A WEDNESDAY NIGHT AT THE MAPLEWOOD
This is a story near the end. This is you and me and a pitcher of Miller Lite and a pitcher of Miller Lite and a pitcher of Miller Lite. This is the girl on the barstool with a birdcage tattoo on her back flirting with the boys shooting pool. This is the boys shooting pool and flirting with the girl with a birdcage tattoo on her back and swaggering outside to smoke a cigarette and a cigarette and a cigarette and coming back to the pool game and ordering more drinks and drinking. This is early summer when the heat is still a novelty. This is money in the digital jukebox. This is your long fingers distractedly drumming the bar. This is the woman who orders a mixed drink because it’s her drink and she tells the young bartender how to make it and drinks it and tells him it’s good and orders another and drinks it and pays and tips and leaves. This is the young bartender with the tourist t-shirt from Florida that talks Cincinnati baseball or keeps quiet or turns his head up toward the TV with baseball or up toward the TV with basketball or restlessly inventories and rearranges and cleans because he’s new and stays busy. This is the waitress whose man shows up with her baby boy who makes her smile for the first time tonight. This is you silent. This is “Wagon Wheel” on the digital jukebox again and then again. This is the boys shooting pool singing along. This is the woman in the red shirt and the man with the sad eyes, in from out of town with their motorcycles parked out front, dancing near the bar, a little stagger, a little empty, a little elegant. This is Red Shirt coming up to you and saying I’ll let you dance with mine if you want. He’s a good dancer, isn’t he? This is Red Shirt saying nothing and pulling me away from the bar, mostly steady. This is Red Shirt’s body, thick and strange, swaying, pressed close to mine and her dark hair and makeup and teeth. This is Sad Eyes with his belt buckle and his boots, stiff but practiced, dipping and shuffling, his hand in yours, his hand on your back. This is a new song and you dancing with me and me dancing with you like we’ve done and we’ve done. This is us laughing and sweating. This is you moving away. This is me letting you go and letting you go. This is one more pitcher of Miller Lite, just one more, because this is near the end or this is very near the end or this is the end or this is.
Patrick Swaney lives in Athens, Ohio, where he is pursuing a PhD in poetry. His writing has appeared in Conduit, Inch, Indiana Review, NANO Fiction, Redivider and elsewhere.