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by Dan Lovell

We take our martinis with Hendrick's gin, Miriam and me, every Tuesday in the same bar. We like them dry, stirred -- never shaken. A martini is never shaken. And it is never served on the rocks.
Miriam is running late, as always, but I order anyway. Her smile is brightest when her martini is on the table when she arrives, the glass sweating a little puddle around its perch on the coaster. She will smile tonight.

"Two olives in each, please," I tell the young waitress -- Heather, according to her name tag. She is young, but I've heard her talk to the others here. She has two children and no steady man.
Heather asks if I'm sure I want two martinis.

"Yes," I say. "One for me. One for Miriam."
She raises a carefully plucked eyebrow.

"She'll be along," I say, smiling a smile I hope doesn't belie my pity. I will tip her well, if it means her children will have new shoes.

There is a special art to the martini – a perfection of proportions that must be respected. A real martini must be garnished with one olive. I always ask for two. They always give me three.
Legend has it that even numbers are unlucky, so good bartenders are trained to serve odd numbers of olives. If this bar had the old, studied bartenders I’ve been searching for, I would credit superstition for the number of olives Miriam and I are treated to each visit. Judging by the size of the hamburgers they serve here during the day, however, I tend to believe the generosity is mere American excess and ignorance.

Every little city in America has a bar like Murphy’s: the kind that promises a vaguely Irish pub from the outside, but inside offers standard-issue neon domestic beer signs, hamburgers, chicken wings and quesadillas. Lunch is served every weekday. After six, the lights are dimmed, mercifully hiding the makeup and wrinkles on the over-40 divorcees who crowd around the oak bar. This is a beer crowd. It does not appreciate art.

In truth, gin should be kept in a freezer -- not on the almost rustic shelves they have behind the bar. The martini is served with gin so cold it cracks your teeth. And a Hendrick's martini is never served dirty. At home, I shake the brine from my olives, so it doesn't sully the cleanliness of the gin.
Such care can't be expected here, though. I've learned to grin through that. Miriam will be along. I sort through my wallet, waiting for her and our drinks.
*****
"And here's Henry, like clockwork," Heather said, speaking just above a whisper. "He breaks my heart."

"Oh, stop." Jeff was jocular. "He's okay. And he always leaves a good tip."

"It's just that...I don't know," Heather said.

She watched Henry move to his booth. It was Henry's booth on Tuesday nights. The rest of the patrons knew that's where Henry sat every week. Henry and Miriam.

He took off his hat, set it on the table, then stripped off his overcoat, hanging it ceremoniously on the hook outside the booth. He hung his hat atop his coat. He sat down in the booth, eyes scanning the bar, searching. He was unshaved, as always, his hair short and thinning. He was an old soul, but not an old man. And while he wore the pits and wrinkles easy lives don’t earn, he wore them like honor badges.

Heather pulled pen and pad from her pocket and wrote down the order. She read it aloud to Jeff: "Two Hendrick's martinis, up, dry, two olives."

"You haven't asked him what he wants yet!" Jeff laughed.

"No need," Heather giggled back. It was a sad and nervous giggle. There was little joy in memorizing the order. "Just once I wish he'd order something different. And just once I wish you'd give him what he asks for. Every time, three olives."

"Hey, he's a good customer," Jeff said, shrugging. "I like to do a little extra."

"He's picky," Heather said.

"I don't hear him complain," Jeff answered. He snapped Heather's bottom with the bar towel. "He only drinks one of them anyway."

At Henry's booth, Heather smiled sweetly. She hoped her smile didn't look the way it felt: filled with pity, as if they both knew his secret. Or maybe that she knew the secret he didn't know.
"Welcome back, Henry," she said. "Nice to see you tonight."

She thought about asking if he wanted the usual, but hope stopped her short. Just once, she prayed, let him order a beer. But Heather wasn't fooling any God. She didn't believe any supernatural force would change Henry. Not for her sake. Not for her sanity.

"Good evening, Heather," Henry said. His eyes were crystal blue and lucid. "Quiet in here tonight."
"It's early still," she said, still smiling. "It will pick up in an hour or so. We're sponsoring an indoor volleyball team now, and they're in on Tuesdays to celebrate."

"Ah," Henry nodded. "We won't be here that long. Just here for a cocktail. Just one."

"What can I get for you tonight?" Heather asked, pulling pad and paper from her apron. She was cute. Henry couldn't help notice that even after two children, she was trim and curvaceous. Her eyes were bright, though sad, and she had a smile made more endearing by a few slightly misaligned teeth. Sometimes on these nights, after his martini was empty, he wished he could put his arms around her and let her cry. Her deep brown curls would smell of hamburgers and fryer grease and she would tremble.

"Two Hendrick's martinis, straight up, stirred," Henry said. "Two olives in each, please."
"Sounds good," Heather said, pretending to write the order down. She turned from the table just before the tear escaped the corner of her eye.

*****
A good martini is hard to find. That's why Miriam and I chose this place -- we've tried everywhere else. And while they don't do it right, they do it less wrong than anywhere within 10 miles.
To make the best martini, start with a glass of ice. Add a quarter shot of good dry vermouth, then two shots of Hendrick's gin. Stir about 30 times, quickly; you must keep the ice from melting too much. Immediately strain into a cocktail glass and serve. If done right, you can develop a small sheet of ice on top of the drink, which melts fairly immediately. The cocktail glass should fog quickly. Add an olive. It's simple, really.

To be accurate, a martini with two olives is called a Roosevelt, named after FDR, who repealed Prohibition and was a legendary cocktail drinker. But I can't ask Jeff to make a Roosevelt. Not Jeff, who snaps Heather's bottom with his bar towel and uses well gin when he thinks he won't be caught. Jeff, with his strong chin and full head of hair. Jeff, who at 25 can make all the money he needs by wearing a tight shirt and flexing his pectorals at the divorcees, all 15 years his senior, all grasping to the last vestiges of youth, all desperately trying to convince each other they don’t look their age, that they have a lot of life ahead of them, that they’re happy now. I am grateful for Miriam.
Miriam. Always late. But always right on time.

She has a way of swooping in just when I start to think she won’t. She always comes in with the same smile, the same spark in her eye. There's a glow about Miriam I've seen in precious few people.

She's not in love with me.

Miriam and I talk about everything in the world. Everything about the world. The world and all that is the world. We're bad Catholics. Miriam once told me I was born with a broken heart.

I wonder if the drinks will arrive before she does. I don't see cocktail glasses on the bar. Jeff is taking his time, chatting with Heather.

*****
“I don’t know what you get so worked up over,” Jeff said, scooping ice from the well under the bar. “He probably doesn’t even know. He seems perfectly happy.”

“Well, who is she?” Heather said. “He’s too young to have dementia. He’s too old for imaginary friends.”

“So what?” Jeff snapped back. “It’s not your business. He comes in every week. He’s not a danger to himself. He’s not a drunk. He orders two martinis and drinks one. Doesn’t matter to me, as long as he pays for both. And I think he’s taken a liking to you, anyway.”

Jeff had two cosmos, two Labatt Blues and a Guinness to pour before he could think about Henry’s drinks. And he needed to take his time on the martinis. Henry was a friendly enough guy, but he was particular about his martinis. He ordered nothing else.

“Why does it upset you so much?” Jeff asked, pouring cranberry juice over ice. “Do you like him or something?”

“Jeff, please,” Heather sounded weary. “He’s nice. I just think he needs help.”

“He a nutcase,” Jeff said. “But he’s got money. Take it.”

Jeff handed the cosmopolitans to Heather and shooed her off. He quickly poured the Labatts and set them up on the counter for Sarah. The Guinness was a slow pour. He scooped ice for Henry’s martinis and picked two cocktail glasses, polishing them with his bar towel and examining them for spots.

He set about the work of making a martini.

When making Henry’s martinis, Jeff was meticulous. He saw Henry as a connoisseur of martinis – one who would appreciate his technique. He pulled the bottle of Hendrick’s from the shelf and poured two shots over the ice. Then he added an extra splash, for good measure. He was generous with the vermouth. He stirred both vigorously, counting 30 revolutions, exactly as Henry had instructed in one of his first visits, several months ago. The ice clanged against the side of the mixing glass.

Jeff strained the drinks into the cocktail glasses, which fogged. He inspected the drinks for stray ice cubes. There were none. He smiled to himself. Henry would love this one.

And then he added his special touch: A plastic sword, with three olives, carefully skewered through direct center. He set each in their place and stepped back to admire his handiwork. They were beautiful.

“Heather?” he called. “Get these to Henry. Quick.”

*****
Ah, the cocktail glasses. The cocktail glasses here are fine. They aren’t too heavy to lift comfortably and aren’t so thin that the cocktail loses its chill too quickly. The stems are colorless and straight – not like the curved stems in the pretentious martini bars. Perhaps the cocktail glasses are the most honest thing at Murphy’s.

Watching Jeff place the glasses on the bar and begin his martini making is like watching a Charlie Chaplin film. He takes pride in his work, clearly. Unfortunately, he fumbles and trips his way through, ultimately falling, face first, into a mud puddle. His saving grace is he wants to do it right.
He’s clumsy with the ice, so it breaks into tiny pieces as he scoops it up. And he always pours the gin over the ice first. He’s too generous with the liquor, and stirs too frantically. I can always tell when Jeff’s making my martini; I can hear the rattle of ice cubes from across the bar.

Stirring a martini takes patience and practice. It’s about moving the ice through the spirit, with as few collisions as possible. It should be done almost silently, without violence.

I try to watch him while still looking away. I should know better. I should enjoy the drink when it comes, not fault this heathen for his spiritual abuse. But, then, there they are: his stupid plastic swords with his damned three olives.

I try to be surprised and put on a polite grin as Heather daintily sets the drinks on the table, one on each Budweiser coaster.

“Here we are,” she says. “Jeff wants a full report. He said he’s been studying up on martinis and wants to know how he’s doing. He also says he’s got an incredible chocolatini recipe he thinks you’ll love.”

I hope my cringing is only in my head – that Heather can’t see it in my face.

“It is poor manners to start without Miriam,” I say, politely. “But you can tell Jeff I did order two olives. He always gives me three. I don’t place my order by accident.”

“I’ll tell him,” she says. As she turns to leave, I notice she’s lost a button on her shirt. I catch a tiny glimpse of her undergarments – black lace. Sheer. I feel myself blush. Thankfully she’s walking away.

I feel a rush of cold air as the door opens and February rushes inside the bar. But, not finding what he is looking for he quickly rushes out again. But there, in the doorway, is the culprit who let him in.
Miriam is here.

*****
“And here we go,” Heather said, directing Jeff’s attention to Henry’s table. Every week for six months it had been the same. Heather dropped off the drinks, and moments later Henry came to life. It was Miriam’s presence, Heather supposed, that did it.

Heather allowed herself to imagine that Jeff was right about Henry. What if he had taken a liking to her? He was not unattractive, and based on his tastes he was not suffering financially. Though he was a dozen years older, Heather imagined finding comfort with him. Jeff wasn’t right, though: Henry didn’t light up for her – not the way he did for Miriam. Heather was surprised to find herself jealous.

Henry looked toward the door, his eyes bright, his grin wide. Moments later he was standing, doing a curious dance next to the table that caused more than a couple of patrons to snicker. He quickly brushed at his sweater, smiled again, broadly, and sat down.

Henry lifted his martini and gazed wistfully across the booth, seemingly enveloped in Miriam’s words. He smiled, nodded. He sipped his drink.

Heather could see Henry’s lips purse just slightly as he swallowed his first sip. That wasn’t a good sign. Henry never really complained. But his disappointment scrawled across him, like an apology on a middle school blackboard.

“I don’t think he’s impressed with his drink,” Heather said to Jeff over her shoulder.
“Miriam hasn’t touched hers,” Jeff said.

“No, she hasn’t.” Heather watched the life in Henry’s face. The martini might not be to his standard, but he was enjoying himself. He wasn’t the sad, expectant man who walked in every Tuesday. He was the satisfied, fulfilled man she’d seen leave the bar every week. He was transformed.
Somehow, seeing Henry this way turned her heart into a dishrag. She turned away again, feeling tears slowly run down her cheeks.

“Ah, Heather….every week,” Jeff said. “Every week it’s the same…you lose it. He’s fine.”
“He’s not fine.”

Henry sipped his martini again, this time without wincing. His smile spread. He was animated, talking with passion.

Probably talking about his damned martinis, Heather thought. She was going to have to check on him.

*****
Miriam hugs me, even covered in snowflakes as she is. I dust off quickly, hoping the snow doesn’t wet my sweater, and help her out of her coat. Her hat, curious, colorful, knit, is tossed unceremoniously on the seat. She begins to talk immediately, her words a flurry of notes, spinning wildly about me. It’s all apologies for her tardiness – and a fanciful excuse that just floats past. I expect her to be late, but I don’t tell her that.

I take the first sip of my martini.

Jeff has outdone himself. He’s been too generous with the vermouth again. I would guess he’s used a half shot or more. These “wet” martinis are good for those who can't appreciate the spirit.
In the 1970s, I tell Miriam, the martini gained popularity. But 1970s men were too soft for gin. They used equal parts gin and vermouth. Sometimes they used sweet vermouth, even. Blasphemers.
Of course, those weren’t the darkest days. Those days are upon us now. Most martini bars can’t serve a true martini, but they’re happy to serve a vodka-based confection that tastes of apples or cranberries or chocolate – drinks for the juice box generation. Drinks for those who don’t appreciate the spirit.

In the beginning, cocktails were made of spirits, sugar, water and bitters. Back then, bartenders distilled their own whisky and gin. And it was a point of pride for them to share what they’d made with their patrons. In those days, medicine men and snake oil salesmen developed bitters as a cure-all, but they used spirits to help the bitters go down. During Prohibition, bathtub gin was so unpalatable that fruit juices and soda water were often added to mask the taste. They were spirits without spirit.

FDR ended Prohibition and let America have its booze back. And that meant the return of the grand cocktail. FDR himself mixed martinis at the White House for his guests.

I realize I’m on a tangent again, and Miriam smiles. She lets me get away with these things – my little obsessions. When I’m with her, I can’t help but pour myself out to her. In her eyes I see the limpid pools of time. I am lost there, transfixed, mesmerized. As always.

I’ve barely noticed Heather has returned to our table
.
“So?” she asks.

I pause. I’m weighing whether to use this as an opportunity to impart some wisdom on the hapless Jeff. Then I remember Miriam has listened to me talk about martinis enough tonight. I choose to wait.

“Tell Jeff he gets a solid B plus,” I say. “And an E for effort.”

She asks if I’d like to give Jeff a few pointers.

“Not tonight,” I say. “I’m enjoying Miriam’s company.”

Miriam smiles. She may be blushing, just a little. Or maybe her cheeks are still flushed from the cold. In the dim light I cannot tell.
*****
Heather swallowed hard and leaned over Henry’s table. She’d stood there at least 15 seconds, but he talked on, not noticing.

He looked up with surprise, but smiled politely.

She returned the smile, but hers included a question – a knowing little query they both knew she had to ask. And they both knew his martini wasn’t perfect.

Heather hated interrupting Henry in mid-monologue. But she hated interrupting Miriam even more. She could tell from afar when Miriam was talking: Henry would be silent, grinning, listening. He listened for long stretches.

If Heather interrupted Henry, he would answer her politely. If she interrupted Miriam, Henry was visibly hurt. It was as if he was awoken from a dream that he couldn’t get back. It made her feel guilty.

“So?”

Henry was reserved, almost complimentary, Heather thought. She kept the exchange short, and walked away with purpose. She exhaled deeply as she returned to the bar.

“He says you get a B plus,” she told Jeff. “And an E for effort.”

“Bah,” Jeff answered. “What was wrong with it? I was dead on. I don’t know what he wants from me.”

“Maybe it’s the three olives,” Heather offered. “He did ask for two. He told me that’s no accident.”

“Fine. So how’s Miriam tonight?”

“Jeff, stop.”

The volleyball team entered. They were loud. They ordered beer and nachos.
*****
Where has the time gone already? I had so much more to say, and yet the volleyball team is here already. I’ve got a sip of martini left. And, of course, those damned olives.

Miriam is aglow tonight. She always glows. I remember the first time I met her, 16 years ago, outside an all-night diner in the middle of this filthy burgh. I’d been ambling about the city in the dead of night, smoking a pipe and enjoying the night air. She asked if she could give my pipe a try.
She managed it deftly, this bold, glowing creature she was then. And in those small hours, on that grubby street, we discovered a kinship for the night, a shared love of desolation. We laughed at the futility of traffic lights that continued to direct cars that weren’t passing beneath them. And we hid, inexplicably, behind the bushes when we heard approaching footsteps. She told me she had an old lady’s name.

We’d often found each other over the years, wandering those streets, enveloped in the greasy yellow glow of the street lamps. We’d sip coffee at the diner, or sit in the darkness of a nearby park. Sometimes we’d talk for hours, filling the air with notes and words. Sometimes we sat in silence, just breathing. I’d often close my eyes and feel her next to me. I could feel her glow.

Life in a small city is different from anything else in the world. Dillon is home to about 30,000 souls – too big to be quaint, too small for the excitement of a city. It’s safe, yet uncomfortably dull. It’s a city that’s constantly tried to reinvent itself, to make itself more attractive to businesses and visitors alike. To that end, it tore down entire neighborhoods during the 1970s, so city leaders could install a road, bypassing downtown. Of course, that bypass cut off the life’s blood to downtown businesses.

The factory jobs that built this city are gone. Most people work at the prison, the hospital or the school district. The city has tried to market itself using several dubious claims – notably the taste of its water, the accomplishments of its minor league baseball team, and its connection to an inventor who was cheated out of his rightful spot in the history books.

The main business district is now filled with chain restaurants and big-box stores. But you can still see the true city, the proud Dillon that prospered in the 19th century, in little pockets downtown. Most don’t bother to look. But Miriam and I know where the authentic spots are. And we can sigh over what was lost before either of us was born.

And here we are, in this middle class bar, sipping Hendrick’s martinis. The volleyball team is loud. They’re drinking beer and spilling nachos on the tables. It is time to go.

Miriam excuses herself to the restroom. I don my coat.

In her curious knit winter hat, she wanders off down the street.

It’s early, but it feels as if she’s bidding the world good night.

*****
Heather was exhausted when she returned home. The volleyball team kept her running for nearly three hours and left the required 15 percent tip on the team captain’s credit card. The kids were purring away in their sleep, and Heather kissed her mother goodnight. As she undressed, she noticed she’d lost a button on her shirt.

“Damn.”

She was in tears again.

She slipped a hand into her pocket and found a crisp $20 bill there – Henry’s tip. The same he’d left her every week. It was generous, considering the $16 tab he paid every Tuesday. She slipped it into the mayonnaise jar above the refrigerator, where she kept every other tip he’d left her.

She wondered how a man so alone could be so generous, could smile so sincerely. She wondered how he could seem so content with his imagination.

*****
Jeff is coming to the booth to talk to me. I suppose he’d like some martini pointers. It’s quiet here tonight, and Miriam is late. Hopefully I can answer Jeff’s questions before she arrives.
Jeff is smirking as he approaches the table. He’s questioning my taste.

I politely tell him the proper ratios for a martini.

“You have to swirl the ice through the spirit. It’s a dance,” I tell him. “Don’t smash the ice, or you get too much water in the drink. I want ice-cold gin. If I wanted watered-down gin, I certainly wouldn’t pay for Hendrick’s, Jeff.”

Jeff is troubled. He’s not his normal, affable self. Heather has been crying again. The left side of Jeff’s face has an angry pink welt on it.
He offers the argument I’ve heard too many times now – the one bartenders use to excuse a bad martini.

“James Bond doesn’t drink them that way,” he says. “Are you telling me you know better than James Bond?”

As I begin to explain why 007’s Vesper martini is not a martini at all (it’s made with vodka and Lillet, and is shaken – a vodka Bradford, maybe, but not a martini), Jeff has had enough. He storms off. I wait for Heather to take my order.

*****
“Okay, what am I doing wrong?” Jeff asked. He had made the unprecedented move of sitting down at Henry’s table. Sure, they’d talked martinis before, but that was months ago. And after six months of making Hendrick’s martinis, Jeff figured he should be an expert by now. “Every week it’s the same thing. I’m doing my best here, and it just isn’t good enough for you. What’s the deal?”

“Jeff, Miriam will be here soon; I don’t have time right now,” Henry said. “But I will say you need to respect the art. Two shots Hendrick’s. Quarter shot vermouth. Stir. Strain. Your martinis are better than any in the city, but you use too much vermouth and they’re watered down.”


“Watered down? I don’t add water.”
“It’s the stirring, Jeff,” Henry said. “You have to swirl the ice through the spirit. It’s a dance.”

Jeff felt the anger well up in him. He tried, dammit. He tried every damned week, and this self-appointed expert had never been a bartender. What the hell did Henry know about booze?

“You don’t know shit, Henry,” Jeff said. “James Bond doesn’t drink them that way.”

“That was Ian Fleming’s stroke of genius,” Henry said, ignoring the insult. “In the movies, Bond is slick and sophisticated. But that’s not what Fleming intended. He intentionally created the Vesper martini to show how uncouth his character was. Unfortunately, Fleming didn’t count on the ignorance of his audience.”

“Bullshit.” Jeff rose to his feet. His cheeks were red. He could feel his eyes burning. Across the room, he could see Heather, watching him, horrified.

“Listen to me,” Jeff said, pointing. “I’m done trying to make you happy. I’m done stressing myself out, worried that the great Henry won’t be happy with my martinis. Maybe I’m not the problem. Did you ever think of that? Maybe you’re the problem. Maybe nothing will make you happy.”

“I’m happy, Jeff,” Henry looked puzzled.

“You’re not happy,” Jeff’s voice rose. “You aren’t happy at all. You only think you’re happy when you’re sitting here with your imaginary girlfriend. Haven’t you noticed she never talks to anyone else? That she never drinks her martini?”

Jeff knew he’d crossed a line, but it was too late.

“Get it through your head, man. She’s not fucking coming. She’s never been here, and she never will be.”

Henry smirked. Jeff stormed away, hurling his bar towel onto the bar. Heather pushed through the swinging doors to the kitchen.

Flippy, the dishwasher, caught her arm as she walked by.

“I’m fine,” Heather said. “It’s just Tuesday, and Henry’s here.”

She got herself together quickly, checking her makeup in the mirror by the door, and made her way to Henry’s table. She did her best to smile.

*****
Miriam is later than usual, and I wonder if she was scared off. Maybe she saw Jeff at the table and didn’t want to interrupt. Thank God I haven’t ordered the drinks yet; nothing is worse than a warm martini.

I’d better keep my eye on Jeff tonight to make sure he doesn’t slip me well gin as revenge. And maybe I’ll pay him a better compliment tonight. Maybe if he lets me behind the bar I can give him some pointers.

Six months ago, Jeff was eager to learn. “A good martini separates the mixologists from the bartenders,” I told him. “If you can make an amazing martini, you can make anything.”

And there are the cocktail glasses. He’s beginning. Though I expect him to slam the mixing glass into the ice in anger, he steps back and takes a deep breath. He uses a set of tongs and carefully pulls several ice cubes from the well. He measures a quarter shot of vermouth and pours it over the ice. He measures exactly two shots of Hendrick’s. And then he stirs.

Listen as I may, I can’t hear the ice cubes clang.

He polishes the glasses, as always, inspecting for spots, and strains the drinks. In each, he places two olives, impaled on wooden skewers. He sets them on the bar.
It seems an eternity before Heather has picked up the drinks, but I know it’s only seconds. She sets them lightly on the coasters (these advertise Yingling beer), and I can see her smile is sad and nervous. I don’t think she is nervous about my drinks.

It is 7:15. Miriam is here. Just in time.

I rise to meet her. She pulls her colorful hat from her head and her hair is disheveled and full of static.

“Miriam.”

“Hi, Henry. Sorry I’m late.”

“Please, let me take your coat.”

*****
“Who is that?” Heather’s nervousness had boiled over. In six months, Henry had talked to nobody, save for Heather and Jeff. He played his curious pantomime every Tuesday night. He’d become a fixture – an oddity you’d see at the county fair. Pay $2 to a grubby, tattooed guy and you can peek in on the grown man with the invisible friend.

But who was this woman? And what of her curious, colorful knit winter cap?

Henry hugged her and helped her from her coat. The woman sat down.

Heather looked across the room, toward the bar. She sought out Jeff’s eyes. Jeff shrugged. Heather checked her tables and made her way toward him. She looked back at Henry, but her eyes settled on his partner. To Heather, she appeared to glow.

She had a smile that lit the little booth, and brought Henry to life. There was a warmth in the woman’s eyes that encouraged and invited conversation. Her gold hair caught the dim light like a prism. Heather felt her eyes fill with tears again. This time, she didn’t understand why.

*****
In truth, the martini is perfect. Not much could make it better, and I intend to tell Jeff. But not now.
The martinis are nearly gone, and the volleyball team has stumbled in. I can smell the sweat from here, and the play-by-play recollections of the game are getting louder. It’s time to go.

Miriam excuses herself to the restroom. While she’s gone, I finish my martini and don my overcoat and hat. She returns, and I wrap her coat around her shoulders. Tonight, I pull her curious hat down over her ears. We both laugh.

Miriam leans into me and lightly kisses my cheek. She takes my arm and we stride out into the chilled night.

I will walk these cold streets tonight, long after the bars have closed and the houses are dark. I’ll walk and watch the traffic lights, flashing from red to green and back, directing cars that will wake with the sun.

 

(You may view the complete print version here)
(Click to Purchase as a print magazine
_______________________
IN THIS ISSUE–––
EDITORIAL
• David S. Warren -
Editor's Notes

• Georgia E. Warren -
The Test

ARTICLES
• Sue Ryn -
I Never Imagined This

• Mary Gilliland -
Sky Dancer

• David S. Warren -
Poem to Archie

• Don Brennan -
Take Me To the River


• Peter Fortunato -
Surreal Really

• Peter Wetherbee -
Sinister Ballad of a
Middle-Aged Man


FICTION
David S.Warren -
We are Nuts


• Rhian Ellis -
Furuncle

• Garriel Orgrease -
Evening Out

• Daniel Lovell -
One for Miriam

• Nancy Viera Couto -
Margarida, Jose,
and the Queen

• David Rollow -
Your Stuff

• Franklin Crawford -
When I Have Thoughts
That I May Cease to Pee


REVIEW
• David Rollow -
Review: A. R. Ammons
Complete Poems


POETRY
• Chris MacCormack -
Packages (an excerpt)
_______________________



Evening Out

by Gabrial Orgrease

The running joke had become that I was being passed off as Billy Gibbons from Zee Zee Top. I wandered the streets of the French Quarter with family and friends of family. Whenever anyone of the group shouted, “Billy Gibbons, everyone, Billy Gibbons!” I was to go “Har har har.” (go to story)
______________________


When I Have Thoughts That I May Cease to Pee

by Franklin Crawford

My brain, which I am very attached to even though we’ve never met, is doomed to liquefy and bubble out of my ears, nose and mouth, shortly after I am as dead as the DNC.
It’s not the most pleasant thought my mind ever conjured, given that I suspect my brain doesn’t like to imagine its post-mortem condition any more than whatever this self – this symbiont with whom I share my weathered hide – wishes to dwell upon. (go to story)

______________________

The Test

by Georgia E. Warren

As soon as I got back to my dorm room I remembered. There was no textbook, we were supposed to research the famous artwork of Milan. The test was to identify and discuss the Italian Renaissance art was located in Milan. It was late. The library was closed. I decided I should go to bed and try to get to the library before class.

But I was exhausted: I sat on my bed ready to take my shoes off and fell asleep in my clothes.

Within a minute a very nice Catholic Nun shook my shoulder and told me I should not sleep in the pews of the sanctuary. I told her the problem about my class. I did not tell her it was thousands of miles away
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Reiki: Just The Facts

"Take Me To The River"

by Don Brennan

“Whoa! Where did you come from?’’ I set it down on the picnic table as fragments of memories washed over me. It was an old friend that I had found as a child, on a family vacation, somewhere one summer. Even though it was still covered with bits of soil, it was easy to see that it was loaded with interesting minerals. “I’m going to have to hose you off.”
The next two mornings, I spent more time staring at the stone than reading my book. The words were creating images not from The Celestine Prophecy, but from the day this stone first came into my life.

I had glimpses of it sparkling
in a shallow pool of water at
the bottom of a riverbed.
(go to article)

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POETRY

Chris MacCormack
excerpt from
Packages (visit)
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by David Rollow

The Muse came knocking at the writer’s window on a night of wild weather. Her skin seen through the windowpanes was luminous and pale, except for her flushed cheeks. Her green eyes glistened. Never had she looked more beautiful. Gladdened by this unexpected visit--for the page lay empty on his table and the pen lay untouched by the page--the writer stood and unlocked the window, his heart surging against his ribs as if they, too, somehow, were to be unlocked and his heart set free. (go to story)

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by Mary Gilliland

Myth is longing. I lose myself in myth. When I would re-read the texts, or re-imagine them, myth led me out of family problems I could do nothing about. It contextualized the martyred strivings of Roman Catholic indoctrination. (excerpt, go to full story)

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Margarida, José, and the Queen

by by Nancy Vieira Couto

Margarida saw the Queen in that summer of 1901 when all the days were damp and filled with the smell of salt. She couldn’t see the future through the fog, but she imagined machines, money, and motion, a city crammed with tenement houses and streetcars. She was fourteen years old. She and her mother, Maria Julia, had just arrived in Ponta Delgada, having said good-bye forever to aunts, uncles, cousins and friends, the living and the dead.
(go to story)
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The focus of our next Metaphysical Times will be "Memory." (see full size)

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