Saturday, February 23, 2013

'A Year And Nine Minutes' (an A-to-Z story)

(O.K., all you would-be critics and kibitzers -- I happen to LOVE cheese^^)

All you need is love –“ insisted the song as Sam got up off the couch.  Bring in the torch of romance, sure, and light up your dingy hole – he thought, as a bitter smile crossed his face.  Clicking off the radio, Sam grabbed his jacket, slung it over his shoulder and set out.

Darkness had settled over the street, and with it had come the first soft rain of the spring.  Even though the chill, damp air on his bare forearms was uncomfortable, Sam chose to ignore it.  Facing the night alone, an idiot should be cold – it seemed somehow fitting.

Grim thoughts chased each other in Sam’s head as he walked on aimlessly.  Had he done this or that differently, would things have turned out differently?   It was a pointless exercise in self-torment, Sam knew, and anyway it was months too late, but he could not help reliving the events of the past year – so long ago, it now seemed – and recognizing that, at every critical juncture, he had made exactly the wrong choice.

Jovial regulars singing a tipsy tune in a corner booth;  Kamchatka Vodka in a frosted glass on the counter;  lemon zest and beer foam spilled on a table;  Maryann in her short uniform with the frilly apron, zigzagging across the crowded room with a trayful of glasses.  Now she turns, sees him and smiles –

Only after he turned the last corner and saw the garish neon sign did Sam realize that he had wandered over to Quincy’s.  Probably it was nothing more than the force of habit, he told himself.  Quincy’s, after all, had been his favorite hangout long before Maryann had come to work there.

Raging at Maryann, accusing her of two-timing him, of playing him for a fool;  squeezing her slim arms as ugly, hurtful words come pouring out;  tears streaking her pale face.  Underneath the garish neon letters –

Vague apprehension filled Sam as he made himself push open the door, step inside and look around.  Within, everything was the same as he remembered.  Xeroxed counterfeit bills displayed by the door, signed photographs of semi-celebrities on the wall, the cheesecake beer ad posters – all were there.

Yes, and Maryann, too.  Zigzagging across the crowded room with a trayful of glasses, she turns, sees him -- and with an aching deliberateness, she says "Sammy...".

Related Post:  The theme of the 'Return'

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