I Carry My Manuscripts Around With Me

I do this weird thing when I’m working on a book. I carry the manuscript around with me everywhere I go. Or, in the case of my fiction collection Crushes, I carry the paperback proof copy around with me everywhere I go. I can’t remember who gave this advice to me initially, or if I read about it somewhere, but I heard it and realized that I was doing it and so I just sort of kept on doing it.

Why I Carry My Manuscripts Everywhere

I like carrying my manuscripts and books around with me for a few reasons. Firstly, it helps me at least to think about the book while I’m doing other things. I’m very busy. I’m in grad school, I work full time at an office in Downtown Louisville, I’m editing a literary magazine again, and I blog on my personal website (this thing you’re reading right now) every day. Now there’s also this book that I’m working on, not to mention the other fiction I’m writing now as well.

If I just leave this book that I need to finish proofing on my desk, I might get to it one day. However, if I carry it with me throughout the day to the coffee shop or to the office, I’ll at least be thinking about it some. And, usually, I’ll open it up and look at it at least once a day, which is better than once a week or once a month. This also works with early drafts my manuscripts, before they are in book form.

The other reason I carry my manuscripts around with me is to initiate conversation. Yes, it’s fun to brag that I’m writing a book. In addition to it being fun, it’s also useful for me when people ask me about my work. When people ask me a question like “what’s your book about?” I usually have to answer them. And, when it’s a fiction collection, the answer can be tricky. I didn’t actually have a good title for the book at first. I didn’t until I realized through a conversation with someone that my short stories were all about sexuality and relationships. By the end of the conversation, I was saying, “So actually I guess it’s about crushes.” It also helped me with the description on the back of the book.

It Might Look Funny

I carried my manuscripts around with me in college during my undergrad years a lot, too. People looked at me funny, but it helped me stay creative and productive. I think people thought I was a little stuck-up or snobby because of it. Maybe I was, I don’t know. I was also a very strict workshopper in writing workshop groups. Not sorry. The point is, it worked. I ended up with enough short stories to publish a fiction collection.

I’m definitely not a pro at this book thing yet, but I do enjoy it and I’m learning a lot about it as I go. If you’re a writer, do you carry your manuscripts around with you everywhere? Do you think it’s embarrassing? Comment below. Does this also work with other forms of art? For instance, if you had a giant painting that you were working on and you wanted to carry it with you to coffee shop, would it help? If anyone tries it, let me know. If you’re not in a creative mood at the moment, what are you up to today?

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I carry my manuscripts and book-proofs around with me everywhere so that I increase the odds of opening them up and looking at them every day.
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I’m Still Trying To Finish The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

They say if you’re a writer, you should read a lot. I understand why people say that, and it’s good advice, but I think it’s important to also remember that you can’t read everything. Well, I can’t. There are also lots of dry periods where I don’t read anything. My reading habits are not consistent.

I read a lot as an undergrad.

When I was an undergrad, I read SO MUCH. It wasn’t that I was assigned a lot of reading (I mean, I was assigned a lot of reading) but I also wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. I even read further in texts than assigned if I found something interesting. I mostly focused on short fiction collections. I read a few novels but didn’t go crazy. Then I started a literary magazine and now I read a lot of poetry and short fiction submissions on a weekly basis.

However, I haven’t read a novel in a very long time. I don’t hate novels, but since I’m a minimalist writer and a short fiction lover, I find that most novels are way too long for me. I’ve tried to write a novel a few times and it hasn’t worked out because I can’t allow myself to linger too much. I have the same problem when I read. If I get bored, I stop. I’m not sorry about it.

But, that’s a “me” problem, I know. Novels are supposed to linger, I guess. If they didn’t they wouldn’t ever get anywhere. I mean, people linger. We linger a lot sometimes. If we didn’t we wouldn’t ever end up anywhere or have done much of anything. So, I’m working on my novel reading. What I need to try to remember when I get tired of lingering is that it’s a novel and it’s going something. If I really can’t stand it, maybe I can try skipping sections instead of stopping the book altogether.

I’m going to start with a book that I’ve been trying to finish since like 2016 or something like that. It’s The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

The Goldfinch Is A Long Book

I know there are shorter books to try to read, but I’ve been at this one for so long, you guys. I’m on page 230 and there are 771 pages. I’m not sure which chapter it is. Anyway, I figure if it took Donna Tartt ten years to write it, I can take a while to read it. Especially since I’m busy.

I know that there’s a movie or something on Amazon Prime now, but I’m not going to watch it because I want to finish the book first. Here’s the book on Amazon, even though I’m sure most everyone else has already read it because it’s a Pulitzer winner and those tend to get circulated quite a bit. Here is the book on Amazon. Just so you know, I’m a member of the Amazon Associates Program and I earn money from qualifying purchases with the ad below.

But, I mean, you all can watch it if you want. Here’s the movie on Amazon. For now, it’s included with Amazon Prime so if you’re a prime member you can watch it for free. Again, the below link is an ad and I’m a member of the Amazon Associates Program. I earn money from qualifying purchases from the ad below.

Have you read The Goldfinch yet? Seen the movie?

Obviously I haven’t finished The Goldfinch yet or seen the movie, so not spoilers please. But, definitely let me know if you liked the book or the movie in the comments below.

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Eric Shay Howard selfie reading The The Goldfinch

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Remembering Miss French Press

I wrote a different short story last night, but it was actually kinda good so I decided to save it to rewrite it a hundred times and submit to literary journals. I wrote a different story for today. It’s called Remembering Miss French Press. Enjoy this first draft.

Fiction – Remembering Miss French Press

I dried my hands on my apron and clicked my pen a few times while I watched her come in. Her dress was brown. She wore a dark red sash around it that matched her lipstick. Her brown hair was not moving in the wind. I looked to Ronald. He turned his head away from me and grabbed the broom and dustpan. I sighed. She stood near the host counter.

“Good morning. Booth or table?” I asked. She pointed at a booth. When she sat down, I handed her a menu. She looked it over and then pointed to the coffee and then to the eggs and toast. I marked my ticket. I took my ticket to the kitchen counter. Fred watched his empty pans.

“Miss French Press?” Fred asked. He dribbled oil from a spoon over one of the cast iron skillets.

“Miss French Press?” I asked. Fred pointed to a small French press behind the coffee pot. It had molded coffee grounds in it. I banged them into the trash and washed it at the sink. I washed and sanitized the French press in the sinks. I washed my hands with soap and wiped them on my apron. I could still smell the mold. Fred called over Ronald. Ronald propped the broom up behind the wall to the prep area and stood by me. Fred showed us the French press. After dumping some coffee grounds inside, we filled it halfway with water, poured hot water in, and waited two minutes. Ronald watched with his hand over his mouth. After two minutes, we filled it with more water. Ronald watched me as I pressed the filter down. When I turned around, Miss French Press stared.

I smiled. I brought her some creams. She didn’t use them. Fred moved the French press back behind the coffee pot. Ronald took a father and son that had walked in. He sat them at a booth in the back. Fred handed me my eggs. I walked them over. I bumped Ronald. A small amount of coffee splashed into his apron. He touched his face. I walked around him. I set the eggs down. Ronald handed me a roll of silverware before taking his ticket to Fred. Miss French Press curled and her middle and index fingers on each hand and brought them together. She pointed behind the counter. Ronald stood by the coffee pot.

 “More coffee?” I asked. She pointed at the coffee pot, pulled her index and thumb away from her face, and then pointed at me. I brought the French press over and refilled her coffee. She ate. I cashed her out. She left her coffee and a three-dollar tip. Ronald stood behind me and watched her walk away. He cleaned my table for me.

Short Story Notes

If I like this one in a few months I’ll rewrite it and stuff. There are things I don’t like about it, but there were things I found useful from it. I like Miss French Press. I don’t like it for the title, but I like her. But it was all I could come up with for now. Also, needs more tension.

Thanks for reading and as always, comment below about whatever. Typo hunters welcome. Admiration of me is also encouraged. As always, thank you all for reading, and I hope you like my stories, or at least like watching me struggle with them. After a while, sometimes my stories graduate to my stories section of my website.

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Eric Shay Howard selfie
Me, my lunchtime latte, and my proof copy of my fiction collection, Crushes.
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Keep Your Eyes On The Ice Cream

Here’s an actual short story that I drafted last night. It’s fiction.

Jack, Ronald, and I waited outside the ice cream shop with our milkshakes in our hands. Ronald held his against his forehead. His pit-stains showed. Jack stood with his milkshake tilted in his hand and against jeans. I held mine in front of me drank it too fast. I looked up at the clock on top of the courthouse down the street. It was getting dark. I couldn’t tell what time it was.

“Is he coming?” Ronald asked.

“He’ll be here,” I said. Ronald held up his receipt.

“We got these at two minutes ‘til. We’ve been out here for ages,” Ronald said.

I rubbed the back of my head.

“He’s not used to coming here. He probably didn’t know how long it would take,” I said. Ronald nodded his head, tilted it, and nodded again.

“What’s he got?” Ronald asked.

“I don’t know. I think it’s blue,” I said.

It got dark. The clerk inside Magic Milkshakes locked the front door. They moved away from the door and down the concrete ramp. They all sat down with their backs against the wall. Jack’s long legs stretched to the railing across from him. He propped his feet up.

“Where we going?” Jack asked.

There were so many more places I wanted to be besides in front of Magic Milkshakes. A few months ago, I’d have said I wanted to be back with my friends at my old school, but Jay was on his way here in his new blue car. And now I had Jack and Ronald. I didn’t have any particular places in mind. I had fifty bucks in my wallet.

“Anywhere we want,” I said.

“Some place where there’s music,” Jack said.

“A strip club that’s out of this world,” Ronald said.

“They have 3D movies in Lexington,” I said.

“Can you see 3D movies?” Jack asked. He and Ronald turned to me.

“I don’t know,” I said.

We sat. Jack adjusted his feet and bent his knees a few different ways. He scratched his ear and placed his hand down on the concrete. I left my hand on the concrete close to his. Ronald sipped his milkshake until the straw made gargling noises. I had already finished mine but held onto the cup. Jack took a sip. His hand moved away. I put my straw in my mouth and chewed.

One pair of headlights slowed down in the street. I couldn’t tell if the car in front of me was blue. It pulled in next to the trashcan. The lid fell off. A horn honked.

I ran to the passenger side. Jay was in the car checking out Jack and Ronald against the wall. I raised my arms and they walked over.

“Hey bro,” Jay said. He smiled as the overhead light came on. His hair was buzzed. He had fuzz between his lip and mouth, and a little goatee that matched. Jack tapped my back as he squeezed between me and the trashcan. Ronald got in the back on the driver’s side. Jay pulled out.

The interior was black. The roof was hard. The seats were soft. The air was cool. I adjusted the tilt of my seat.

“Ford,” Jack said. He rubbed his hand along the seat. He reached in front of him and found a set of cupholders attached to the back of the armrest. Ronald felt along the door. Jay flipped the overhead light off. I put my empty cup into the holder between Jay and me. There was resistance. I pushed until it was locked in place. Jay drove past the courthouse clock and on through the square. When we got to the straight stretch, he accelerated.

“Where are we going? Lexington?” Jay asked.

“I’m okay with that,” I said. Everyone agreed.

Jay sped up on the straight stretch. I grabbed the handle above the passenger-side door. The green grass was black everywhere except for where they glowed green through Jay’s headlights. The grass in the light got darker the further Jay drove. The trees shook in the wind.

“So you’re Eric’s friend?” Ronald asked.

“Since fifth grade. I don’t like that he moved way,” Jay said.

“You hear that?” I asked. The wind was whistling.

“Don’t make fun of me,” Jay said.

“Jay, the trees,” I said. I pointed out the window. “They’re pink.”

“They’re just those, um, what do you call them? Cherry Blossoms?” Jay said.

“Prunus serrulate,” Ronald said.

Something didn’t feel right. I looked around the car.

“It feels good in here,” Jack said. He took off his shirt.

“The air’s not on,” I said.

“Yeah it is. Feels great,” Jay said.

“No. It’s hot as hell outside and the air isn’t on,” I said. I pointed at the controls on the console. Jay tapped the temperature knob. I put my hands in front of the vents. Air was coming through. The wind outside picked up. The sky turned purple.

“It’s on vent, not air,” Ronald said. He pointed.

“This doesn’t seem right,” I said.

“It’s right. Everything’s right,” Jay said. He accelerated. The road turned into ice cream. We were riding down the cosmopolitan express. I sunk down into the seat and watched out the windows. A flatbed pickup truck pulled an orchestra behind us. They hummed. Jay hit the brakes, but we slid on down the ice cream. Jay closed the vents. He looked at me with his big blue yes.

“Watch the ice cream,” I said.

The ice cream road ended. We slid to a stop outside of a strip club called Out Of This World. Beings of all shapes and sizes came and went. Square bodies held onto other square bodies. Inside, circles danced. A long sock bought us drinks. We lived a whole life in there. When we got back outside, the car was gone. I don’t remember how any of us got home. We never talked about it.

Short Story Notes

Thanks for reading. As always, comment below. Typo hunters are most certainly welcome. Or just comment about whatever is on your mind. Over time, if I still like this one after a while, I’ll fix it up. It might even one day get promoted to my short stories section of my website.

Eric Shay Howard author of Crushes selfie
I should really sit down and finish editing the paperback of my fiction collection, Crushes.
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Crushes, A Fiction Collection by Eric Shay Howard, Coming Soon To Paperback

I received my proof copy of Crushes, my short fiction collection, by me, Eric Shay Howard. This book is already available on Amazon Kindle, but I haven’t had time to get the paperback version ready until now. I’m pretty excited about it!

Proof copy of Crushes, a fiction collection by author Eric Shay Howard

I worked really hard on these stories for a very long time. I’m trying to get the paperback version out very soon, but I don’t want to specify a date just yet. I’ll let you know before I’m ready to push all the buttons and release it.

Crushes: Stories by Eric Shay Howard

These stories were written between the years 2014 and 2018. They were all rewritten a bajillion times. It’s nine short stories. They are generally about characters who are either in a relationship, out of a relationship, trying to get into a relationship, or not realizing they are in a relationship. Some people are trapped in relationships. I guess it’s about relationships?

Whatever. When I wrote them, they were just stories. I had to find the theme and put them all together. Now I have to red-line the proof copy and all of that. Have I mentioned that I’m in grad school and I work full-time? What am I doing to myself?

There are things I would change about these stories today if I was still editing them. I’m not, and so the stories are what they are for now. It’s just my first book. It’s um, not that big of a deal. I’d say I’ll write more fiction collections, but then again, better authors that me already have a million fiction collections. I don’t know what I want to write next. Something weird, probably.

Crushes Is Available on Amazon Unlimited and Amazon Kindle Now

Anyway, you can read the ebook on Kindle Unlimited, or buy a digital copy for now. It’s been on there forever. Well, since 2018. Just so you know, I may earn from qualifying purchases with the ad below.

I learned a lot about writing when I was working on these stories. I have some short stories available for you to read for free right here on my blog, too. I hope to continue learning about all kinds of different things. Right now, I’m learning about paperback publishing, obviously. Do you like paperback books?

If you like paperbacks, or digital books, or short fiction collections, or crushes, anything at all, leave me a comment and let’s discuss. I am curious which you prefer: physical books or digital books? People’s minds seem to be changing as the years go by, but what do I know? I myself buy more digital books. However, I prefer physical books if I really like the book. Sometimes this causes me to double-dip, but it helps support the author.

I’ll let you know via my Twitter page, my Facebook page, and this blog when the book will be available on paperback. Definitely follow me on Twitter because it’s currently my favorite platform and I generally make announcements there first.

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The Brawl Outside Butterweather’s – Fiction

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.

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“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?”

“Government.”

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.

Portrait photo of writer and editor Eric Shay Howard

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.

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