Mel Berning and Brian MacDonald

Brian MacDonald
Inspiration piece

By Mel Berning


The bartender laid the napkin squares before my drink coaster. “I thought you’d like these.” I retrieved my pen from my slacks pocket; wrote a few words feigning a muse in my mind. The bartender looked satisfied, or teasing; I have trouble distinguishing the switch.

I stared at a wall. Who is she, or was she? How dare he step between and my one good eye and the brick wall seconds from powder under a salt-licked ice shaving melting on my tongue.

My jaw surrendered to lime. Maybe it was his tone. I questioned shadow. First glance, I noticed the philtrum, the slight smirk grin.

Maybe the neck. I dared not kiss the unchecked apple. I dared not look back. He wasn’t looking at me.

I kept tabs on my drinks, and thoughts, napkins bleeding together, and standing aside, dry. I dabbed my chilling lips, moist on the upper-lip fuzz. The crescent lime between my forefinger-thumb support, I thought better of the squeeze.

I remember the relief biting into the lime pulp without grimace, without missing my swallow, without the intoxicated chin drip. Without thinking, I smiled. I reached for the miniature pretzel sticks. I reached for a fresh napkin. I wondered whether the chance pretzel stick stack was intentional, or I-Ching-ish. I laughed.

Another lime wedge pair appeared on my napkin. I looked at the bartender. I looked at the hanging glasses, the liquor bottles and carafes and swizzle sticks transparent and umbrella, and I looked at the miniature rainbow cellophane pom-poms. I smiled. I might’ve laughed.

I thought I heard a “hello.” I looked into the liquor glass mosaic behind the bar. A woman was standing behind me, looking into the same mosaic mirror section, precisely, I thought, at me. I looked at the napkin — a lime wedge less. I laughed. “There I go, again, thinking a pretty woman might speak, passing though.” I blinked. I looked at the brick wall in the bar mirror. No one was there.

“Whew,” I scribbled, “not caught looking.”

I heard a laugh, on the frequency of a whisper. “Hello,” she said, “I’d like to read the poem you wrote.”



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