There was a rhythmic flutter in the reflection.
Water had pooled on the bar surface, a consequence of the moisture dripping off my Old Fashioned and the fact I had refused to use a coaster. A ceiling fan spun above me, reflecting light that creeped in from the shuttered windows and created a visual show in the standing water.
I could hear Delaney, the blonde Asian barmaid in the distance as she chatted up a self-medicating neurosurgeon who had recently taken up a secondary residence at the bar at Habanas since his wife had moved out.
Conspiracies were communicated all around me by various patrons speaking in low, hushed tones to hide their transgressions from others, and from themselves.
“Really? For a New Year’s resolution would you please consider using a coaster?”
I heard myself being chastised by Delaney without actually looking up at her. As I stared at the pool of liquid, I saw her hand, holding a rag, wipe it out of existence. She knew what she was doing, an entire universe of entertainment extinguished in an instant. Blonde Asians know exactly the type of power they wield, and they are dangerous people.
I grabbed my fork and sat back looking at her squarely in the eye for the briefest of seconds before refocusing my gaze on my drink.
“The empanadas, Delaney… I need my empanadas.”
“I know, Steven, they should be here any moment. Put your fork down. You are going to scare the other customers.”
I clutched my fork for a moment and looked back at her. There was a tension to be sure, but she was right. Without breaking eye contact I gently placed the fork back on the bar. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
“What are you doing for New Year’s?” she asked trying to soften the atmosphere.
“What we always do. I am locking the doors at 17:00 and clutching my family behind the sandbags. Strange times, Delaney. You should do the same. You can’t be too careful. Lizard people are all around us.” I said taking a quick glance around the bar.
“Yes. Of course they are. Your wife must really love you.”
“Yes. Yes she does. Thank God.”
She nodded and walked back over towards the inebriated neurosurgeon.
I sat there thinking. Yes. 2022 had come to an end. All in all, not a bad year, really more of a placeholder, truth be told. The Great Toilet Paper Wars seemed to be finished, but more and more people were starting to wear the face diapers again. It’s creepy, but we have been admonished not to question their sanity, at least that is what the flight attendants say on the intercom before the plane takes off.
The Union still exists. At least that is what we are being told. The January 6th Committee has issued a “criminal referral” to the Justice Department asking… no demanding… that Donald The Trump be prosecuted. The irony is that if the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been actually building a case, the “criminal referral” by Congress may have just killed it. Nice job, boys.
We had a couple of big wins in our own law firm of Lieberman & Taormina. An innocent man FINALLY had his case dismissed, thanks not so much to our own legal acumen but to the advocacy of a DA down in San Diego who finally read the file and realized they were prosecuting the wrong guy. We had another case close where a client who had second-guessed us the entire way finally got the resolution we had hoped for, and he still was upset the case had taken as long as it did. Apparently he cannot grasp that we can’t control the court calendar… but at least it is done.
Artemis continues to grow, our VR Orion Systems continue to improve, and we now have leased out our first few units to other trainers so they can begin doing VR-based tactical training in other parts of the country.
Our daughters have had “life moments”. Carolyn and Alan bought their first piece of real estate, a flat in London that future generations will consider their ancestral home.
Chaney learned that her first “job” in the Operational Army will be that of a pilot… she will be going to flight school.
2023 seems poised to be “the year”… and we look forward to it with cautious trepidation. From all of us at the Artemis Defense Institute, we do hope that you have a safe and prosperous new year. We hope that you give serious contemplation to what it means to be a citizen, and give some introspection to your political philosophy… whatever it is. For those of you of faith, I ask you to struggle with it. For in that struggle you gain clarity and a deeper appreciation of the gift the Creator has given. For those of you who do not share the gift of faith… I ask you to struggle with that too. Cosmological significance is something too important to leave to others to decide for you.
Of course, I would be remiss if I did not admonish you to train. Train constantly, consistently, repetitively, and with purpose. You have a moral obligation to not only be a master of skill-at-arms, but to develop the maturity that comes with professionalism-at-arms.
And lastly… be good to yourselves and your families. There is nothing more tragic than those who have abandoned the last bastion of safety and security by dismissing those around them who love them the most.
May 2023 be the best year ever! Drink an Old Fashioned (or a double shot of Lagavulin), eat an empanada, and live the life you have dreamed of.
(Unless you are one of those lizard people… they scare me.)