Elk’s Baby by J. M. Landon

Friday is dinner at the Elks. The men cook, clean up and get paid money for what women do the other six nights for free. The food is mediocre. The beer is expensive, and the bar maid has had cosmetic surgery in all the right places.

There are baseball ticket raffles, 50/50 drawings and tonight, with the burgers, brats and onion rings, the annual chicken-poop bingo game. It’s exactly what you think. You pick a number. Whatever number the chicken, a real chicken, poops on is the winner. The joke is that the chickens will be served for dinner the following Friday. How in the world they get those chickens to poop on command is beyond me. Being the designated driver, I listened to the quality of the jokes decline as the quantity of beer goes up.

After chicken poop bingo, people move through the doors marked ‘Members Only’. This is the pub, with a TV tuned to local baseball. It’s easy to be the DD because they only serve three types of beer; all domestic, and none to my liking.

As the pub fills and the beers empty, the noise increases. When I was a teenager, it was only me and my mum in the house. Usually I love the sound of men’s voices; the more the better. But tonight, the sound of one man out-shouting another and high-pitched female laughter, accented by pool balls slamming together is a perfect recipe for a migraine.

A little girl, maybe six or seven, walks the floor. She’s dressed in jeans with a long-sleeved cotton top. Dishwater blonde hair hangs in ringlets around her face and bright blue eyes take in everything. Her favorite spot is next to the pool table. Standing, she’s barely tall enough to reach over the top, but the minute it opens up she grabs a stick and makes a few shots, never once scrubbing.

When others play she sits in the corner under the rack, with a glass of white soda, holding her finger over the end of her straw then dropping the captured soda either into her mouth or against the mouth of her bear.

I watch her watch the men play for more than forty minutes. She never looks away, nor did I see any adult approach her. She’s a fixture; part of the furniture.

I know how this story ends. When she grows up she’ll hang out in bars on Friday night and go home with strange men, until she finds herself a proper Elk. Then she’ll bring her baby with her, every Friday, and sit feeding it soda through a straw, watching the men at play. It’s a cycle of slow death.

Someone cranks up the juke box and The Righteous Brothers float through the room. The little girl mouths the words. You never close your eyes, anymore, when I kiss your lips. The little girl rises, walks across the room to an infant in a pumpkin seat and tickles my daughter’s feet.

 

 

 

Classically trained pianist, roller-skater, cake decorator, Microsoft Office expert, art gallery owner, jewelry designer, dragon tamer, writer. With this eclectic blend of creative experiences, J. M. Landon has explored all the above outlets for her inspired tendencies, landing in writing as a favorite passion. Born in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, in a room haunted by a suicidal hanging, how could she be anything else?