I'm waiting for my sister at O'Neals, second seat from the door if you
come in the front, writing on receipt tape from my purse because this
place has coasters. This was her idea. I've been away long enough not
to know places.
Happy hour is over, the times chalked on a board with a flying saucer
coming in to land over the $3 dollar rails. Below it, a miniature
tugboat floats in a snifter of Blue Curacao balanced on the cash
register. That's the kind of stuff that makes me nervous. Six tables,
four barstools and for now it's just me so the data comes quick:
Joella tends bar. Danny owns the place, chefs, and teaches basketball
after school Tuesdays and Thursdays.
It's Thursday and Danny just laughs when a kid who seems to know his
way around back pours everyone shots of Grand Marnier. I take mine to
be polite, wince, and turn back to the real basketball game, where
we're up by six with three to go in the half.
-- Was Roy in here? Danny asks.
-- Yesterday, the kid says.
-- Yah, the kid says. Kersploshed.
I ask how to spell that, and Joella and Danny both spell it to me, same way.
When Karen gets to the bar it's good because I'm almost out of receipt
paper and anytime you write at a bar, paper or no, you risk looking
like you've been there too long. I give her my wine to taste, and she
says one of those.
-- Mosen Cleto, I say, showing her my paper where it's spelled. Danny
goes in back to make food for the tables that have come in.
We get through how's school, how's work, and then she says to me:
Blair's moving out.
-- I'm sorry. I say this to the TV, where the Suns are digging their
-- All the electronics were his, she says. Which sounds like, what do I
do (oh and) do I ever get over him? This is the guy who time before
this hacked her email, then burned her clothes and pictures in a
litter box out on Thunderbird.
-- I have a router if you need it, I say. She and Blair have been doing
this long enough that each of us get to hate him for a different
thing, so I picked his clichés: A litter box.
-- Thanks, she says. I grip my wine glass like it's a planet I've been
told to keep from spinning so I don't say the other thing, which is:
you never get over the ones that had keys.
By now it's just Karen and me and Joella, and when Grand Marnier comes
through for more glasses, my sister asks where's the party? And this
I'm older, but Karen lives here and when I'm in town on holidays,
which is when we talk, she's like the older sister with the car -- always
A couple years ago she won the lottery with Litter Box -- 200 grand,
split two ways -- but still never fills up her gas tank. Even when they
were together, we weren't supposed to talk about it, like the win was
a character weakness, an accident, a prodigal year in Mexico we were
just lucky to have her back from, safe and poor as ever.
We know each other via elevator speech, mainly, and that was mine.
This is hers: My sister asks how to spell everything. My sister wears
only silver. My sister doesn't eat meat.
I'm guessing because that one she actually says later to Jake, who's
sitting between us on the patio. Everyone around the table except us
works here, or used to. Jake has Saturdays.
Karen's already taken a few jabs at Grand Marnier and Jake, deciding,
and when one of them smarts she laughs at her poked-out knees like
they must teach you somewhere because the guys are both Tuned In. I'm
reffing euchre because I have no memory for games, and I keep my glass
on a plant rack, out of the cards.
-- You don't eat meat? Jake looks at me.
-- I know, bacon! Karen says and does this thing with her lips that must
go with the knee laugh. So sad, isn't it?
-- But why? He says. No one's eating puppies. And though this isn't
expressly true, I let it go.
-- Basically so we won't have to take over Mars, I say. We can do it for sport.
-- No really, he says, you working to take down Jimmy Dean all by yourself?
My hair is warm from the heat lamp and everyone looks funny against
the orange stucco so I don't mind anything.
-- You recycle? I ask. And because we are all drunk, he tells the truth:
Only on Tuesdays.
Later, Danny hands me a cigarette and offers me a candle-lighter and
he has to hold it because those things are made for right-handers and
anyway it's been three years and several time zones and that boy only
showed me how to breathe once. I see Jake offering Karen a cigarette.
He has it cupped in his palm like it's a sugar cube for a horse.
-- Hold it flat, I say. He looks at me again and I take a drag, remembering.
-- Flat palm, I say. So she can't bite your fingers.
And my sister laughs and I think maybe I've won something, it's such a