Fiction by Bill Stranberg

June 18, 2013

  A younger, prettier woman entered the room. She might as well have been the only red dress in a film noir. Silence. All eyes belonged to her hips; her bobbed brown curls, her perfect red lips. She moved with quiet grace through the rest of us—the crowd, the colorless—towards the bar to order a drink.

“A gin and tonic,” she said. And, after a moment,
  “A gin and tonic,” she said again.
    “A gin and tonic,” the barman said, “right away.”

  The men. The men. Wedding rings and bonds all broken, the men loosened their neckties and collars, and puffed up their chests. They might as well have been peacocks displaying their tail feathers.

  She took no notice. She took no notice of the men, of the smoke, of the distractions. With her head down, she took deep breaths, blocking out the world around her and the concussed room, once again, began to stir. The colors and sounds of a normal night slowly returned. Voices rose to normal clatter as though turned by a knob.

  Colors broke the flood gates: greens to the counter tops and sweating bottles, browns to the table tops and floors, yellows to the brass bar and beams of light cutting the smoke. Colors to clothes, colors to lips and with them my red beauty was lost to the night; a fly amongst flies attacking a streetlight.

  The comfort that came with the return of color was like breaking a painful wind. Her beauty was a feast for the eyes and hot lead for the gut. I could neither think nor breath until I digested this younger, prettier, nearly opposite version of myself. I raised my cigarette to my lips and clanked the ice in my tumbler.

  “Another vodka?” I blew smoke in his face, and gestured towards the girl in red.
  “Put her drink on my bill,” I said and dropped some change for a tip.

  Leaving the bar to its red dressed mistress, I headed out into the foggy night. The street was cold and empty. The fog nearly thick enough to watch it eddy with each breath.

  I took in my murky surroundings, exhaled, and walked home happy that for once, the clouds came to me and not the other way around.


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