Breaker’s Bar

Ray had no idea why she was walking

through the door of Breaker’s Bar.  It was as if she’d stuck

out her hand and it had pulled all seventeen years

of her skinny body along with it.  Inside

the smoke hovered over the pool table

like a bad mood and the waitress sucked

on a broken fingernail.  Ray hesitated long enough

for the bartender to notice her flat

chest and blue skin and ask for her ID.

I been workin’ at a diner since I was fifteen, she said.

DOB, said the bartender.  I need your DOB.

I didn’t come to drink, said Ray, I need to know where

is this place?  Ray pulled a piece of paper

from the watchband under her sleeve

and handed it to the bartender.

He looked at a picture of the Barbizon Hotel

and said: Never heard of it.

For girls, said Ray.  It’s for girls to spend the night.

Stevie put out her cigarette – mashed it hard

just in case it forgot who was in control.

Out of business, she said carving an X in the ash.

Ray looked through the stench of stale beer

and saw a girl, not much older than she was,

sitting all slurry in the corner.

The bartender nodded in her direction.

Talk to my old lady, he said.  She knows why water falls.

The busboy sidled up to the bar, a case of scotch

hoisted on his hard, brown shoulders.  The bartender

looked in the busboy’s eyes and begged for a smile.

The busboy turned toward the waitress who was making

change from the cash register in her cleavage and ran

his tongue across his teeth.  The waitress flipped

the busboy the bird and put her hand on top of the bartender’s.

Two beers with Tequila chasers, she said, and one

White Russian – rocks … could you puke?

The bartender pushed the waitress’ hand away

and nodded like it was okay for Ray to talk to Stevie.

Stevie could feel Ray approaching her.  She tipped

her chair against the wall, put her head back and closed her eyes.

The Barbizon went out of business years ago, she said – you need

a youth hostile … not to be confused with a hostile youth,

she mumbled for her own amusement.

Ray put her knapsack on the floor.  It had been twelve hours

since the Greyhound and still … she didn’t miss the farm.

Go home, Kid, said Stevie squeezing her can of beer

just enough to make it crackle.

Ray shrugged and pulled out a chair.

You get kicked out? asked Stevie picking at her chin.

Kinda, said Ray putting her elbows on the table.

Kind of? said Stevie.

Kinda like it was run aways or live with Mrs. Potts.

Stevie wasn’t so sure she wanted to hear about Mrs. Potts.

My daddy died.  Left me to her, said Ray.

She beat you? asked Stevie lowering the front legs

of her chair.  Ray squirted some ketchup on her index finger

and said: Only with her stupidity.

Stevie laughed quick and hard.  I had one of those, too, she said.

My mother married it when I was twelve.  Used to read

Chaucer over and over like he wasn’t going to die

until he understood it.  I used to tell him:

Some things aren’t supposed to make sense.  Chinese,

she said lighting her last cigarette, I might as well have been

speaking it.  You want something to eat?

Maybe a Coke, said Ray.

No, I mean, food.  Something to go with the catsup on your finger.

Ray liked how with Stevie there was no bullshit.

Coke is food, she said.  Leastways where I come from.

Stevie wanted to ask where that was.  She liked

the way Ray was so calm.  Reminded her of her pet rock.

Where I come from Coke is food when there’s rum in it, said Stevie.

Coke’ll disintegrate a spoon, said Ray, licking the catsup off her finger.

Stevie looked at her boyfriend making eyes at the busboy.

You learn something new every day, she said.

Ray tore the advertisement for the Barbizon Hotel into pieces,

dropped them one by one on top of the X in the ashtray.

Stevie couldn’t get over Ray’s skin.  It was this weird

kind of blue – like her blood was just about to stop.

Course, said Ray, you gotta leave the spoon in overnight.

Stevie touched Ray’s hand … more out of curiosity.

Right, she said as Ray raised her eyes.  Overnight.

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