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He first saw her at the bar, scribbling on napkins. Something about her made something inside him bow down like a monk. And then like a flamboyant orchestra conductor in coattails. 

“Waiter!” he called, and clapped his hands sharply beside his head like a flamenco dancer. 

The waiter promptly appeared.

“You see that girl there? Short curly hair, glasses ...”

“Certainly sir.”


“What sir?”

“What do you know about her?”

“Nothing sir, she’s never come in before.”

“Oh,” his voice drops to a conspiratorial whisper: “Well I’d like to buy her a drink. I mean, you take her a drink, but make sure she knows it’s from me.”

“Of course sir. What shall I take her?”

“Water. A glass of water.”

“With gas?”

“No. Not bottled water. Tap water. On the rocks.”

“Yes sir.”

She hardly noticed the glass of water the waiter put down in front of her, so feverishly was she scribbling.

“Pssst!” said the waiter. She slowly looked up. “This water Miss, it’s from that man over there.”

“Ah! With the curly hair and glasses?”

“Exactly him Miss.”

She let her gaze rest on the man who looked so familiar, but whom she had never seen here before. He, to acknowledge her stare, began nodding his head and giving out furtive flapping waves. He then delivered a series of conspiratorial winks and blinks, to ensure her it was he who had devised the clever business of the water.

“Ah. Waiter?”

“Yes Miss?”

“Give my admirer a message . . . ” and here she began a quick sketch on a fresh napkin, “of this design.”

The waiter bent over the sketch. “With a, um, martini olive and toothpick umbrella Miss?”

“That’s right.”

“And you’d like the umbrella to stick up just so?”


“All right Miss, I’ll prepare it right away.”

“Thank you. Make sure he knows it’s from me.”

“Of course Miss.”

The man was so busy trying to seem nonchalant that he didn’t notice the waiter’s presence.

“Ahem. Sir?”

“Yes?” The man looked up with an air of affected dignity, and flicked his head importantly.

“A message, from the Miss you admire.”

“Oh?” He stared at the martini olive and tropical toothpick umbrella with great concentration. 

“She’s extremely witty I see, almost frighteningly so.” 

Having said that he tossed his head like a cat breaking out of the bag, scooped up the toothpick umbrella, swooped it around his head the long way, dangled the olive in front of pursed lips, then slowly placed the small green orb between his teeth and pulled it off with relish. 

Stylishly he chewed the olive with long large chews, without parting his lips. He swallowed and gave his head one last grandiose toss, like a spotless matador after the final deep plunge of the sword.

At the sight of this the Miss gasped and returned to her frantic scribbling.

“Waiter,” said the man. “Take her another gift. A martini glass, with a lemon garnish, and float a marachino cherry, compliments of me.”

“Complete with a martini sir?”

“Of course not.”

“In what shall I float the cherry?”

“In nothing tangible. I say float to give the gift style.”

“Oh. I’ll make it right away sir.”


The woman recieved the elegant glass and garnishes with surprise poorly masked by indifference – much like an adolescent’s acne poorly masked by Tinted Oxy. She raised her eyebrows.

“Clever. Quite clever.”

She reached into the martini glass with long graceful fingers blotched with blue ball-point pen, extracted the marachino cherry, dangled it above parted pouty lips, let her head fall back and the cherry pursue while softy, smoothly, she bit the red orb barely, without piercing its taut skin -- teased it on its stem, and with a soft tug of teeth and flick of wrist, let it blend and melt into her red pink mouth.

Her long neck slowly retracted as she nibbled the cherry imperceptibly.

The man, feeling outdone by such flawless mastication, sucked in his breath and turned red -- flushed with desire, respect, and dented masculine pride.

“So, she is both witty and sexy. Irresistably so!”

He hadn’t meant to set this whole witty exchange in motion, rather he’d hoped that his silly gift of water on the rocks would prompt the beautiful self-absorbed lady to notice him, and invite him to sit next to her, where they might exchange words, and, perhaps something more. 

“However,” the man thought, “she is even more self-absorbed than appearances dictate: she has used my bold overture to initiate a display of her own wit and humor – like a damn peacock, jumping on any excuse to show its brilliant tail feathers. Well, now that the ball is rolling ...”

“Waiter!” The man clapped his hands in the same flashy flamencan style as before, complete with all the pomp and arrogance of old Spanish royalty and modern latino machismo.

“I’ll throw her a double-header,” he thought, “I’ll give her a shock of sincerity. I’ll wow her out of that damn scribbling.”

“Yes sir?” asked the waiter.

“I have something else for you to take the lady.”

“What is it sir?”

She waited stunned, full of anticipation, as the waiter brought the drink.

“What is this?” she thought, “a real drink? What can it mean? That he despises my little gifts and only wants me drunk? But then why not cocktails from the start? And why has he skipped my turn? Does he think me incapable of responding to his last gift?”

She looked up to meet his eyes. He met hers with a self-conscious smile. He motioned her to come join him at his table, pointing down excitedly with both hands at the chair just next to him.

She lowered her eyes and her face flushed red. Like a young bear cub waking from the lovely dreams of hibernation, she felt confused about what was happening, and how to react. 

“Was he pointing into his lap?” she thought. “And with that funny little smile ... a dirty sneer?” She had her usual vague suspicion that perhaps she should be offended, and should be the first to strike. She crumpled and shoved as many of the scribbled napkins that would fit into her purse and pockets, which was by no means all, and hastily quit the bar with a haughty air, careful not to look in her exadmirer’s direction.

The man watched her go with sad puppy dog eyes fighting to look defiant. He gulped down the last of his beer and shortly left as well, avoiding the waiter out of embarrassment.

The waiter walked up the down the bar with a dishrag, wiping away all trace of man, woman, and intrigue. When he reached the woman’s discarded napkins he skimmed them over as indifferently as a speed reader appears to flip through pages, which is to say he only glanced at them as they rode crumpled in his hand from bar to trash can.

Sketches, all of them, detailed profiles and head shots of a man with curly hair and glasses. Done with amazing detail considering the tools of blue ballpoint pen and napkin, loving detail, obssessive detail, the kind that would most likely frighten the subject were he to ever lay eyes on them . . . 

Which is unlikely, considering the sketches ended the night heaped in a brimming full trash can, atop martini olives, lemon rinds, marachino cherry stems, and a toothpick umbrella; atop all other trash -- passed back and forth with the hope of exchanging more than mere trash -- void of all silly significance, without trace of flirt or lust, like so much water down the drain.

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Last Year Today



lindsay r., steve d., claire z., donnie b., ben b., & david b
are reading at this haypenny thing in detroit on october fifth

& sarah b. and shauna m. are reading at
this pboz thing in brooklyn on the sixth

& there's this huge thing in philly a few weeks later