Euphoric Recall

You’ve always loved this place. Inside and out.

You love it all. Even the sign: “Whiskey Dick’s—At least the drinks are stiff.” That late night burst of energy when rushing inside—two pitchers ordered thirty minutes before last call. The smell of cold, poured beer—swallowed, spilled, puddled, soaked into floors. Its vapors embedded into walls. You taste the almost toasty caramel, the spices, the buttery fermentation.

You inhale the wet paint odor of sixteen different brands of hairspray, the sour, onion smell of perspiration. You watch burning tobacco billowing toward the indirect lighting—austere, but adequate to excite dormant hopes – enough to reveal decolletage – hiked skirts revealing naked thighs.

There’s an early fervor of those huddled within the booths in full expectation of the evening. It’s a slightly older crowd. Less frenetic. Weary. Ready to settle for whoever comes next.

The barmaid strides toward your table, stretches, bends low enough to ignite desire. She smiles, speaks long enough for you to misinterpret. Her eye contact ignites a foundational memory—years earlier, when you walked close to a scantily clad dancer. She reached for you, caressed your face, leaned forward, buried her lips in yours, placed your right hand exactly where you wanted, allowed it to remain, looked directly at your eyes, then resumed her dance. The way she rewarded you later.

Your memories are interrupted by the sound of a pitcher sliding across the table. Glasses frothy and dripping. The first sip of bitterness. The second swallow of promise. The third of a partial release. The fourth of exhalation with the relief of surviving another day.

Maybe tonight you’ll be rewarded again.

Thomas Elson

Thomas Elson’s stories appear in many venues, including Ellipsis, Better Than Starbucks, Bull, Cabinet of Heed, Flash Frontier, Ginosko, Short Édition, North Dakota Quarterly, Litro, Journal of Expressive Writing, Dead Mule School, Selkie, New Ulster, Lampeter, and Adelaide. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.