Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Short Story: "Christmas at Mel's"


by CJ Heck

"How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it." ~George Elliston

A broken neon sign flashed "Mel’s" on top of a small seedy bar on the edge of town.

The air inside was heavy with stale smoke and beer, blending faintly with the odor of dried spit on unclean bodies.

Sadie sat at a small table alone pondering the world and its problems, two drinks past actually seeing beyond the unkempt nails she drummed nervously on the chipped Formica in front of her. The lines in her face were knit as if by a palsied hand dropping stitches here and there, where a pox scar decided to roost.

For Sadie, this was home -- at least until tonight’s john, (with an empty glass and full libido), swaggered up and invited her to the nearest no-tell motel.

Life sucks -- but it was her life.

Feeling in control, a spider in her web, Sadie threw back another drink and waited.

The hours passed and Sadie slumped in the chair at her favorite table at Mel's.

With each drink, the world's problems faded further and she was finally only mildly aware that she had more than enough of her own.

Merry Christmas. Yeah, yeah, so what? Sadie asked indignantly, as she counted the empty glasses lined up in front of her on the table.

Seven. Nice. Rhymes with heaven. How 'bout that -- as if I'll ever be there.  They prob'ly don't let people like me in a ritzy place like that.

Sadie pushed the thought away as she studied the half empty glass that was still in her hand with the same intensity a demented gypsy might, upon watching her favorite crystal ball suddenly deflate.

It was late and she was tired.  The lines in her face met in an intricate pattern just above her penciled brows as she pondered her situation through the booze fog.

Damn Mel -- and damn his twinkle lights. The damn things hurt my eyes. Friggin' barkeep had to put twinkle lights in here, as if anyone wants to see the graffiti better, she cackled to herself.

Sadie watched as the room with its new holiday lights blinked first red, then green, then yellow through the gently swirling smoke.

She threw back the rest of her drink. It made her want to puke, that's what it did. Who the hell cares if it's Christmas Eve?  Every day's the same to me, she thought. I'm just a workin' girl tryin' to make a buck.

Bad enough, everywhere you go, bells are ringin' on every corner, music blastin' outta radios, snow and slush in every step you take, and all that fancy decoratin' to remind you, you're friggin' alone.

Merry Christmas ... yeah, Mer-ry Christ-my-ass!  Cash registers are ringin' big time, too, Sadie thought, with a bitter smile.

Damn, business was slow this time of year. Every john she knew was prob'ly home playing Santy Claus with the kiddies and Husband Of The Year with the wife. What a joke, she thought.

What they really want, I give 'em.  What they really need, I give 'em. They're all the same. What a friggin' joke, she thought ... yeah, only the joke's on me.  I'm the one sittin' and waitin' in a blinkin-stinkin' hellhole by m'self.

Sadie set empty glass number eight at the end of the line on the table and raised a finger at the barkeep for another. Waiting was a bitch.

Just then, a shadow fell through the swirling smoke to settle eerily on Sadie's table. It was strangely blinking in mixed colors through the empty glasses in front of her.

Surprised, she looked up to see one of her regulars standing there. (Finally, she thought to herself, and 'bout time, too). Already a plan had formed in her mind to do him fast and then get some shut-eye. She gave the john her best crimson smile.

The man leaned down, handed Sadie a folded bill, and with a sad smile he said, "Go home, Sadie. This one's on me, and ... and well, M-Merry Christmas to you."

Then he turned and walked back through the swirled, blinking smoke to the door and the street beyond, with Sadie staring slack-jawed at the door closing slowly behind him.

Damn, if that don't beat all, Sadie thought, as she unfolded the fifty dollar bill.

Then she scooted her chair back, pushed herself away from the table, and for the first time in years, Sadie's face softened into a genuine smile.

(From the Book, "Bits and Pieces", by CJ Heck)

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

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