Thursday, December 6, 2012

abrupt endings

abrupt endings (part of the new novel) She had the book with her. Little, multi-colored tabs exploding from the pages. And the cover and binding were so beat to hell that it made it hard to believe she’d only had the book for a month. “Cutting Teeth,” she said and tapped the cover of the book. “The sentences are so short and the endings so abrupt,” she said. I took a big drink of scotch. Rolled it round with my tongue. Looked forward to the slow, easy heat. Watched this girl—Emily—go from thumbing like crazy through a copy of my book to writing frantically in a leather bound journal as she talked to me. She was pretty. Dark curls. Icy blue eyes. Young. Looking her best, I suppose. But I didn’t want company, didn’t want to talk about the book, and didn’t want to talk about writing. Especially to some graduate student doing a paper on minimalism while she was home for the holidays. “Do you want a drink,” I asked. The scotch raced down my throat. Warmed the hollow place. And started its mellow release. Through bloodstream. Muscle. Tissue. Bone. To the place that’s always needed it. And I thought of all the times it’s been like this. Me. Bellied up to the bar. Enjoying the dim light. Wanting nothing but quiet. To be left alone. Have a few drinks. To slow my mind and be able to think on the littlest things. And I could see her—Emily—in the mirror behind the bar, looking at me. “Two more,” I said to Mike, the bartender. “You got it, Hoss.” “Why does he call you Hoss?” she asked. Mike smiled. Poured two glasses of scotch. “Fan of Ponderosa, I guess.” She scribbled in her journal. “Ponderosa?” she said. “The steakhouse?” Mike chuckled. Set the liquid joy in front of us. “Jesus,” I said. “You’re so fucking young.” “My Dad used to take us there on Sundays,” she said. “I loved their mashed potatoes.” “Holy shit,” I said, and finished the rest of the first scotch. She fanned through the book. “You talk like you write,” she said. “Lots of profanity.” “Listen, Emily,” I said, “It is a little after noon on a Saturday. It’s cold outside. Snow is building up over the lake. I like it here. I’m in my element. Mike takes care of me. I take care of him. In about an hour, a couple of my friends will be here and they do not give a shit that I write books. They don’t care about words. Fuck, I don’t even think they read. And you know what? That’s what I’m looking forward to. So, if it’s all the same to you, I would like to just get this over with, so that maybe we can have a few drinks and talk like normal people for a while.” She sat there a moment. Back straight. Glancing at the door. I thought for sure I had done it. That she would excuse herself. Put on her coat. Take the raggedy book and pretentious journal and leave. Instead, she picked up the scotch. Drank it in three gulps without batting an eyelid and turned to me. “I can see why you’re wife left you,” she said and smiled. “My charm’s an acquired taste.” “Mike, another please.” And she fanned through those pages and scribbled in her journal and I knew I was in for a long day. And maybe a long night. And that now, anything could happen and probably would because we were drinking scotch on a Saturday afternoon in Alpena, Michigan. The place it all came together. The place it all fell apart. And I was old and she was young and we cared about nothing but the book and everything I had built into those short sentences. Abrupt endings. And small words. ~ K.J.

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