Longshot Down Undah

by Dennis Mahagin

After the Narcotics Anonymous meeting, they stopped to

chat under a maple tree in the parking lot. She said, “Do

you want to get some coffee at the I Hop, hon?” . . .  He

replied, “Awwwww, some place, yeah, but anywhere

but there.”


They ended up at the Denny's by Portland State, in a

window booth across from a counter that's the same,



When the coffee came, she told the story of getting

trapped on a cruise ship with this prick named Tad,

who talked and talked nonstop in a fake Australian

accent. “It got real old, real quick,” she said, taking

a tentative sip. He liked the way she opened the sugar

packets with a gap in her front teeth, the little creamer

containers succumbing to thumbnail. He said “I can

only imagine,” looking up to see the young Jamaican

waitress in her Kelly green dress humming One by U2,

holding the refill pot. His hand shook hovering no

thanks, above his cup.


“So anyway this guy Tad,” she said, “kept saying things

like Guh Die! and Oy! right? Then he threw in . . . like

Defenestration, Subdural Hama Toma . . .” She said, “he

actually said  red skies at night... He said stuff like

‘Crikey that's a knife',” she said, “it was bad, really

really, really . . .  bad.” 


He nodded past his jitters, his naked, nascent sobriety.

He said, “Yeah, so the phony Aussie Tad, sad killer of

the sea cruise . . .” And she giggled. Then they looked

out the window at a darkened Arthur Street, half past

ten, streetlights blazing through winter mist, hothouse

globes the color of honey.


When she touched his barely trembling hand across

the table, his reflection in the glass did the double take.

He watched, stolid as any plastic Ken doll atop a wedding

cake. Then a voice came said, Be yourself, it can't hurt



He said, “I've only ever ridden a ferry, and I guess the fact

is I've been very lonely.”


She was quiet, as the waitress returned with the same

sly smile. Dreadlocks swinging, she set down their check.

They got up to pay, and she said “That's okay,” squeezing

his hand, “on your worst day you're still thousands of light

years ahead of Tad.” They laughed some more, and she

said, “you never told me what . . . you got against I Hop.”


She tucked her head against his shoulder as they stepped

outside, together, well on their way since God is pretty

romantic, after all, He may have righted the ship.