New Stories for May 18, 2020

 

 

“At Your Service” by Stephen Haines

We mix martinis and Manhattans. We serve peanuts and pretzels and cold slices of pizza out of tepid, yellow, rotating containers. We take the month of January off for vacation when business slows to doldrum; business is never slow, and we haven’t had a vacation in years. We walk out of work—sweaty, pensive, and smiling at 4 a.m.—with our money buried deep in our boots, just in case someone tries to rob us at gunpoint. We cut off people older than our grandparents well before noon and watch them search their pockets as they struggle to stand. We observe carefully to see if the girl on her own likes the attention from the guys that came in, all together, shouting. We shout at DJs to turn it down; we shout at DJs to turn it up; we shout “Last Call!” from behind bars covered in sugar and beer and, sometimes, vomit.

We patiently explain to foreign visitors why the Washington State Liquor Control Board won’t allow us to accept Lithuanian driver’s licenses as an acceptable form of identification. We decline service to little brother using big brother’s ID. We give the woman in torn, dirty clothing a cup of hot coffee and let her escape from the rain awhile before we must mandatorily notify security. We tell suited men with no patience that if they snap at us again, they can find another place to feel tall. We watch loud ladies point to other loud ladies and then contort limbs into hurricanes on a dancefloor. We wallow all night in maelstroms of insincere laughter and dream all morning about cocktail recipes with names like Thaumaturgist.

We ask, “What else can we do for you?”

We have the following phone numbers at our disposal:

  1. Police.
  2. Security.
  3. Owner.
  4. Neighbor.
  5. Taxi. (Are you familiar with Lyft or Uber?)
  6. Regular with a knack for fixing drains clogged with decades of rotting pulp.
  7. Regular who left their daughter’s birthday card on the counter two days ago.
  8. Regular who: ­_________________________

Insert:

  • drinks from open to close seven days a week and is dying from cirrhosis.
  • is a veteran doctor and “knows how to make your insurance cover care.”
  • owns a bar on the beach in St. Augustine if you’re ever visiting.
  • knows the right tailor in town.
  • knows the wrong side of town.
  • knows the perfect place for a date night with your Mona Lisa.
  • knows the exact combination for the safe in his boss’s office.
  • Our partners (whom we don’t see often enough).
  • Our friends (whom we only see at work unless they’re service industry).
  • Our parents (who ask us if we ever plan to do anything else for a living).
  • Our managers (who hand us our schedules for the next week on Sunday).

We are gay, straight, lesbian, queer, bi, cis, pan, trans, non-binary. We are propositioned for sex both discreetly and overtly. We get screamed at by Louisiana oilmen who claim they hate queers but more likely hate themselves. We watch morose bankers pull their wedding rings off bloated fingers and lurch closer to the person sitting next to them. We guide ecstatic, bright-eyed young guys from bible-belt states to the bars on Capitol Hill where they can be themselves. We tell the man who won’t stop asking the woman from Philadelphia, “Where in Africa are you from?” to pay their tab and leave. We know every ethnicity, every town, every city, every state, every country. We are denizens of natural unity. We speak all languages. We know every secret corner of every city and we’re willing to guide you, if you speak the mother tongue.

We counsel lawyers, treat physicians, banter radio hosts who drink tequila in the afternoon, nod along with telemarketers who miss the last bus home, listen to clergymen confess their Cosmopolitanism, give comedians a practice before a Tuesday open-mic in the back of a Thai restaurant, review books with college dropouts and films with the rejects of the School of Cinematic Arts, serve food to sallow, broiled chefs who dissolve in their chairs to the humming of overhead fans.

To continue reading “At Your Service” click here.

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“Death Notices” by Troy Kehm-Goins

I have seen death

            amniotic night          blue-black membrane

      stretched from dusk into twilight

witch of Endor, medium to Sheol

while you attempt

            to stand          upon spindly bones

      awaiting the Divine breath

shade of the prophet Samuel, dead and wishing to remain so

      (Here I am! Here I am!)

I have tasted your life

            brisk     beautiful     wild     unkempt

      even as it unravels my bowels

“A Letter to My Past and Present Self” by Sarah Phillips

Some relationships are haunting, like perfume in a scarf. You can’t quite remember when the fabric absorbed the scent, but it has soaked in—reminding you of a memory that you forgot.  I imagine this feeling is true of almost any semi-remarkable relationship that exist during a period of growth or transition.

Those relationships that I had with people and places, remind me of an “older” and imagined version of myself, who had unlimited possibilities…before much of life was decided. At a time when the air was fresh with opportunities, and my skin was softer.

I fantasize about the person who I want myself to remember. 

I suppose I’m experiencing the dance between:

                   expectations

reality                                     hope

But only one of these will win.

Because decisions have been made

And I am me

To continue reading “A Letter to My Past and Present Self” click here.

 

“It All Comes Down To…” by Bill Fay

Whirling.

How can intelligence be artificial?

How can facts be alternative?

Everyone’s placing bets on the Cyclotron —

will it be a Neutrino?

My Money’s on the God particle.

WhirlingWhirling.

A silicon starred galaxy held in my hand

Learning everything useful and useless simultaneously

Portrait of a painting of a portrait.

Let the eyes mix them

A Mardi Gras dance of color.

WhirlingWhirling.

How can algorithms be pantomimed?

Avatarish analogs to evolutionary allegories!

To continue reading “It All Comes Down too…” click here.