I guess right?”

“No. No. He doesn’t know about the cheating. And I only skipped work a couple of times. He doesn’t like me coming to the Headless Horse.”

“What?” said Xon serving me the cocktail.

“Karl says I have a drinking problem. Those were his words.” I took a sip of the screwdriver. It was delicious.

A drinking problem,” repeated Xon as if mesmerized by the concept.

“Can you believe it?” I said.

“But that’s absurd,” said Xon. “You would be a mess without the drinking Ray. I’m your therapist, and I’m telling you, you need a drink to help you think straight.”

“I think he doesn’t believe in techno-therapy. He’s never been to a therapy-bar. Don’t be offended, but he has these preconceived ideas about robot shrinks.”

“I am not offended,” said Xon with a tone of practiced disdain. “I am a licensed robot therapy unit. It’s been long proven that bartender robots make for the best mental health professionals. Your boyfriend’s psychological profile is actually more common than you’d think. Techno-skeptics are a plague these days, Ray.”

“So, can you help me control the drinking and the drugs? I need to take control by tomorrow or my relationship will be history.”

“Bartending talk therapy can alleviate a great deal of mental irregularities/anomalies, but it can’t make you sober overnight.”

“I’ll have to stop coming the the Headless Horse altogether, then.” I said.

”Of course if you are willing to try something different…”


“Looks like you want to become a new person. Only one thing can work that quickly.” Xon pulled out from behind the counter a red drink menu that I had never seen before.

“What is that?” I asked.

“This is our premium menu, Ray. Only for customers with enough reputation and… capital.”

Xon gave me the menu/folder. The cover read Behavioral Reprogramming Cocktails.

“You want to sober me up with a cocktail? I like it.”

“With BRP–,” Xon said, “Behavioral Reprogramming–you can load a whole new personality to replace your current one. Each cocktail comes with a different psyche. Drink and you’ll incorporate new habits, new behaviors, new talents, new skills. Anything you can think of. We have a menu full of carefully crafted personalities that you can swallow up. You don’t have to be yourself forever. And if you are not happy with the results you can always go back to being old good Ray.”

“I don’t know how I feel about this.” The idea of a new personality sounded appetizing but also intimidating.

“It’s perfectly safe, Ray. A swarm of nano-robots targets the brain and reprograms the neurons one by one in any which way you choose. Absolutely safe.“

“It’s not that. I kind of like the way I am.“

“You do? Well, just take a look, you might find a cocktail you like.“

I opened the menu and started reading, Axel. Chad. Stuart. Tim. The list went on an on.

“How about this one?” I said. “Marco. A wholesome individual, hardworking and productive. Marco is a romantic man who will make his partner top priority. Clean cut, with a sense of style, extensive vocabulary and a refined sense of humor.

“Sounds like a chump,“ said Xon.

“Yeah,” I nodded in agreement. I kept reading "What about this one? Arnold. A top dog. A winner. Arnold is the essence of the alpha male that commands respect. Those around him can’t resist his charisma. He is decisive, determined, focused, and above all confident. The image of success.“

“He is very popular with our customers,” said Xon, “but he is a pain to be around, Ray. And he is cokehead, so forget about getting clean.”

“Honestly, he sounds exhausting,” I admitted.

“Let me help you,” said Xon taking the menu from my hands. Xon flipped through the pages looking for something. “Here. Check this out. This personality is a bit of a mess, but it will fit with your lifestyle, and he is cheap.”

I read the description. ”Solo. A self-centered hedonist. Prone to quick action and little thought. Although he might be perceived as inconsiderate at times, Solo is, above all, a charmer. Hygiene might be lacking.” I looked up at Xon. “I don’t understand. It doesn’t say anywhere here that this guy is clean of drugs and bad habits. It actually sounds like the opposite.”

“Well, see Ray, you can drop all the habits that you enjoy so much to keep your boyfriend. But is that really what you want?”

“What do you mean?”

“You see, this Solo guy is really not into the whole long-term relationship thing. This cocktail will not help you keep your boyfriend, it will help you get over him.”

“Get over Klark?” I asked.

“If you take on this personality, when Klark ends up breaking up with you, you will not give a damn. I can assure you that much.” said Xon with a smile. “And you can keep coming to the Headless Horse, and enjoying your screwdrivers and Liquid K.”

I considered Xon’s words. “It’s true that Klark can be a pain at times, to be honest–”

“Of course,” said Xon. He always understood me so well.

“And after all,” I continued “I quite like getting high.”

“We all do, Ray,” said Xon with his electric smile. “We all do.”

November 3, 2018 · #TMC · #Fiction · #Short Fiction


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