Cover of literary journal (a painting of a suited person holding a satchel) with an overlay of a screenshot of the first page of the short story.


Lyle Skains

Scribendi, 2000

He entered the bar, the neon beer signs dripping fake rainbows over his granite face, turning the gray in his short, curly hair into dimly lit strands of rose, turquoise, and lemon. He settled his large dusty frame onto a barstool covered with cracked and leaking vinyl. He nodded to the bartender, and she poured his Wild Turkey, leaving the bottle on the bar. Her mixed blood shone through her high black eyebrows, supple dark skin, and high flat cheekbones. As always he wanted to ask her who broke her nose so long ago, who couldn’t leave that beautiful exotic face in perfection. But he didn’t ask. He didn’t really want to know. Somehow her ruined nose suited her to this place, its marred shape matching the warped pool table at the back of the room, the chipped pool balls, the cigarette-burned bar.

He slid his glass and bottle down to the end of the bar closest to the pool table. He picked out a pool cue, the only one that still held on to its chalky blue cap. He spilled the balls out onto the worn mustard-yellow felt and knocked them around aimlessly, usually missing the pocket by a good two inches.

“How you going to hustle anybody shooting like that?” The bartender poured him another drink and leaned over the bar to hand it to him, awarding him a flash of brown breast over her white tank top.

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