Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

“Manhattan?” the man asks, pulling out the chair across from her before pausing, “May I?” as an apparent afterthought. He sits down without waiting for an answer and waves towards the waiter. “Two more of these”, gesturing to her drink on the table between them.

Nadia’s momentarily speechless. Her expected date had just stood her up via text message, and she was planning on drinking this one off on her own.

“You look a little down,” he takes off his white woven fedora and flicks the brim absently before setting it on the chair beside him.

There was something about his expression that was captivating, his eyes alight, and she struggled to find something to say at this abrupt and unwelcome intrusion.

“Yes, unwelcome, my apologies for being presumptuous.”

She startled, had he just…

“Do you want me to leave?” He leaned back slightly, reaching for his hat.”

“No,” she finally found her voice, “I didn’t catch your name.”

He smiled, bright perfectly proportioned teeth gleaming in stark contrast to his tan.

The waiter slipped their drinks onto the table, then retreated to the bar without a word.

“Nathan,” he was speaking again, “I’m in… acquisitions, and you, my dear Nadia deserve much better than to be dismissed in an email.”

“Text message,” she corrected him, “but how could you…?”

“Text message, telex, carrier pigeon, what’s the difference? These men promise you the moon and the stars, but when push comes to shove, they deliver nothing.” That smile again. “Am I wrong?”

Nadia shook her head ‘no’, then drained her glass and exchanged it for the fresh one from the table.

“To failed relations, and chance encounters.” He raised his glass towards her, and she met it with her own reflexively.

“You all promise the stars, that’s for damn sure,” her eyebrows knitted in a deep frown.

“What if I promised you the moon and the stars and actually delivered, would that be enough for you to take a chance on someone like me?”

“I don’t even know you, and I’ve had enough empty promises to last me a lifetime.”

“But if I followed through on that promise, would you join me for a time?” There was that light in his eyes again.

“I suppose I’d have to if you could, but you won’t. Men never do.”

She’d no sooner spoken the words than he stretched his arms out wide, tugging out his jacket sleeves, and pointed up into the sky.

“That moon right there?”

She looked, the moon a pale white circle in the blue of the sky.

He held her gaze, and reaching up, pinched the pale white circle of the moon between his thumb and first finger with his left hand, produced a small glass jar from a jacket pocket with his right, and plucked the moon out of the sky, dropped it in the jar and snapped a lid on in a smooth, practiced motion.

She gaped. The sky was now featureless blue. Whatever he’d distracted her with was clearly some magician’s sleight of hand. The jar he held before her contained a very convincing replica of the moon in miniature.

“Very clever, but that’s not exactly giving me the moon and the stars now, is it?” She sipped her drink, something seemed wrong about this.

“Tough crowd, ” he smiled. “One star then to start, then we really will have to get going.”

He pocketed the moon and produced another identical jar, then reached straight above their heads, pinched the fiery orb of the sun from the sky and slipped it into the jar, closing the lid again in one smooth motion.

Everything around them was suddenly dark, save for the blaze of light emanating from the jar in his hand.

She dropped her drink.

“Now, a deal is a deal,” he said, reaching across the table and taking her hand, “it’s going to get pretty ugly around here in a minute.”

He slipped the jar with the sun inside into another pocket, plunging them into absolute darkness. He gripped her hand tightly, and in the distance, she thought she could hear herself screaming, just one familiar voice in a cacophony of confusion, then a moment later, silence.

They stood together on a beach of polished glass, purple waves shushing the shoreline next to them, the sky a shimmering haze, the patio, the people, the noise, all gone.

“What…”, she started, “where…?” The question left only partially asked.

“Gotcha!” he smiled, letting go of her hand and taking a step back. “As I said, I’m in acquisitions; moons, stars, the occasional starlet.”

“Did you really take those things? I don’t understand, without the sun…” she didn’t finish the thought.

“Yes, there will be a horrible mess, but it was inevitable, I just got the pieces I wanted while they were still available and in good condition.”

She stood once again speechless.

Nathan produced another glass jar from an inside jacket pocket, and before Nadia could protest he plucked her off the beach and dropped her inside, closing the lid and pocketing his prize.

“Now,” he said to the empty beach, “I could use a drink.”