Iowa Writes

JIM DOERING
Digestivo


        The couple walked into the small, neighborhood bar unobserved. In the corner, a musician played love songs on a beat-up baby grand piano intended for a generation that had long ago abandoned romance. The man nodded and let the woman choose where they would sit. She gazed at the half-empty, wooden bar-top and two empty tables nearby before choosing high-backed chairs at the end. The man caught the eye of a disinterested barkeep who nodded his assent while he poured a beer for another customer.
        "We've been here before," she said.
        "Now that you mention it, I do remember that," he said. "We had a meal right over there." He pointed to a small alcove on the other side of the bar.
        "It was a long time ago. Almost as long ago as my marriage."
        "It has been awhile," he agreed, his voice a little hoarse.
        The barkeep made his way over and the man asked if they stocked a certain kind of liquor, one that would be the perfect way to end their evening. "Here," he said, removing a bottle from the high shelf and setting it down on the bar top. "It's the only one we carry."

        The couple walked into the small, neighborhood bar unobserved. In the corner, a musician played love songs on a beat-up baby grand piano intended for a generation that had long ago abandoned romance. The man nodded and let the woman choose where they would sit. She gazed at the half-empty, wooden bar-top and two empty tables nearby before choosing high-backed chairs at the end. The man caught the eye of a disinterested barkeep who nodded his assent while he poured a beer for another customer.
        "We've been here before," she said.
        "Now that you mention it, I do remember that," he said. "We had a meal right over there." He pointed to a small alcove on the other side of the bar.
        "It was a long time ago. Almost as long ago as my marriage."
        "It has been awhile," he agreed, his voice a little hoarse.
        The barkeep made his way over and the man asked if they stocked a certain kind of liquor, one that would be the perfect way to end their evening. "Here," he said, removing a bottle from the high shelf and setting it down on the bar top. "It's the only one we carry."
        "I think that will work," the man said, staring at an unopened bottle of Armagnac.
        "The glasses need to be warmed," the woman told the bartender. He hesitated a moment before giving her a small nod and walking to the sink at the far end of the bar. He held small brandy glasses under a stream of water for a couple of minutes until the water turned hot. Drying them, he opened the new bottle and gave each a long pour into the small warmed glasses. The man and woman locked eyes and smiled at one another before grasping their drinks and touching them together softly. They inhaled the essence of the liquor and tentatively sipped.
        "The perfect digestivo," she said, using the Italian word.
        "It's very nice," the man replied.
        "You know, in all the time we've known each other, we've never really had a fight," she said, cupping her glass in two hands to keep it warm. The musician began singing a fifty-year-old love ballad mostly in key. They both stopped at the intrusion.
        "We could start a fight now, if you'd like," he said. She smiled in response and gently pressed her hand to the top of his before taking another sip. "When we were here before, we shared a bowl of mussels. Do you remember? It was a very good night."
        "Like always," she said.
        "And then you went home to him."
        "Maybe we've never fought because we've never had time to waste," she said, changing the subject back.
        "Sometimes a relationship just works," he said, glancing over at the musician, who had started another slow song. The bartender came over and asked if they needed anything. "We used to come here when this was another place," the man said, mentioning the restaurant's old name.
        "Ah, that was a long time ago," the bartender replied. "I've been here eight years, and that was a few years before my time."
        The man swallowed the last of his drink, and the woman poured half of what remained of hers into his glass. They slung back the remains, paid the tab, and walked out into the gentle spring night.
        "This has been such a wonderful evening," she said as they walked down the street.
        "The night air is glorious. I can breathe better and my throat doesn't hurt anymore."
        "Your voice sounds low and sexy tonight," she said, snaking her arm through his. They walked the rest of the way down the uneven sidewalk in silence.
        At his car he opened the front passenger door of the sedan for her to get in before starting it up. He drove slowly and deliberately the entire way. Arriving at her apartment building he said, "I'd get out and hug you, but I think I'm coming down with something." She opened her door, hopped out and bent down so she could see his face through the open window.
        "When you're feeling well, Caro Mio, I'll give you such a big hug."
        "When I'm better," he said in a raspy voice, "I'll make you forget all about hugs."

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


JIM DOERING

Jim Doering's work has appeared in Meat For Tea Magazine, Mad Scientist Journal, The Salmagundi: An Anthology, and Kansas City Parent Magazine.  His collected short fiction is entitled, Sacred and Profane: and other stories.  He was a participant in the 2014 Iowa Summer Writing Festival.  A collection of his new stories will be published next year.

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on October 20, 2014

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