Green Sleeves Under the Mermaid by Gay Degani

A heatwave smothers Texas like a ten-gallon hat so I abandon the three fans rotating in the apartment and speed out the door, my Dallas Stars tee-shirt as damp as warm teabags. All I can think about is having a Mango Dragonfruit Starbucks Refresher made by the beautiful and talented hands of my beloved barista.

Shimmering with sweat, I push open the smudgy glass door, my eyes sweeping the counter for her perky face, her ready smile, her green shirt sleeves rolled to the elbows, but she’s not here. I glance behind the Venti-sized expresso machine, then remember she has cast me off, she is gone. Heat has a habit of muddling the mind.

When I zipped out of my unairconditioned apartment, I knew I had to go to Pete’s Coffee. I needed to start over. I was in too much pain to go to the ’Buck now that she’d split, run away, gone missing, broken my heart. I would have to make a change. Go in a different direction. Go to Pete’s, that crazy old guy, Pete, that coffee-breathing, caffeine-loaded son of a gun. I promised myself, it would be a new beginning, a new landscape, where there wouldn’t be a dot of PMS 3425 C Pantone green—known as Victory Green here in Dallas—anywhere. Just Pete’s yellow, or sometimes Pete’s purple. I wonder what their numbers are?

  Before this crisis, before she left, disappeared, fell off the face of the earth, I thought I’d finally fallen in love, true love, sincere love, not just some hollow infatuation. Of course, in the beginning of any “sparking like Fourth-of-July fireworks” relationship, romance is filled with excitement, anticipation, and the hope that this one is the one, but too often it doesn’t work, disappointment replaces that tender feeling. This time, I was really in love. It was perfect because she was my lady, my queen. I loved her for-oh-so-so-long, and now she’s cast me off.

And here I am, not at Pete’s, but in Starbucks once again, by the draw of her joy of heart, that sweet golden heart I love. Me, standing here under the green Mermaid Logo, like a gray homing pigeon instead of a peach-faced lovebird, shivering from the polar blast of a high-efficiency air conditioner. Alas, my love, you do me wrong.

I owe a lot to Meg Pokrass or “Peg Mokrass,” her alter ego, from back in the “aughts” when she posted prompts on Facebook and commented on writers’ responses. It was fun and challenging, especially when she made a point of telling me what worked, what could be stronger, and where I could take a piece to make it better. I finally met her at a flash fiction panel she was part of during the Boston AWP. It was my first experience there, and I was thrilled to meet so many online writers, especially Meg. She was the mentor I needed as I learned about Flash Fiction, and I am ever grateful for her encouragement of writers like me.

It was so much fun to reread many of Meg’s wonderful stories in order to write something inspired by her. I chose “Losing Father MacKenzie” because “Eleanor Rigby” was my favorite Beatle song. Meg’s story gave me the same sense of sadness and loss I felt when I listened to the original music. I immediately thought, “This is it,” because I saw a way to approach it. I searched for folk songs with no copyright (one less thing to worry about) and decided on “Greensleeves” because it, too, was about lost love. 

Gay Degani’s work has received Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominations and won, placed, or received honorable mentions in contests. The PhareMidway JournalGhost Parachute, and Bending Genres are among those who have published her work. She has a full-length collection, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Books),  a chapbook, Pomegranate, and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press). She occasionally blogs for Words in Place.

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