empty03.jpg picture by pemerytx 

The place had a good feel to it.  Swamp blues smoothed it out, not too loud, not too soft.  The bar stretched from the street-side windows all the way to the back wall.  There was a long string of tap handles, beers I’d never heard of—Andygator, Ponchartrain Porter, Lion’s Pride, Dixie Jazz—and the shelves were packed with more bottles of booze than I’ve ever seen in one place.  They were catching the yellowy-orange lights all around and glowing like ten-thousand dollar gemstones.

I found myself a seat at the bar next to three interesting looking men having a curious conversation.  They were in executive gear, had on dress pants, trendy shirts with ties loosed, belts and shoes that matched, except for one of them, whose dark tan belt fought madly with his burgundy shoes.  And this mismatched one’s hair, it was disheveled, like he’d run hands full of stress through it.  The other two, their hair was slicked back solid, unbreakable.

The bartender hurried over to me, put down a cocktail napkin like time was a-wastin’ until he found out I wanted a Sazerac cocktail.  He grinned and slowed down to fix me one in the traditional way, brought it to me.  I tipped him well and asked for a menu.  Then I sipped my drink, enjoyed the layers of flavor, the burn of the rye, the spice, the honey, the bite of the bitters, the sugar to smooth it out.  And I listened to the three men, watched them out of the far right corner of my eye.

One of the slick execs was built like a running back, made big, blank pronouncements about business and about life, while conspicuously drinking his Abita Amber.  The other slick exec was cut from the same cloth, just a smaller sized bolt of it.  He agreed with the majority of Mr. Big’s statements and when he did venture to disagree, it seemed it was only for the sake of appearing to have a few opinions of his own.  Similarly, he’d thought to order a Abita Golden. 

The mismatched one was more detached, brooding at times.  He listened more than he talked and took careless swigs off a Budweiser.  When he did speak, Mr. Big and his sidekick became silent and cocked their heads as if to get better reception, then raucously agreed or disagreed, but either way, would be sent off on a new tangent.

The bartender noticed I’d closed my menu and he rushed over, pad in hand.  I ordered the shrimp montage and another Sazerac cocktail.  He nodded and winked, took up my menu politely and was gone.  I tuned back into the Mr. Big show just in time to hear the mismatched one speaking a rare few of his words so quietly I couldn’t make them out.  But I did hear Mr. Big respond, “Where  in the world…”

And to this, they all somberly raised shot glasses of golden liquid to their mouths as if bidding a deceased friend farewell.  Mr. Big and his sidekick tossed their shots to the backs of their throats and Mr. Big was first to jerk his head back forward.  He slammed his empty shot glass down.  Thick glass met hard, resin-coated wood with a hurtful crack and he just stared at the empty glass, shaking his head.  The sidekick’s glass hit the bar with less force, but if it were possible for a glass to be emptier, his glass would be that.

The mismatched one drank his shot slow and drew the glass from his lips reluctantly.  He held the glass before his dark eyes, turning it around and around in his hand.  Lights from the outside—green, blue, red—streamed in through the window, through his fingers, and mixed in the facets of the glass with the yellowy-orange from inside, like it was the emptiest glass in the world.  He set the shot glass quietly down on the bar and ran his light-filled fingers through his disheveled hair.



Jacques-imo’s Café

Sazerac Cocktail Chuck T’s Flickr Photostream at


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Missalister’s “Comparatives,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#173 – Where in the World?” and Paschal’s “Shrimp Montage” .


sazerac.jpg picture by pemerytx

13 responses to “Comparatives

  1. Where [else] in the world… could I find a shrimp montage paired with a sazerac cocktail all awash with beautiful blues, and all of it appreciated most of all by a mismatched man. I love that closing image, the light-filled fingers through his disheveled hair.

  2. I would mostly identify with the disheveled guy. Not the shoes and the belt though. Heavens, no! Definitely the hair and shot savoring. No point in wasting a proper Don Petron, or whatever.

    Enough about me though. You are on a glorious roll, Alicat! Keep those hyper-sensory descriptions coming. I so want to be in this place.

    : )

  3. Aren’t we all burdened by the suits and the ties? That said, we still need the mr. Bigs and the mr. Mismatch’es of this world to keep it going. Your Mr. Mismatch looks like he’s been driven to the edge of pessimism and is trying to find answers… And what better place to find answers than at the edge of a dimly lit bar with two people who you detest… :)

  4. [W]atched them out of the far right corner of my eye. There was something Marlowian in that eye: not just the observer, but the observer’s slow, confident rhythms. Conrad’s Marlow, in this case, though I certainly love Chandler’s Marlowe, too. I love the lights in all those glasses, and my oh my, a Sazerac to boot. Ever have one at the Roosevelt? I did once, but the better one I found at a spiffy joint out on Old Metairie Road; joint lasted about as long as the lovely warm aftertaste of the drink itself. I usually settled instead for an old fashioned, especially if it were made by Mr. Warren LeRuth at his self-named food nirvana in Gretna, on the west bank. Oh, how I miss the man and the restaurant.

    So, how is the Duchess these days in her writing persuasions? I’m almost hesitant to offer a response, because I know that how you sit with these pieces and their deliveries are of utmost importance to you. You’re not out for the choir’s adorations (true and worthy though they are): it’s your own writer’s pulse that you’re checking, and knowing you, it’s all 28 pulse variations of Traditional Chinese Medicine that you’re monitoring. So, what are the fingertips telling you? And how does the heart feel?

    Apropos of Conrad, I met with a new English teacher at the Instituto last week, a Princetonian by trade. She attended Incarnate Word High School here in Tres Leches as a student and had been teaching there for three years before coming to us. Somewhere along the way, in our discussions of the wonderful freedom we all have to create our own curricula, I mentioned that I did not think Dickens (whom I love now) should be inflicted upon high schoolers, that he’s best read after the age of 40 (do you qualify yet?). She responded with a Conrad story, saying that she hated reading Heart of Darkness as a student at IWHS and wondered how it would feel to teach it. She said she loathed it even more. Fair enough: I love HOD (which means nothing whatsoever), and Walden’s birthday is the same as Conrad’s.

    Much love to you.

  5. PS: You were a lovely sport to play along with the prompt, but I’m still having a helluva time seeing shrimp montage as food. Could be the local Pappa’s was struck by a local urban graffiteer. Your lights in this piece are the true montage.

    Thank you very much, Linda May. Glad to see you here again : )

    LOL! I don’t know where else you could find such a mess. It is a true montage. And it means whatever you want it to mean. The meaning you found was the taste I ended up wishing to leave in the reader’s mouth. This piece was meant to embody a concept that I couldn’t make clear, even after several drafts, although I see by the comments that in a roundabout way, it’s effecting in others the concept itself. Nick and I were discussing the idea of empty, emptier, emptiest. Can there be anything more empty than empty? What is emptier than empty? Emptiest? And is empty a bad or good thing, i.e. do these different levels of emptiness represent the levels of difficulty in filling some thing or some life back up, or does the emptiest thing or life allow for all the more to be poured in? And even though no one has mentioned “empty, emptier, emptiest,” many comments here reflect those varying levels of perception.

    Heavens no, indeed! Perish the thought! LOL! But really now, music man, if you were doing a gig, would you even bother with that nonsense? I mean, if you wear a belt at all, you’ve probably got a T-shirt or dress shirt over it and what? Tennis shoes or boots, depending on the gig? And if you do wear a belt and you’ve got the buckle migrated over to your left hip, is anyone even going to give a shit if your footwear doesn’t match it if you’re goin’ to town, I mean playin’ like nobody’s bidness? But enough speculating about you ; ) I’m taking your “glorious roll” compliment and running with it : )

    Yes, yes, all the truth! Loved the last line, the big question, “what better place to find answers than at the edge of a dimly lit bar with two people who you detest?” Well put.

    No, no, dearest Paschal, I’ve not experienced a Sazerac at the Roosevelt! So we must go as soon as possible, make one of our virtual plans and go. Does the Roosevelt have such soft-glowing lights as here? Ones in some color or a variation of colors that mellows you like an amber drink and draws out of you the secrets you meant to keep? Perhaps we should reconsider.

    But first, since you ask, a non-secret: the so-called Duchess (who greatly appreciates your intuitive delicacy, by the way) is not at home. That is, she is not comfy in her current place and won’t be comfy anyplace perhaps, until much more time spent loving and copying the works of super-hot writers becomes a melding and building of a style of her own (means you nailed the choir bit). The Duchess also spends much of her usable writing time wrestling with demons and freezing in the spotlight: she needs to be exorcised. She struggles with finding notable ideas and no reasonable person would think to argue, knowing they’d not personally witnessed the love-making, the gestation period, and the labor. In short, there’ll be much feeding, spitting, burping, vomiting, poopy diaper-changing, crawling, and practicing teetering before the baby walks well and begins to turn the house upside down.

    I love Conrad’s Marlow, and if I could write like Conrad I’d be born on December third, too, along with Walden. I wonder what Walden will turn out to be: writer or iconic villain spaceship builder or…

    I agree with you regarding the montage business. Is this regular, fire and harlequin shrimp placed on top of dirty rice to look like one big shrimp? Or shrimp and miscellaneous seafood pieces-parts jumbled together on a plate, superimposed to form a single image of a shrimp? I can see Pappadeaux’s advertising guys sitting around a table brainstorming, coming up with this lame term for a dish, and the Pappas execs so cocked off at an angle that they pronounce love for the idea. Maybe they were desperate, or the meeting with the ad agency was after lunch and they’d had a belt or two, or…

    It’s my new reality game show. Shall I consider this comment your contestant application? ; )

  7. Our heroine goes to the bar and orders fancy food and drink and then settles down to observe. Makes me curious about her. She seems very at home there. The guys, man there are a kajillion just like them out there drinking and miserable. Is she making a list and checking it twice? Maybe she could sprinkle magic marguerita salt on them and their lives would be transformed.

    I thought about making a crass joke about if you are at the infant stage then I am not even a twinkle in papa’s eye but, oh well I did make it didn’t I? I had to google a sazerac cocktail.

    Do you think emptiness is the actual absence of something, or is it an overabundance of crap that we fill our glasses with til there is no room for the things that would make our glasses “full”?

    I wanted to curl up in a booth in the back of this place with my Bailey’s and observe the observer.

  8. DEE
    Well, our heroine is used to flying alone on business, can take care of herself. She’s confident in that realm. In fact, airports feel more like home to her than any other place. To her, there’s something almost otherworldly about sitting with a laptop on a vast expanse of carpet in front of endless windows in a cavernous terminal, a jumping-off place to the sky, amazing metal birds waiting outside, interesting people waiting inside. Prior to the bar scene here, she’d finished up some work in Chicago, and the folks there said, “Before you leave the city, you’ve got to check out Heaven on Seven,” and so she did. And you know the rest. The mismatched one is the attraction. Mr. Big and the sidekick are run-of-the mill, but there’s something mysterious about the mismatched one. He’s aware of something they’re not, gets something they don’t get.

    About the feeding-spitting-burping-vomiting, etc., well, you know it’s all relative, right? I’ve said this before, maybe before we “met,” that compared to where I’d like to get to, I’m still not that far from the starting line. I say I’ll know the feel of the place when I get there. But I tell you what, I’d not mind having your ability to come up with good ideas! You’re an idea machine!

    I like your thoughts on emptiness. It certainly is that, what you said. I guess it’s never gonna quit being a perspective thing. And I know it’ll never stop being a topic we humans enjoy chewing on!

  9. This piece is a senses sensation! Tastes, smells, sounds, texture and especially, for me, the visual… greens, blues, reds— and yellowy-orange light along with his “light-filled fingers “, whoa! The blues smoothing it out, the conflict between belt and shoes and the waiter’s attention, thread through your piece in an interesting and effortless manner. I’m still having fun revisiting the emptier and emptiest concepts! Beautiful!

    What a review! Catching the conflict woven into the ramble and roll is hot, but I mean the way it was written. It was a little gem in itself : )

    Been in the bourbon too long I guess! Had to google it, found out that yes, indeed, a little Lychee Liqueur and juice added to vodka sounds tasty : )

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