She’s seated quickly. Reads the menu with her eyes closed. It’s memorized, and with each visit she tests herself. Today she’s remembering cakes and rewards herself with a mouthful of water when she gets them all right. She’s lived the harm of forgetfulness, and years alone have taught her that water is its only balm.
As usual, she claims the corner booth near the window. If her grandmother were here, they’d bow their heads in a conspiracy of calm and she’d prove her cleverness. She’d point to her courtyard outside, the one she designed, and whisper There – our oasis in the woods. I’ve put the stones to good use. They’d hear a shush like rain before the fountain pooled its blues into glass. But on this visit, she’s disheartened to find her fountain dry and her poppies ravaged by a howling spring, their heads dangling at their knees.
Only her nails are red these days, but she’s convinced the big-eyed are watching and frees her hair to float across her face. When the waitress takes her order, she clicks her nails on both the Black Forest cake and a bottle of merlot. She never stays long enough for the cake and wine to arrive, but every waitress in the place knows what she’s been through, that she’ll leave the money on the table with a generous tip. Mostly, they remember her nails, how she’s sharpened them to blades, how she’s ready to slice through the thickest of bellies.
Marybeth Rua-Larsen lives on the south coast of Massachusetts, half-way between Boston and Cape Cod (but closest to Providence, RI), and teaches composition at Bristol Community College. Her poems, essays, flash fiction and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in The Raintown Review, Angle, Crannog, The Poetry Bus, Free Inquiry, and The Nervous Breakdown. She is a book reviewer for NYQ Reviews and won in the Poetry category for the 2011 Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Competition in Galway, Ireland.