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Mainstream Fiction

An Afternoon at Mel’s Bar

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Cursing, eyes flashing red, she’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in this out-of-the-way lakeside resort. Seven squat buildings strewn along a narrow half-mile of VT 30. The usual collection—market, post office, real estate firm, motel, and thank the Lord, a bar. She needed a drink. A low ceiling and dim bulbs provided the backdrop for dusty Indian masks on the walls. Depressing, she thought, but not going to be here long, and do need that beer.

She walked to the end of the bar and hopped up on the stool. Mel, she guessed that’s who it was, white hair, leathered face, rolled up sleeves, came out from the back. “Welcome to Silver Lake, what would you like?”

“What’s on tap?”

“Heady Topper IPA is the favorite around here.”

She took a sip and knew why.

Five minutes later, a man walked in. Must be a regular, his beer was on the bar before he sat down. He handed Mel the grocery sack he carried and drained the glass in three gulps. “Thirsty are we, George?”

“Rowed across the lake. It’s an hour from the cabin. And the sun’s not shy today.”

George looked down the bar toward her, back toward Mel. He shrugged, shook his head. Then George stretched his hands out. Caught a two-and-a-half-foot bass, Mel shook his head, well maybe a foot-and-a-half, as his hands moved closer. With that, Mel picked up the groceries and took them to the back. George looked her way again, then came to her end of the bar and sat down. “You from around here?” was his unoriginal opening line.

“I’m on the way to Montreal and took a wrong turn.”

“You’re not far off but wait until morning. It gets dark early on these roads carved through the woods, narrow and twisty.”

He pulled a napkin from a stack on the bar and drew a map to the border.

“This takes you back to your route. By the way, my name is George.” Told her he came up nearly every summer, stayed on the other side of the lake. “Buy you another round?”

George was not that bad looking, pouty lips, curly blond hair, and twinkly green eyes. A good sign, for her. About 40 or so, she thought, and in good shape.

After five minutes, the inevitable, “You’re green,” he said, like it was even a question.

Geena was green. Her face, arms and legs were gecko green. Hair, the color of new grass. Her large oval eyes glowed gold.

“From the womb.”

“You’re not hassled?”

“When I’m mad, I fire up, turn red, catches people unaware and frightens them off.”

Geena was going to visit her mother. Her father was a green circus barker and mother, a white trapeze artist. Dad pulled his daughter out of the circus when she was eleven. The troupe booked an Australian tour and Aussies think green is bad luck for circuses. Mom followed the carney. Dad found a gig as a spokesman for an insurance company, settled down, and raised her.

“First day of school, everybody laughed at me. The clothes dad bought me were hopeless. And being green, you can imagine. Then I showed my classmates a couple of trapeze moves—a reverse suicide and a pirouette. Abracadabra, I became the popular one.”

“Another round?”


“I’m curious, what kind of work do you do, being green and all?”

“I sing and dance, musicals. You’d be surprised what make-up can do. My big role was Elphaba, the witch in Wicked in the road show. The producer was delighted, no make-up needed, and I could do glowing red on cue.”

“It’s you, you we saw last year in Boston?”

“We?” Her antenna flicked up.

“Huh, oh yeah, guy I work with, Andy, we went.”

She checked his left hand. No ring. No tan mark on his finger. The antenna laid down.

“What about you?”

“Nothing quite as interesting, doctor in Brooklyn.”

“So, if I were looking for a doctor, I could call you?”

“Hope not. I’m an ER doc. I see people in trouble, most times, immediate and serious.”

“Must be tough, trauma every day?”

“You never become used to it, ever, but most times you’re able to help someone. Last month, an ironworker on this new building, fell twenty feet, broke his neck, shouldn’t of made it, but we had the right people on duty, two days later he walked out of the hospital, two months later he came back after work to thank us.”

Geena smiled and touched his arm. George slid his stool closer and asked about her favorite artist.

“Chagall. Why?”

“His use of green, I’ll bet”

She loved the paintings of Romeo and Juliet floating in the air above Paris and the wedding couples riding roosters.

“Have you seen Daphnis & Chloe, illustrated by Chagall? Stunning. Found an old copy at The Strand.”

“I don’t think so,” Geena said, thinking, most doctors, most guys, wouldn’t have a clue about Chagall.

George asked her if she’d like another beer.

“Let’s switch,” she said. “Mel, do you have absinthe?”

“Great idea,” George said.

He passed another of Geena’s tests for a mate, eye color, and now he liked green drinks. George had a kind face and Geena found herself talking about loneliness in a non-green world, relationships tainted by her color. Guys were fine with it, but when it got around to where the next step was meet-the-parents, passion cooled.Recently, one night after work, she’d found her now-ex-boyfriend on top of her now-ex-roommate. George leaned in, their knees touched, actually the smooth fleshy side of the knee, a light touch, she wasn’t sure if she should let it rest there, or move back, she decided not to move, it was pleasant.

Conversation wound down and Geena noticed a jukebox in the corner. She loved to dance, anytime, anywhere. Sixties tunes, Bad Moon Rising, Runaround Sue. She was surprised, shocked even, this doctor could dance, smooth with a sense of rhythm. His hands were light, comfortable, guiding, not pushing. Who knew being lost could be this much fun?

The door opened to a setting sun. A young couple in matching madras shorts. “Good God.” George jerked away. “It’s late. I’ve got to start across the lake while I can still see. Maybe we can get together before you hit the road tomorrow.”

“Sure, meet here for coffee, how about nine so I can start early?” she said.

“Mel’s not out of bed ‘til noon. I’ll bring coffee and rolls to your room.”

Geena gave him a ghost kiss, affection but not a promise, she thought. Then walked out toward the motel. She knocked on the office door. No answer. Knocked again. No answer. Then thought, small town, Mel probably knows where the manager is. Back at the bar.

“She’ll be back soon, I’m sure. Mildred goes home this time of day usually, feed the dog. Only five minutes away.”

Mel leaned across the bar. “Looks like you and George hit it off pretty good.”

“He seems like a nice guy.”

“Yeah, he is, a wife on the other side of the lake, doesn’t drop in as often.”

“That son of a bitch.”

Geena stormed out of the bar, slammed the door, stopped, slumped, cursed herself, getting taken, why didn’t she see it, should have known better.

She headed to the motel, turned and caught sight of George, running on the pier. Suddenly, he tripped, fell on his face. His sack of groceries hit the deck, split open, and potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and wine spilled out. She watched. George didn’t budge, seemed pinned to the pier. Despite what he had just done, he was in trouble. She scrambled out to him.

“Are you okay?”

“Nail, I’m stuck on a nail, my chest, left side,” he whimpered.

He was bleeding, between the wooden slats, Geena could see blood dripping into the water, blobs creating ripples in the water.

“What should I do, should I move you?”

“No, No, careful.”

The voice of a woman burst in, “Where is the son of a bitch? Where is he?”

George moaned.

“What the hell have you done to yourself?” The woman stormed onto the pier, hair flying.

She turned on Geena. “I suppose you’re the green goddess who had her claws in my husband all afternoon. And I had to find out about it in front of a dozen people at Mel’s. Why are you still here?”

“Hold on lady, I’m trying to help. He’s in trouble.”

The woman wasn’t finished with George. “You’re gone for six hours. I’m sitting in the cabin worrying myself to death and you have your slimy arms around another woman, a green one no less. What’s the fucking attraction? Tell me.”

“I felt sorry for her, green and all.”

The woman shouted, “Sorry? That’s what you said about the last two women you got in bed with. George, three strikes, you are out.”

Geena grabbed her arm. “This guy, your husband, was not wearing a wedding ring, he told me he was camping with a buddy, listened to my . . .”

“Well, don’t think you’re special. People come up to him on the subway all the time, they start telling him their problems, boom, he ends up in the Bronx.”

“I’m supposed to know he’s your husband? Hey, I’m the one who’s pissed, I thought I found a friend. I found a phony. But, if you can’t control him, don’t pin it on me.”

“Listen green one, how old are you? By now you should be able to figure out who’s married, especially knee to knee and cheek to cheek.”

“George lifted himself up. “Ladies, don’t fight over me.” Plopped back down on the deck.

They looked at him, stood back from one another, looked each other up and down, slow grins evolved into whoops of expunging laughter. Geena looked back at George.

“Do you hear a dripping sound?” Geena asked.

“Yeah, it’s probably the water lapping the pilings. It sounds like that on the lake. Let’s head back over the Mel’s and have a drink, call a doc.”


The woman bent down and whispered in George’s ear.

“Hang in there, fellow.”

They walked down the pier. “By the way, I’m Ann.”



Townsend Walker (USA)

Townsend Walker draws inspiration from cemeteries, violence, and strong women. 3 Women, 4 Towns, 5 Bodies & other stories was published by Deeds Publishing in 2018. Winner of a Book Excellence Award and a Silver Feathered Quill Award. La Ronde was published by Truth Serum Press in 2015. Over 100 short stories and poems have been published in literary journals.

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