Ninety-Nine Bottles

Sam found art exhibitions boring. He didn't understand how people could look at a picture for fifteen minutes, pointing out every detail, and what each of these details represents. All he saw was whether the colours were nice or not, and how smudge-y some paintings were.

Yet, tonight he found himself having to take important clients of the higher end of the bank to "a gallery packed with must-see modern masterpieces, representing all generations, with a fresh take on society today". He idly wandered around the exhibits bored out of his mind, but still trying to stay enthused for the sake of his job. He became tired of looking intrigued by the pieces in front of him, and decided to leave the clients in the hands of his colleague Carl who had also been drafted in.

As he walked around the room, he found stunning glasswork, and pottery at the other end of the exhibition. At least this stuff was three-dimensional and it was possible to get a good look at a few angles of the work. He enjoyed looking at a simple piece of stained glass, which looked like a clear, gray and black bar graph essentially, but was made to look like the skyscrapers in his hometown, New York. It reminded him of his job; the combination of the city and the graph-like shape, which he secretly loved, except for nights like this where he had to feign interest in the people he did business with).

Bored of the glass, Sam moved to the pottery. From a distance he noticed a vase, which to him looked like a large beer bottle, but when he moved closer he noticed it had an intricate design carved in, thin enough that you need to be next to it to notice. It contrasted with the plain shape, which made Sam decide this was his favourite piece in the gallery – the most interesting, it wasn't what you expected it to be. If he HAD to look at arty stuff, this is the kind he could grow to like.

He checked his watch and realised that twenty-five minutes had flown by, and that Carl was still stuck entertaining the clients. A thought struck him that this was how people stared at one item for so long; they didn't realise they were doing it perhaps. The intention was to go straight back to his friends, and his customers, but as he turned, he became distracted. About ten metres away, stood a woman, maybe a couple of years younger than himself.

Carl looked OK, so Sam mused that five to ten minutes couldn't make a difference surely? He needed to talk to her.

The woman had long, blonde naturally (he was sure) curly hair, and the most beautiful face he had ever seen. Sam had never felt nervous talking to a girl before – he had a good job and a relatively impressive apartment for his age, and confidence came easily – but now he had no idea what his opener would be. This girl was clearly cultured and smart, why else would she be at an art opening by herself?

It was now or never. Double-checking the Carl situation, he turned back and strode towards her. His mouth was dry, and his palms a little on the sweaty side, but his mind was screaming at him to go for it.

"You come to art exhibitions often?"

She turned around with an amused expression on her face, that Sam couldn't quite place.

"Yes, I kinda have to. Well, I choose to, but I enjoy it. I love art, I've always loved it. You seen the post-modern stuff over there? The artist just finished college, manages to get work in a Manhattan exhibition just like THAT", she replied clicking her fingers on the last word.

"I don't really get the paintings so much, I prefer the glass and clay-work stuff. It's, erm, beautiful. I don't really go to these kinda places though, I don't get what all these terms mean that I keep hearing middle-aged guys saying. What is Bauhaus anyway? Never mind, my favourite thing in here is that bottle/vase thing over there. Ya have to get real close to see the detail, huh?"

She looked at him, even more bemused, suppressing a laugh. Sam questioned why she was doing this, to which she replied, "Molly Jensen, the artist of the 'bottle/vase thing' over there. And you, sir, are an ass-kisser."

"Molly, nice name. Sam Wheat, guess I am an ass-kisser then, but it wasn't intentional! I didn't know you were the artist, shouldda guessed by the way you spoke about art".

Molly didn't know whether he meant he found her boring, or whether he thought she was knowledgeable. He clearly wasn't when it came to this particular subject. "And let me guess, you have some cushy office job and don't give a damn about art? Lawyer perhaps?"

Sam was taken aback by her abruptness, but she caught him out, "Worse, I'm a Wall Street banker, working my way up. I've actually brought clients of the bank here tonight, ass-kissing THEM to keep their custom. I do love your work Molly, it's spectacular. He noticed Molly finishing her drink and turning to walk away. "Can I get you another drink, Molly?", he was desperate, he couldn't have their conversation end this way.

"I don't get drunk at work, and I DON'T go out with bankers, especially those who use lines." The urgency was rising, she had to say yes, he needed her to. She was absolutely stunning. "Oh I can do worse than use a line, I know a song about bottles, or 'bottle-y/vase things', I'll sing it to ya 'til you agree to go out me! I will!"

She couldn't hold back the laugh that escaped past her lips. This man was ridiculous! Hot, charming, and completely ridiculous.

*Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer, take one down…*

She remembered this annoying, repetitive song boys would sing constantly to wind the girls up from elementary school. She couldn't believe she was hearing it in her twenties.

*Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-eight bottles of beer…*

Oh God, he was really going to do this, wasn't he? In the middle of a high-class exhibition. A night that was crucial to her career as an artist.

*Ninety-seven bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-seven…"

Molly couldn't decide if this was tedious or utterly adorable. She oddly thought it was the latter, he really wanted this! She walked away towards the downstairs bar. Funnily enough, he followed.

*Ninety-six bottles of beer…*

His volume had increased, "Sam Wheat, right? Just STOP. The kind of people that are here will NOT appreciate your playground games." Sam couldn't notice the smile she was fighting whilst saying this to him, he needed to finish his job.

*Niiiiiinety-five booooootles of beeeeer on the waaaaaaall, ninety-five bottles of beeeeeeeeeer*

She turned around to face him again, smile faded slightly. "Molly, I have vitally important clients upstairs, who I need to get back to, just say yes". She carried on just staring at him. "C'mon Moll."

*Niiiiiinety-fours bott-*

"OK JEEZ! I'll go out with you! Moon's Jazz Lounge, 42nd and 9th, 8 o'clock, Friday. See ya then Sam, gawd.

He knew it was the start of something special as she walked away from him, still smiling. "See ya Molly Jensen, ya won't regret it!". She didn't turn around to this, she just walked away coolly back to the main room. He forced himself to walk away, back to his clients and Carl, who gave him an angry look for ditching him for forty-five minutes. He no longer cared about business for the evening, he had other things occupying his mind.

Friday, eight o'clock, Moon's Jazz Lounge.