Christmas At Mel’s
Sadie slumped in the chair
by C.J. Heck
at her favorite table at Mel's.
Merry Christmas. Yeah, so what?
Six empty glasses were lined up
in front of her on the chipped Formica.
The glass that was still in her hand she
studied with the same intensity
a demented gypsy might upon seeing
her favorite crystal ball suddenly deflated.
The lines in her face met in an intricate pattern
just above her penciled brows as she pondered
her situation through the booze fog.
Damn barkeep. Damn twinkle lights hurt my eyes.
He had to put twinkle lights in here
as if anyone wants to see the graffiti better,
she cackled to herself. She watched the room
with its new look, blink red, then green, then yellow
through the gently swirling cigarette smoke.
She threw back another drink.
Made her want to puke, that's all it did.
Who cares if it's Christmas Eve?
Every day is the same to me, she thought.
Just a workin' woman tryin' to make a buck.
Bad enough, everywhere you go bells ringin’
on corners, snow and slush in every step,
and all that fancy decoratin' to remind you you’re alone.
Cash registers ringin' big time, too,
she thought with a bitter smile.
Damn. Business was slow this time of year.
Every john she knew was home
playing Santy Claus with the kiddies
and Husband Of The Year with the wife.
What a joke, she thought. What they really want,
I give 'em. What they really need, I give 'em.
They're all the same. What a friggin' joke, she thought.
Yeah, only the joke’s on me.
She raised a finger at the barkeep for another drink.
A shadow fell through the swirling smoke
to settle eerily on the table, blinking through
the empty glasses in front of her.
She looked up to see one of her regulars standing there.
Finally! She thought to herself. 'Bout time, too.
Already a plan had formed in her mind
to do him fast and then get some shut-eye.
She gave him her best crimson smile.
The john leaned down and handed her a folded bill.
With a sad smile he said, 'Go home, Sadie.
This one's on me, and, Merry Christmas to you.'
Then he turned and walked back through
the swirled and blinking smoke and out
into the street with her staring slack-jawed
at the closing door behind him.
Damn. If that don't beat all.
As she unfolded the fifty dollar bill,
she pushed back her chair, got up
from the table and for the first time in years,
Sadie’s face softened into a genuine smile.