Thanks for voting on which of my short stories I should post on my blog. This was the winner, a story about a man who glows in the dark. It’s an early draft of a story in a themed fiction collection that, so far, has been about misunderstandings in dating. If you like it, let me know. I’ll do this more often. I write a lot. Check my Twitter for more polls on the weekends. Links to more of my fiction are here.
Julian sat down on the cream colored chair at the table and dropped his jacket, beanie, and scarf under his chair. The table was covered in a warm, wrinkle free white cloth. He opened his beaten paperback copy of Lonesome Dove that he had tucked under his arm and read a few pages, writing notes in the margins with a pen that he pulled from his right pants pocket.
“Something to drink, sir?” The waiter said. He wore a black vest over a white button up and black pants. He had glossy black shoes that didn’t match his black belt. Julian looked around him and then straightened himself back in his chair.
“A sweet tea, please. I’m meeting someone,” Julian said.
“Of course. I’m George. Just let me know if you need anything,” he said. George smiled, adjusted the smile away, and then turned towards the bar along the back. Julian looked to the other couples coming through the door and cleared his throat.
“Would it be possible to get a little more lighting?” Julian said.
“Yes, of course. Just one minute,” George said. He turned. His straight black pants on his skinny legs were the only clothes on him loose enough to sway as he turned, revealing white socks inside his black shoes. His ass filled out the top of his pants. His black and white checkered shirt tail was sticking out under his apron strings. He walked back and past the bar, disappearing through a doorway between a painting of soup cans and a short statute that stopped just shy of the painting on the other side of the opening.
While also glancing at the first page of chapter three of Lonesome Dove, Julian watched the people around him. The man opposite the woman at the table at the end of the row was constantly interrupting her story with his giggles and, from what Julian could hear, the culprit topic was canning pickles. The piano player in the corner between the two biggest windows gently glided his fingers across the keys as the man’s laughs, ranging from chuckles to cut ups, outplayed hum. The pianist’s head-nods were off the beats by a split second. Julian turned his attention to the candle sitting in a skinny glass at the empty table next to him. He watched it flicker until George returned with two light bulbs. He screwed them into the light fixture hanging over his table and then went to check on giggles and pickles at the table at the end of the row.
“Julian?” A tall blonde haired man in a maroon button up and gray pants said. His squared glasses were fogged. The short blonde haired hostess with big eyelashes took quick steps shorter than the length of her hair back to the line of guests at the podium up front.
“Yes. Harvey?” Julian said. He let go of his book, letting it close upright on the table and extended his hand. Harvey took a step backward toward his chair. Julian quickly withdrew his hand, bumping the empty table next to them and pulled out Harvey’s chair for him. The candle at the center of their table flickered as Julian maneuvered himself back around the table and to his chair.
“Yes. Harv, if you want,” he said. He wiggled in his seat as he pulled his arms out of his sleeves. The polyester in the tight fitted sleeves squeaked. Julian watched him as he settled, his skin brightening in the warmth of the restaurant.
“How’s your day going, Harv?” Julian said.
“I’ll let you know after it’s over,” Harv said.
“That’s fair enough,” Julian said. He smiled at Harv, but Harv’s head was tilted down towards his lap behind the table. Harv shivered. Julian’s smile faded. George returned.
“Good evening. Would you like a drink?” George asked. He placed two menus on the table. Harv looked over his menu and tapped the table with both hands. Julian jerked his head back and then pretended that he didn’t. Harv looked to his left and then to George.
“Do you have Stella?” Harv said.
“Absolutely. Just one minute,” George said. He checked the tables between them and the bar and then disappeared behind the doorway between the statue and the painting.
“You’ve never been here before, right?” Julian said. He flipped the menu over. There was nothing on the back.
“No. I’ve had some people from work tell me it’s pretty good, though. The vibe is okay,” Harv said.
“It’s my first time, too. Do you think it’s a little too dark?” Julian said.
“Well, it’s that kind of place, isn’t it?” Harv said.
“Guess so,” Julian said. George brought Harv’s Stella and placed it in front of him. A woman with a red and white checkered shirt under her apron approached the table and stopped behind George. She carried a black leather ledger and a white pen with a blue top. She had a wide face.
“Ready to order?” George asked Julian, then he turned to the woman. “Just one minute,” he said. She tightened her lips. Julian looked over his menu. George turned his head to Harv and lifted his notepad.
Harv turned over his menu to the blank side and then turned it back over. He ran his eyes down one column and then the other. Julian abandoned his menu and watched Harv’s hazel eyes, up and down, no glare interrupting their performance as they danced across the ingredients beneath them.
“Bourbon steak, six ounce, mashed potatoes,” Harv said. George ran his hands over his apron, felt in his pockets, and then his apron again.
“How would you like your steak?” George said. He returned the notepad to his apron pocket.
“Medium rare,” Harv said. The woman stepped up to the table beside George. She moved the ledger from her left hand to the other, squeezed her lips together, and then put the ledger back into her left hand.
“Bourbon steak, medium rare. Mashed. And for you, sir?” George said.
“This stew. When was it made?” Julian said.
“George turned his head and looked past the center of the table. Julian watched his blue eyes twinkle in the light hanging between all of them. George looked back to Julian. Julian looked back down towards his menu.
“I’m not sure, but we go through it quick. It would’ve been made fresh this morning, if there’s not already a new pot,” George said. The woman raised herself with her toes and whispered into George’s ear. “Anything else?” Julian looked at Harv and shook his head. “Okay. Just a minute. Thank you,” George said. He left the table. The woman followed him and they spoke by the bar past giggles and pickles. She pulled away from him and walked toward the soup can painting and Buddha, adjusting her heading as she walked through the doorway. George turned around and around, patted his pants, his apron, his shirt, and then checked his other tables.
“He forgot to take our menus away. It’s not even that busy. You think he’ll remember my steak?” Harv said.
“I remember. Medium rare. See? It’s not that hard,” Julian said. He watched George walk around and wait on tables. He smiled at jokes from giggles and pickles and even brought the pianist a cold one, which made his c chords more jarring. Outside the windows behind the piano was still well lit with sun.
Harv rearranged the shakers and sipped his beer. Julian lifted his tea to his lips but got nothing but ice. Harv laughed at him. One of his two front teeth was turned inward slightly.
“So how new in town are you?” Julian said.
“One week,” Harv said.
“So you really haven’t even had a chance to get out yet, have you?” Julian said.
“Maybe thinking about checking out a club tonight. Green Quarters. Meeting some colleagues from work there since it’s my last free weekend before training. Said it was fun. You’re welcome to join us,” Harv said.
Julian looked across the room and out the window behind the piano again. He bent down slightly and found the bottom of the sun just above the top of the window.
“I can’t tonight. You should go, though. You’re co-workers are right. You’ll have a good time,” Julian said.
George seated another couple two tables over from where Julian and Harv were seated. George’s eyes were red as he grabbed the menus from their table and took them over to the new guests. He took the newly seated couple’s drink orders: a water for the silver fox in a gray suit and a bourbon for the woman with long black hair pulled through a small scrunchy. He then thanked giggles and pickles as they left a cash tip on the table for him. He picked up the cash from the table and took their dirty dishes to the back before returning with the new table’s drinks.
The woman in the red and white checkered shirt stood in the doorway past the bar and looked out into the dining room. Her eyes followed George between tables.
“Training on the weekends?” Julian said.
“Yes, unfortunately. Just the first few weeks,” Harv said.
“What sort of work do you do?”
The woman in the red and white checkered shirt brought the newly seated table a plate of Calamari and placed it between them. She came over and dropped off a new tea for Julian.
“Hi. I’m Lisa. Sorry, what were your orders again?” she said.
“He had the stew and I had the steak, medium rare,” Harv said.
“What kind of stew?” Lisa said.
“I think it was beef,” Julian said.
“Yes, but did you want the stew with the buttered noodles or rice on the side?” Lisa said.
“Noodles,” Julian said.
“And did you want another beer?” Lisa said. She pointed to Harv’s empty glass with her her red painted pinky nail.
“Do you have anything red?” Harv said.
“No, but we have a local brew that’s a little dark and tastes kind of like maybe what you want. Want a taste?”
“No I’ll just take one,” Harv said.
Lisa smiled. Julian cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry, but has our order not been started yet?” Julian said.
“No, I’m sorry, but they’ll get it going as fast as they can,” Lisa said. Her smile was as wide as her face. Julian looked to the window behind the pianist, who was more gentle with chords now that his beer glass was empty. When Julian turned his head back towards Harv, Lisa was already heading back towards the doorway past the bar. She rubbed the Buddha’s belly as she went through the doorway. Harv was rearranging the shakers again.
Julian tilted his head over and moved it up and down as he looked at the sun through the window. Two couples and one table of three were seated between Julian and the pianist. A small girl in a polka dot dress and purple shoes walked around and between the tables, zigzagging between them until an older woman got out of her seat, picked her up, and put her in her chair. The older woman pointed her finger at the child and then wiped her hands on a napkin as she sat back down. She patted her hands on her emerald green dress, coughed into her hand, and asked Lisa for a menu.
“Everything okay?” Harv said.
“I’m sorry, but I really can’t stay out too much later. I was hoping we’d be eating by now,” Julian said.
“Maybe they’ll comp it,” Harv said.
“They can’t comp your alcohol,” Julian said. Harv looked at his empty beer glass, then moved it over next to the shakers.
There was a crash of pots and pans from behind the doorway. George walked past the opening on the other side of the doorway. A door slammed. Lisa went by. A door slammed again. A man in a chef’s apron walked past the opening of the doorway, then came back and yelled. Someone else yelled back. The man in the chef’s apron came out from the doorway, peered over into the dining room, and then took small steps toward Julian and Harv.
“We’re out of the beef stew. I can get you something else if you like. Anything,” the chef said. Harv laughed. The chef looked at him until he stopped and then turned his head back to Julian.
“I’m sorry, but it’s been forty-five minutes. Just give us the check and we’ll be on our way,” Julian said.
“Oh no, no check. On me. Everything on me. Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” the chef asked.
“I’m sure. Thank you,” Julian said. The chef turned and took small steps back toward the doorway.
“You can stay if you want, but I have to get back soon,” Julian said.
“This place is kind of a clusterfuck. I’ll walk out with you,” Harv said. He took off his glasses and cleaned them with his shirt. Julian put on his jacket, his scarf, and his beanie.
“Cold natured?” Harv said.
“Very,” Julian said.
They stepped between the tables until they reached the black wooden door. The short haired hostess wiggled her fingers and smiled at them as they left.
“What about the alcohol?” Harv said.
“Not our problem now,” Julian said as he stepped onto the sidewalk. The sky was red. Julian took a right turn out of the restaurant and Harv followed.
“It was great to meet you,” Harv said.
“Same. Have a good time tonight at Green Quarters,” Julian said.
They passed an alley between the restaurant and a dry cleaner. George and Lisa were standing by a brown side door. The chef was between them.
“Sir,” George said. Julian stopped and turned. George ran out of the alley and put his hand on Julian’s shoulder. The skin around his eyes was pink and wet. His eyes were red. “I’m sorry about your stew.”
“It’s fine,” Julian said. He turned away.
“He’s a liar,” Lisa said.
“Is everything okay?” Harv said.
“I did not steal a thing,” George said.
“I know you did it. Gerald, it was him. I swear,” Lisa said. She came out onto the sidewalk and tackled George. They all fell to the ground.
“No,” Julian said. After an elbow in the ribs and a kick below the waist, Julian crawled out. He looked down at Harv who looked up at him. Under the setting sun, he saw the orange glare in Harv’s eyes.
Julian turned away from the brawl and ran down the sidewalk, ignoring the crosswalk signs. He held his hands up and watched them as he ran until he reached the basement apartment at the Chowder Ridge block Downtown. His arm lit up the keyhole for him as he fought to get the key into the lock. He closed the door behind him and pulled a blind in the window back with a finger to look outside at the darkness. He stripped and watched his skin as it went from a pasty white to a bright white glow. As his eyes adjusted, the white glow of his arms and legs turned to faint blue. He cried, punched the wall by the door, kicked the couch, and pouted. He lay on the couch naked, glowing.
Eric Shay Howard is a writer and editor. He lives in Louisville, KY and is the editor of Likely Red Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter and like his page on Facebook. You can also contact him using his contact page.