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Where Were You in the Blizzard?

A Short Story by Jan Alexander

It was a raw night. A January storm we’d be talking about the rest of the year; where were you that weekend it snowed three feet? That was back when Mike Dudley was tending bar at the Main Street Ale House. He was already getting beefy and chuckling at his own jokes, and he was only twenty-two. He watched a few regulars tromp in with the winds still biting at them, observed the snow clinging to their hats, and he said, “We don’t serve white people here,” then laughed because no one else did.

He was a little afraid of Gillian, the blowsy bar manager who was a witch. He imagined she could freeze him in that spot behind the bar forever. But she seemed to like him. She liked to tickle his love handles and search him for microphones. She called him Mike The Spy, because he’d gone to the C.I.A. and at first she didn’t know he meant Culinary Institute of America. That night she pointed him to the far end of the bar and said, “Go make friends with Andy Jensen.” The witch could read his mind.

Andy Jensen was stripped down to a sweater that was the color of wine in a very good year. He was new in town, but we all knew about the three properties he’d  bought. His father was a famous TV producer. People said the new Jaguar around town belonged to his coke dealer. Andy was with a man and woman around thirty, like him, both in the kind of fine-gauge sweaters you buy in New York City for a ski weekend. 

“Can I taste the Merlot?” the woman asked.

Taste it. Gillian would have laughed her out the door. Andy and the man stopped talking about a place called Anguilla long enough to ask Mike for Glenlivet. Straight up.

Mike hovered discreetly. In school he’d learned about how some people found a rich backer then opened their own place. The place of his dreams had palm trees outside.      “Another one.” Andy looked glazed. Mike heard him say, “She’s a fucking cunt,” and his companions murmur, “Well, move on.”  

“You married?” Andy slurred while Mike was pouring the third round.

“Yup. Our first is due in May.”

“Ain’t thas sweeeet…one for you too, a Glenlivet for my friend here too, whas your name?... hey Mike,  Schnapps for everybody, you like Schnapps?   ….ssooo Mike you got your life set up...”

Mike shrugged. “My wife wants to live in Key Largo… I’d start a restaurant and call it Chez Michel. ” He’d sort of promised her all that, actually.

“My ex-wife is fucking her way through St. Bart’s…”Andy grabbed the bar and his stool fell from under him. “Another round, c’mon Mike.”

“I hope you’re driving,” said Mike, looking at the woman.

“I don’t drive,” she said.

“I drive better drunk than…” Andy dropped his empty glass and sent it  shattering.

“I think you’ve had enough.”

“Not enough to forget.”

“I forgot what I’m trying to forget.” Mike laughed.

“Heey… you wanna be a restaurateur.. better learn some manners…” Andy tossed something jagged and Mike felt his chin rip.

“C’mon, no trouble.” That was Gillian, suddenly there. “Gitoutta my bar.”

Boots clomping toward the exit, and more behind, and soon a draft swept over a tangle of empty barstools.

“I was handling it,” Mike said, a bloody towel muffling him.

“No you weren’t. Sorry, baby.” Gillian patted his back. She told him she’d cast a spell except you couldn’t control the outcome any more than you could the weather.

She said that to fill an air pocket between friends, because she was seeing what people would be talking about soon enough. A Lexus spinning backwards. Andy lying in a hospital bed, where the angel of sobriety whispers.  He renovates his biggest house into a spiritual retreat for people with a few thousand dollars to blow. Gillian leads earth goddess workshops because it pays better than the bar. Mike’s wife takes their house. He has another wife, then one girlfriend and another, and three sons, and he lives just down the road from the retreat. His oldest son gives him a pair of binoculars and Mike searches the bush for airy-fairies dancing nude on summer evenings. Sometimes he spots a man out jogging whom he knows is Andy Jensen though he looks different in warm weather with his pale legs and arms exposed, and frigid winds rage through Mike’s brain.

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