The Slow Burn


blistering-dayss.jpgThe rain had barely cooled off the city.  The suffocating heat was a killer.  I was driving back from visiting an old pal of mine in Echo Park. I left an hour later twenty bucks lighter and wishing I’d never gone.   I decided to step into my favorite watering hole to shake the heat and my mood.  Fifteen minutes later I stepped through the door of The Formosa.  The place was quiet.  It was early.  I waved to Joe.  He was wiping down the bar.  I took a seat.

He nodded.   “Hey Mick.  How are things?”

“Not bad,” I said reaching for my cigarettes.

“What’ll ya have?”

“Give me a bourbon, would ya Joe?  Heavy on the ice.” 

He nodded, threw the bar towel over his shoulder and moved away.  I lit a cigarette and turned to check out the scenery.  The Formosa was a favorite of mine.  Even if you weren’t thirsty, it was a great place to people watch.   Nobody really bothered you.  If they did, Joe would toss ‘em out.   Or, if you were broke somebody would always loan you a couple of bucks.  If you got really lucky, somebody would pay you back.  I was hoping I’d get lucky.

So, there I was, minding my own business, working on my second bourbon when I saw her.  She was sitting in the back booth facing the door.   I could tell just by looking at her she didn’t belong.  A voice in my head said, “Careful Mick.”  I didn’t listen and moved further down the bar.  She lifted her eyes and looked directly at me.  Her eyes were the deepest blue I’d ever seen.  Like the color of the sea on a hot summer day.  I stopped breathing.    She looked away.  Somebody fed the jukebox and the music of Miles Davis floated out.  I heard the front door slam and laughter.  It echoed down the bar and off the walls.   I watched her nurse her drink.  She had small, well manicured hands with red nail polish.   There was no ring.   She looked at me again.  I nodded.  She gave me a little smile.  That was my cue. I took it and moved towards her table.

“Mind if I sit down?” I asked.   She shook her head, her dark hair floating around her shoulders.   I sat.

“Would you like another drink?”   Her hair danced again.

We looked at one another across the table.  A few seconds passed.  Her eyes had flecks of green.   She wore no makeup, other than red lipstick.  Her skin glowed like freshly polished porcelain.

“You have a name?” I asked, trying to get the ball rolling.  She nodded.

“Leonore,” she whispered.  I leaned towards her to hear.

“Mick,” I replied offering my hand.  She hesitated, then quickly placed her hand in mine.  She was trembling.    I watched her.

“You okay?” She looked away and rummaged in her purse.  She pulled out a handkerchief.

“Please,” she said raising her eyes back to mine.  I saw the threat of tears.  “Please, would you get me out of here?”

I nodded.  I was in big trouble.  I was about to go down for the count.  We left The Formosa and walked out into the muggy night air.  The heat was suffocating.   I couldn’t have cared less.

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