Murder on the Dancefloor: Tales From Late-Stage Hospitality—The Frozen Margaritas

Summer always comes shyly to Melbourne, where patches of sun peek between weeks of dismal skies and harsh wind.

A birds-eye view of two glistening, pink margarita glasses, each with a tiny person inside.

Content warning: misogyny (gendered slurs), alcohol, mentions of sex


Summer always comes shyly to Melbourne, where patches of sun peek between weeks of dismal skies and harsh wind. We awoke at 2pm on a dreary Sunday with a galling realisation that, should we have started our laundry then, the clothes wouldn’t dry in time for the surprise shift work had sprung on us for the next day. Only a drink could solve our torment; we decided upon Blackcat at 4 and set out beneath the grey clouds and haphazard Christmas decorations of Brunswick Street. By the time we arrived, however, the sun had begun shining in strips across the street, and the clouds were banished to distant Viewbank. As nice as it was, I could not stop thinking about wearing damp trousers at 11am the next day.

Dark shops sat squatly along the eerie street all the way up to the bar’s shaded side door, beneath its mess of vines. The bar, earthy and chestnut, glowed in the late afternoon light. We ordered our frozen margaritas and sat on the cushions by the front window. The short cup felt cold in my hands. The taste of Tajín lingered on my lips.

“It was grey half an hour ago,” Sadie said, shading her eyes.

“This is the first time I’ve seen sun in about three weeks,” I replied. I glanced around the bar.

Groups of people chatted idly on the lounges. I stretched, and the tips of my fingers brushed the tendril of one of the plants draping from the window frames. Spindly fans rotated from side to side. It was a gorgeous afternoon indeed, and despite the glare, we were quietly enjoying it. We had just spent the best part of the last six days working, and being able to ward off the loom of responsibilities for a couple of hours felt like a rare privilege.

“It’s so peaceful,” she said. A man sitting outside rolled up his sleeves, and I caught her staring. She shook her head. “But I’m so tired.”

“Aren’t we all?” I replied. My feet ached.

“I had depression sex with Drew after we closed.”

I laughed, thinking she was joking, but then remembered them leaving together.

“No way.”

Sadie shook her head again.

“How was it?” I asked, still in disbelief. She paused.

“It… happened,” she said. I winced, but began to laugh again.

“Needed a release from last week, to be honest.”

I thought of the week in question as I stared at my waning drink. She made a fair point—yelling customers, stony-faced managers, opening from our own closes, with minimal sleep and minimal food to fuel the work. I conceded that every hospo worker in December probably deserved a guilty, end-of-the-week root.

“Not a fun week. Nearly at Christmas though,” I said. I tried to think of what I’d get my parents.

“This week was especially bad. I asked for a ten-minute break so I could cry,” Sadie said.

“You cried last week too,” I pointed out.

“Because some guy called me dumb bitch.”

“Good point. What was it this time?”

“One called me a dumb whore.”

“Ha. Fuckin hell.”

I remembered that I had a keg delivery that I had to handle by myself, along with opening the bar. I considered the last, frosty dregs of my margarita, and of the rest of it swimming in a near-empty stomach. The measly staff meal the kitchen provided had been left out for five hours, and I began to regret picking at it. I wondered why they bothered leaving oysters and barbecued chicken out. The only edible thing was the vegetable dumplings, and that was pushing the definition of “edible” to an extreme: a cold, calcified skin and an interior macerated into a mush.

I went and bought two more frozen margaritas. The sinking sun spilled over the ochre-coloured cushions, and I caught my reflection in the mirror. Warmth enveloped me, and I sunk into the couches. We touched our glasses and said “cheers”, as we sipped in the afternoon’s blaze.

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