Bear Walks into a Bar


Bear walks into a bar. Lisa and Carmen and Carmen’s mother (who invited herself) have a table by the ladies room. The Moonglow used to be a supper club. Lisa’s grandparents and Carmen’s grandparents used to drink martinis here. It’s just a bar now, with a dance floor.

Carmen asks to borrow Lisa’s lipgloss. She’s into the DJ but the DJ’s not into her. Carmen’s the heavy one. Her mother tells her she needs to reduce. I wish you were slim like Lisa, she says. Lisa would be lying if she said this didn’t please her.

Bear walks into a bar to a burst of fireworks as if he’s won something.

Lisa says to Carmen, I need you, baby. She hooks her finger in the belt loop of Carmen’s jeans. A soft roll of fat bubbles over the top. Carmen is taller, broader, thicker than Lisa who doesn’t need to reduce.

Bear cannot remember what drew him to this place. He was only hungry. Bears are attracted to scent. Maybe he smelled the trash that is Carmen’s mother.

Lisa says to Carmen, come closer. They have been friends since the third grade. Lisa is on a first name basis with Carmen’s mother, but sometimes to be mean she calls her Mrs. Bejarano. She wishes Carmen knew how to fight back.

Her lipgloss is the color of rubber gloves. She slides it over Carmen’s open mouth. She wonders what it would feel like to slip her tongue inside.

Bear walks into a bar and rises up on hind legs to his full, considerable height. Fireworks explode and even though the DJ has cued up his secret weapon, the dance floor clears.

Carmen’s mother invited herself. She tells Carmen she’ll be her conscience, meaning she’ll prevent her from ordering chili fries or cheese curds or the Moonglow specialty: tater tot nachos.

Bear lifts his snout and sniffs. There is no escaping the trash that is Carmen’s mother.

The DJ flirts with all three of them. Carmen thinks he looks like Will Riker from Star Trek: Next Generation. He tells them the job is harder than it looks, that the cardinal sin of DJ-ing is clearing the dance floor.

Bear walks into a bar and even though Rock the Casbah’s playing the dance floor clears.

Maybe they all rushed out to watch the fireworks. Bears find such displays confusing, like flashing lights and loud music and drunks falling off their barstools. It is not New Year’s Eve nor is it the Fourth of July. Maybe it’s a new thing, a Friday night thing at The Moonglow.

Lisa and Carmen escape to the ladies room. It’s packed. Carmen’s so wasted. All night, Lisa’s been passing her Fireball shots under the table. Close your mouth, Lisa says. Blink. Carmen does not comply.

Lisa unscrews the cap of the lipgloss and slides it over Carmen’s mouth. Lisa’s lipgloss is the color of the rubber gloves she imagines Mrs. Bejarano uses to scrub the toilet. It calms her to think of this. Come closer, Lisa whispers. She hooks her finger in the belt loop of her friend’s jeans.

Carmen’s mother got her a FitBit for her sixteenth birthday. Carmen must walk ten-thousand steps before she is given her evening meal. Carmen walks five thousand steps to McDonald’s and five thousand steps back. Her mother smells the Big Mac on her breath and punishes her with a three-day supervised fast.

Carmen’s mother is pure, stinking, compostable trash.

Bear walks into a bar as fireworks detonate in a brilliant display worthy of such a fierce creature.

Bears do not need to reduce.

Bear kicks open the door to the ladies room all sweat and adrenaline as if he’s jacked up on something. He is not a grizzly or a brown bear or a black bear. He is not mighty. He is, in fact, small and human and white. He raises his gun and shoots.

Lisa and Carmen are on the floor, lying face-to-face. Lisa hooks her finger in the belt loop of her friend’s jeans, holds her breath, and pulls. When Carmen’s body, the whole warm heft of it, falls onto hers, Lisa closes her eyes and waits.

(winner of the Editors’ Prize for issue 31&2)