Tuesday, March 13, 2007

more posts...

decided to start posting more frequently, with lit news, wine notes, and more poems and the occasional short story as I'm getting back into the form. with that said, here is a story that some of you may have read, but it's been tightened up and I think more focused on the metaphors involved.

hope you enjoy the read:

Things Are Gonna Be Fine


They say at a freshly wiped table in the non-smoking section of the restaurant. The dim light of the place shone in the faint wetness, the swirls from the rag still visible. She pulled a napkin from the silver holder at the wall end of the table and dried the area directly in front of her. She wiped in small circles that spiraled slowly outwards, reaching to the edge of the wood and then halfway across, almost to where he sat with his arms folded on the damp top. He appeared to not care about the thin oily film. His bare arms sat there in it. His eyes roamed over the rest of the patrons seated near them. Two couples, in the smoking area one aisle over, their cigarettes glowing, their chatter rising like smoke, waited on their food to arrive. One man sitting by himself in a booth by the window, staring. A group of girlfriends laughing. He didn’t really care, he was only acknowledging the space they filled. He looked at her. She’d finished her maintenance. He watched her wad the used paper into a tight ball and plop it down on the aisle end of the table. Their eyes met and then moved to the menus. They hadn’t been out to eat in a long time. He thought that eating out was always the same, the wiping of the table, the people, the silences. He saw it as a sometimes necessary evil; sometimes he thought they needed the vague comfort of stranger’s lives. They looked at their menus.

The waiter came up and took their drink order and went away. Waiters were never really there, he thought, waiting for his beer. She opened a local astrological newspaper that she’d grabbed on the way in and flipped the pages. A candle sat on each table, flickering against the walls, casting patterns on the dark ceiling. Their candle wasn’t lit so he took out a book of matches, struck one and dropped it on the wick. It flared and hissed on top of the wax, but the wick didn’t catch. He put the matches away.

The drinks came, and the waiter asked if they were ready. She folded the paper and slid it to the side, then said, “I’ll have the, um, the veggie burger with swiss, fries for my side item, and could you bring me a bit of your salsa as well?” The waiter noted it in his pad.

“And you sir?”

“I’ll take the same.”

He wasn’t picky. He hadn’t even read the menu. He handed it back to the waiter who was looking over the rest of his tables, scanning for his next mission, the next empty water glass. She slid the paper back in front of her and continued flipping thru the pages. He watched her for a moment then looked out the window where the trees were bending and leaves flew in the wind. Another storm coming, he thought, but didn’t say aloud. It was quiet at the table, in contrast to the room. A t.v. glowed above the bar where people sat one stool apart and stared, drinking endless drinks. Next to the television hung a framed black and white picture of a nude woman sitting on a white rug. He didn’t recognize her. He looked away and back to the girl. He ran his tongue over the teeth inside his mouth. His stomach growled. He was hungry.

A cop walked thru the front door and brushed past their table. He went into the kitchen and stood talking to the bartender. He watched the cop thru the little service window. The cop laughed and touched the girl on her arm. She smiled, and walked away from him, back towards the bar. He looked around, studying the kitchen area intently. The girl came back with a cup of coffee and handed it to the tall cop. They talked for a few more seconds, but she kept looking back to the bar. He eventually walked out of the kitchen and past the table again, out the door into the wind with his coffee.

She drew his attention back to the paper.

“You should do this,” she said, pointing to something.

“What?”

“I said, you should do this.” Pointing.

“Let me see it.”

She turned the page around so he could read. It was an ad for teeth whitening, a coupon for a free bleaching with the purchase of a full cleaning somewhere.

“You know, they can also take out those mercury fillings people used when we were younger. Those things cause cancer. Now they replace them with some kind of porcelain mixture, I think, and it’s supposed to be better for you.” She opened her mouth wide so he could see. There were dark silver fillings in her back teeth. Mercury, he guessed.

“I don’t have any fillings,” he told her. She closed her mouth.

“No, I was showing you this ad so you could get your teeth whitened. Don’t you want that? Whiter teeth?”

“I don’t really care. It’s pretty expensive, I mean, with the cleaning and all, right?”

He didn’t think they had the money. They were eating out after all. What else did she want? He was okay with his teeth. He didn’t need a big pearly smile; that was for strippers or models, or actors or something. Anyway, he had been feeling like all of his teeth were coming loose for a while now, but he hadn’t told anyone. He didn’t tell her now. He ran his tongue around his mouth again, pressing each tooth firmly with the tip, testing. Each one felt just the slightest bit loose. So slight that he wasn’t even sure.

“Well, I want you to do it. Your teeth are pretty yellow.” She paused. “And we’ll have plenty of money soon, so that won’t be an issue.”

He stopped messing with his teeth. She went on.

“When we have money, I’m gonna have a bunch of stuff done.” She crossed her arms on her side of the table, her eyes narrowing, vanishing into the distance. “My teeth, I’m gonna get braces, then get em whitened. Then I’m gonna get a little lift, and maybe a few other things.”

“You know, you’re only twenty-seven.”

“I know, but I feel so much older.”

The food came, and she folded the paper and put it down. They ate in silence, thinking about whiter teeth and money. The burger was good and hot, and the fries were crisp and greasy. He ordered another beer before the waiter could disappear, then drained the last of the first. As he chewed, the rain began to come down in scattered bursts.

“You know, white teeth matter.” Her eyes were still far away.

He kept chewing. The bending trees beyond the window were lemon yellow in the sodium lamps. A bell rang insistently somewhere in the kitchen. He wasn’t sure about anything. He swallowed what he was chewing and waited on the bill.

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