A MARTINI WALKS INTO A BAR by Francine Witte

A Martini Walks into a Bar

 

Late for work! The bartender yells and goes on rubbing circles into the hardened five o’clock counter. Outside the sun is the color of a smile. “I’ll have a white wine,” the martini says folding his glass stem onto the barstool. The bartender pours the wine and calls the martini an alcohol cannibal. The backroom of the bar, where the booths are and usually filled with tinkly love, is filled instead with the pleadings of an ugly man. He is asking his Tinder date why the ugly are not entitled to love. “Why is it,” he is saying, “that we have the terrible luck of scraggled hair and bulbous nose. We are always scooping out a place in our hearts for one more hurt.” The Tinder date has eyes that are the color of not my problem and says this conversation isn’t working. The bartender tells the martini, “go do your job. I’ll put some Ella on the jukebox.” Too late, the martini passes the Tinder date who is heading for the bar. The martini jumps up on the table. He glides into the ugly man’s mouth who takes a furious sip.

 

A Bartender Walks into a Bar

 

He is hoping today will be better. Hoping those weird martini visions will stop. The sun outside is the color of his cheating wife, and he’s been staring at it for answers. This staring has caused haloes and blurred retinas. He picks up a rag and circles the hardened wood. Why do I have such terrible luck? Why do I have such terrible luck? The bar stopped answering ages ago. Said something like this conversation isn’t working and can I just go back to being inanimate? From the backroom of the bar, the tinkly bells of another heart getting shattered. The bartender puts Ella on the jukebox, hoping to drown it out. That’s when the martini shows up and orders a white wine. The bartender hates himself for feeling a bit of relief. He tells the martini to lean forward so he can take a sip. The martini tastes like things that might have been, but aren’t. The martini is the color of dude, pull yourself together. The bartender nods and tells the martini about the ugly man in the back and as long as you’re here, go make yourself useful. “Before you go,” the bartender says, “let me take another sip.”

 

An Ugly Man Walks into A Bar

 

First thing, he orders a martini as he heads to the back. The sun outside is the color of false hope. He gets to the booth and starts to think handsome thoughts. He brought a rose and chocolates for his Tinder date. Maybe, he thinks, she will get all sugar-rushed and won’t focus on my jaggy teeth and droopy ears. He sits and waits for his martini. When his Tinder date arrives in her long-fingered, tornado-haired way, the ugly man is instantly enchanted, bewitched. Tinkly bells start to ring. She strokes a glass of wine that she says the bartender gave her when she entered. She says that is what it’s like to be beautiful but of course he wouldn’t know. That’s when Ella pops up sudden in the air. The Tinder date brushes back the roses and candy, says this conversation isn’t working, that his being so ugly is only making her even more beautiful. She leaves the table and heads to the bar, passing the martini who is making its way to the table. The martini is the color of a martini. The ugly man looks over at the bar and sees his Tinder date making out with the bartender. The ugly man tells the martini, “quick jump up on the table so I can drink the ugly off of me.” Soon, the martini and the man both become more beautiful. Soon, they are singing along with the jukebox. Outside the sun is the color of an olive sinking in the sky. The ugly man takes another sip.


Francine Witte Francine Witte stories are forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2022, and Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton.) Her recent books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (ELJ Editions,) and Just Outside the Tunnel of Love (Blue Light Press.) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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