"Jelly-Side Down"
by artis wilder

Story Nights

She sat hunched over the bar
Blearily staring into her whiskey.
Shots and beer. Beer and shots.
How long had she been there?
How long since she'd entered 
the war zone again
And the stories wouldn't stop spilling out over each other
Like water scrambling over stones
Like rapid-fire rifles
Like dry heaves.....

How long since she'd started to beleaguer anyone who would listen tonight?
How long this time since she'd toppled into that cauldron of memories?
How long had she cursed and cried and growled sea tales into stranger's faces?
How long had she been "gone" this time?

She was tired now. Spent. 
Ashamed of her lapse into weakness, 
Unable to look into anyone's eyes. 
Her shoulders sagged and she sighed,
Then slowly swung around and slid carefully off the stool.
A hand on her arm steadied her
And she looked up, surprised.
The young woman who'd taken the biggest earful that night
Released her and she turned to go.
"Hey!", the young woman blurted, "Did you ever kill anyone over there?"
"No...." she said, scuffing out the door,  "I missed."

©artis wilder Sept. 1998

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