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        We're good, he says. No more for me. Pam?

        Guess not, she says. She dabs at her lip, her forehead. Maybe I'll just go to the ladies room and wet my face, she says.

        When she stands up, I see that her top's riding real high. And—her belly! It's not just rolls of fat. It's swollen, pooching out like half a melon. I look at her empty glass then I look at him. And I think what the hell is this?

        Two decaf coffees, he says. And we'd like to share one of those hot fudge brownie things.

        Most of my tables are empty now, except for the Jack Nicholson guy, who's licking the rim of his empty martini glass, winking at me, and I'm thinking I better cut that guy off unless he promises to take a taxi home. By the time she gets back to the table, I've cleared away the dirty plates and empty glasses. I'm getting antsy because it's almost 9:00, and you know what that means. The band starts, and so does the rush.

        I go into the kitchen to make up their dessert myself, a warm brownie a la mode with extra hot fudge. I whirl lots of whipped cream on top. I bring it to them with their coffee.

        Everything okay? I say.

        Fabulous, she says. She looks at the dessert and takes a slow, deep breath. Her hand rests on her stomach. How did I miss that?

        Enjoy your treat, I say. She nods but doesn't pick up her spoon.

        When I go by Sasha, she says, How's the ho doing? She looks like she's going to heave.

      Shut up, Sasha, I say.

        I look over at their table. Pudgy's picked up her spoon, it's poised like she's ready to dig in but she just sits there, holding the spoon, staring at the glob of whipped cream, the chocolate syrup dripping. She looks horrified.

        How you doin'? I ask her.

        We're through, she says. Asks for the check.

        And then they disappear. Just like that. When I pick up the check, they're gone. Left a big tip, though. Nine bucks. After the rush, I close, go home. You know how I am. I get home that late, I'm too wired to go to bed. So I clean the kitchen and take a shower. I'm in there, standing with my face and boobs in the warm water, and it feels good pouring over my stomach. And I think about work and decent tips and tomorrow, and I wish I hadn't served her so much booze.


Published in PIF Magazine, July 2006
Notable short story Million Writers 2006