“Ethan Canin said that he wrote ‘The Accountant’ (in The Palace Thief) because he wanted to write a story in which a pair of socks seemed important. Pick an ordinary object. Make it someone’s obsession. Write a story about the obsession.”
She took it everywhere she went. Never was Amanda seen without her water bottle. At work, the gym, and even restaurants, the thing was always within arm’s reach. She loved it. She loved the convenient handle, the measurement lines along the side, the pink color that turned magenta when there was water or a protein shake inside. Her friends teased her and said she would rather be in a relationship with her water bottle than any of the men they tried to hook her up with. Although that was a bit extreme, everyone knew she was unnecessarily obsessed.
One Wednesday night after her weekly Zumba class, Amanda hopped into the gym shower to get ready for date number three that week. She wondered if her friends were ever going to run out of guys for her. After drying her dirty-blonde hair under the hand dryer, Amanda brushed it out and braided it over her right shoulder. She was just meeting the guy at Buffalo Wild Wings so she did not bother dressing up. She wore a red and black flannel, dark skinny jeans, and black combat boots. She checked her reflection in the mirror and made sure she did not have anything in her teeth before grabbing her bag and heading out the door.
The drive to the restaurant took almost half-an-hour and finding a parking spot was a nightmare. However, Amanda still managed to get inside with a few minutes to spare. Her date, Tim, showed up on time and they were seated relatively quickly. The pair chatted a few minutes and hit it off almost immediately but as soon as their server showed up everything went downhill.
“Welcome to Buffalo Wild Wings. My name is Rachel and I’ll be taking care of you this evening. Can I start you off with something to drink?”
“Could I get a Blue Moon?” Tim asked, looking at Amanda to see what she would order.
“I’m fine. I’ve got my-” Amanda reached for her water bottle but stopped when she realized it was not there.
“What’s wrong?” Tim asked.
“My water bottle… I think I left it at the gym…”
“I can get you a glass of water,” Rachel suggested.
“No!” Amanda clenched her fist and frowned up at the server. “I’m sorry but I can’t. I need my water bottle.” She turned to look at Tim and gave him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, but I have to have it. It’s… hard to explain. I don’t expect you to wait for me and I’ll totally understand if you never want to see me again, but I have to go.”
Before Tim could object Amanda had grabbed her purse and left. She drove as quickly and as safely as she could back to the gym and ran to the front doors. She nearly collided with the glass when the automatic sensor did not activate. She took a step back and waved her arms around but the doors still would not open. Frustrated, Amanda looked at the hours printed on the glass and checked her watch. The gym closed 15 minutes ago! Distraught, she pulled out her phone and called the front desk. Maybe an employee would still be there. The phone rang and rang but no one answered.
“Dammit!” Amanda pocketed her phone and tried to pull the doors open. They did not budge. Not wanting to admit defeat, she walked around the building, checking every door and window to see if any had miraculously been left unlocked. On the far side of the gym where the locker rooms were located she found her way in. One of the windows had been left wide open. However, it was one near the showers so it was higher up so people could not just peek their heads in.
Biting her bottom lip in thought, Amanda looked at the distance between the ground and window and knew she could make the jump. After just a month of studying parkour she was already the best in the class. Taking a few steps back, she made the run and jumped, using her momentum to scale the wall and grab the bottom ledge of the window. She hoisted herself up and landed like a cat on the tile floor below.
The scent floating around the room told her she was in the men’s locker room so she covered her nose and quickly walked out to the room next door. She checked her locker first but it was empty. She walked up and down the rows of other lockers, checking the benches and floors but there was no pink water bottle. She looked in the Zumba room and the lost and found, behind the front desk, and even all the trash cans. Nothing.
On the verge of tears, Amanda decided it was finally time to call it quits. She left through one of the side doors, not caring she had triggered the alarm system. She dragged her feet to her car and slid into the front seat. Hungry, she wondered if Tim was still at Buffalo Wild Wings and if he would even want to pick up where they had left off before she walked out on him. The restaurant was on the way home so it would not hurt to try. However, she was so hungry her stomach ached so she reached over to her bag on the passenger’s seat and dug around for a protein bar to hold her over.
Amanda is typically a difficult person to surprise but when she pulled her water bottle out of her bag, surprised was exactly how she felt. She screamed with joy and hugged the water bottle to her chest, allowing the tears to fall freely. She sat that way for a few minutes until she remembered the gym’s alarm and Tim at Buffalo Wild Wings. Securing her water bottle safely in the cup holder, Amanda started her car and drove off. She made it to the restaurant in 20 minutes this time and with water bottle in hand, braced herself for whatever she would find inside.
As expected, Tim was no longer at their table. Frowning, Amanda sighed and turned to leave when she heard someone call her name. Sitting at the bar was Tim, smiling and waving at her. For the second time that night she was surprised. “What… Why are you still here?” she asked, walking over to him.
“Honestly,” he began, nodding at one of the big-screen TV’s, “it’s because the game’s on, but in the back of my mind I hoped you would come back. Danielle told me about your water bottle thing, which is totally cool by the way! Kinda like a security blanket, right?” Tim reached into his pocket and pulled out an old, matted rabbit’s foot. “I’ve had this since I was a kid. Don’t know what I’d do without it. Most people think it’s gross and ‘so 20 years ago’ or whatever, but it’s always brought me luck even when no one else believes in them.”
Smiling sheepishly, he returned the rabbit’s foot to his pocket and patted the stool beside him. “Have a seat. I could go for another round of wings to share with a pretty girl this time.”