haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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March 2008, vol 4 no 1

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Adelaide Shaw

 

Holiday for One

Ten p.m.  A woman in her late forties sitting at an empty bar.   She sips white wine, guidebook and camera near her glass.

"It's quiet," she says.

"Too late in the season," the bartender replies.

Handsome, in his early forties.  Short black hair, dark complexion, ruler straight teeth.   Over his crisp white shirt, a string tie and red plaid vest, matching the Scottish décor of the pub. Years later she will remember his appearance, even the pinkie ring on his right hand. It is a habit she has, to scrutinize places and people.  If she ever were a witness to a crime, she would give an accurate and detailed description.

She adjusts the black velvet beret on her cropped blond hair, pushing it at an angle to achieve a coquettish look.  Her several bracelets jingle like coins in a till. She examines her nails, her watch, studies the bottles behind the bar as if cramming for an exam.

A sudden   flurry of movement at the entrance. People gushing in from the neighboring cinema, rippling out in all directions, the tables, the bar. She swivels her stool around to watch the customers, an expectant look on her face, ready to respond to a greeting should there be one.

Good time faces reflected in the mirror behind the bar.  Local residents, she thinks. So comfortable with each other, so familiar with the bartender.  Turning from side to side, she nods, smiles as if she is one of the party and the amusing remarks directed to her.

"Warm weather for October, isn't it?" the bartender asks as he pours more wine.

"Yes.  I love it," she replies, ready to continue.

He turns to the man on her right.  Baseball.  Playoffs.  World Series.  Nothing she can contribute. It will have to suffice, that brief exchange about the weather.  If she had been quicker or clever he would linger.  Just doing his job, chatting up all the customers.

She looks at those near her, memorizing faces, clothes, postures.  All placed into her mental scrapbook, like old friends.

"May I?" she asks the bartender, snapping a picture before he can answer.  "Gotcha" she says.  Again.  Click, Snap.  Two, three, four customers.

"Thanks," she says, placing twenty dollars near her glass.  A napkin and bar coaster slip into her purse.   She jumps off the stool, pirouettes slowly for a last look around.  A wave at the door.

"Good night," she calls out to no one in particular.  "It's been a lovely evening."

skittering leaves—
in the moonlight shadows move
from here to there