After a block and a half they came to the Clevelander, a legendary South Beach bar bearing no resemblance to anything that has ever existed in Cleveland. On a small stage next to the packed bar a woman wearing a basically invisible bikini was writhing to inhumanly loud pounding music. Nearby, beneath a sign that said D.J. BOOGA WOOGA was a man wearing black lace-up boots and a purple thong held up by orange suspenders. He was shouting into a microphone: “LAST CALL FOR THE MISS HOT AMATEUR BOD CONTEST! LADIES COME ON UP! FIRST PRIZE IS ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS! COME ON LADIES! LET’S SEE WHAT YOU GOT!”
Standing near the DJ were a dozen young women wearing garments that, if all of them were combined, might have provided enough fabric to make a sock.
“We should stop here,” said Kevin.
“No we shouldn’t,” said Seth. “We need to get to the Ritz.”
“We can’t get to the Ritz,” said Kevin. “Admit it. We tried, and we failed.”
“Plus,” said Marty, “they don’t have Miss Hot Amateur Bod at the Ritz, not to mention D.J. Booga Wooga.”
Seth looked back out at Ocean Drive. Still no taxis.
“Maybe there’s a bus to Key Biscayne,” said Big Steve.
“Shut up, Steve,” said Kevin.
“Come on, Seth,” said Marty. “One drink.”
“OK,” said Seth, dragging his suitcase toward the bar. “One drink.”
* * *
Three hours later, they were on their fifth pitcher of margaritas. The pitchers were $50 apiece, plus a generous tip for Vicki the bartender, with whom Kevin had fallen deeply in love. Kevin was also in love with Cyndi Friend Gonzalez, an outgoing young woman who had finished fourth in the Miss Hot Amateur Bod competition, and who was wearing a dress made from roughly one square inch of some extremely stretchy material. At Kevin’s invitation, Cyndi had joined the Groom Posse at the bar; she had in turn been joined by a friend of hers, a large bald man named Duane.
The posse was not thrilled about Duane, but nobody told him to leave, because in addition to being large, he had an 11-foot Burmese albino python named Blossom draped over his shoulders. Duane made his living collecting tips from tourists who wanted to have their pictures taken with Blossom. He’d been doing this for eight years and considered himself a professional. He also considered himself an ambassador for Miami, and upon learning that Seth was about to get married, he had appointed himself as tour guide.
“This is my town,” he said. “ ¿Se hablo españolo? You need weed? Oxy?”
“I think we’re good,” said Seth.
Duane brandished Blossom. “You want to hold her? No charge for the groom, man.”
“Maybe later,” said Seth, leaning back to avoid Blossom’s flicking tongue.
“Just say the word,” said Duane, pouring Seth and himself another glass from the pitcher, finishing it. Kevin waved to Vicki for another.
The Clevelander was now very crowded and making far more noise than the entire state of Nebraska. The sea-salted night air was warm and sticky and thick with the aromas of spilled beer and cigar smoke and Axe body spray and billowing clouds of do-me perfume worn by women who were not wearing a whole lot else. Seth was staring at one of these women, wondering how she sat down in that dress and hoping she would attempt to do so soon, when he realized that Big Steve was shouting something into his ear, trying to be heard over the all-obliterating boom-boom issuing from the coffin-sized speakers of D.J. Booga Wooga.
“WHAT?” said Seth.
“THE HOTEL!” said Big Steve. He held up his phone so Seth could see the time: 9:30. Seth frowned. He swiveled toward Marty, grabbing the bar to keep from falling off the stool.
“WE NEED TO GET TO THE HOTEL!”
Marty frowned deeply for several seconds, processing this concept, then said, “WHAT?”
“Never mind,” said Seth. Realizing it was time to take matters into his own hands, he turned away from Marty and slid smoothly off the stool. He continued sliding smoothly until he found himself on all fours under the bar. He decided to remain that way for a bit, collecting his thoughts.
He’d been down there a while and had yet to collect any when he became vaguely aware of voices shouting above him in the thumping din. He heard his name, and realized that the voices belonged to Marty, Big Steve and Kevin, who, apparently unaware that he was under the bar, were trying to figure out where he was.
“Hey!” said Seth. “Down here!”
They didn’t hear him. Their voices were louder now, and more concerned.
“Hey!” Seth repeated, again going unheard. He thought about attempting to stand up, but at the moment that didn’t seem to be a good idea, or even possible. He decided to collect his thoughts some more and soon fell asleep with his back against the bar.