By: Sadie Black


Swirl Saturdays



Moneka was gesturing manically at the short cylindrical light fixtures in the ceiling. Finding myself completely incapable of caring about how upset she was, I just leaned back and enjoyed comparing her to a tantrumy toddler. These melt-downs were nothing new.

“What is this? These are not the light fixtures we agreed on.”

She kept repeating “what is this” like it was some magical incantation that would somehow make me agree with her. It wouldn’t work though. I remembered the conversation clearly when she handed me a catalogue that looked like it had been fed through a meat grinder. On that catalogue was an unmistakable red circle indicating these very light fixtures. Now she was trying to tell me that I had messed up? I wasn’t going to let her put her buyers remorse on me. No, thank you.

“Yes. Ms. Hart, they are,” was all I could say.

It wasn’t what I wanted to say though. Not by a long shot. I wanted to tell her that nobody in their right mind would open yet another “Americana” restaurant on a stretch of boulevard that had half a dozen of them already. That many restaurants shouldn’t tell you that people here like Americana food and need more. It should tell you that these people are full up on Americana food and you should go someplace else. And while we’re on the subject, I argued with myself, what the hell is “Americana” anyway?

“Are you evening listening to me?”

I wasn’t.

“I ordered a flush mounted ceiling light with an antique finish. These have a chrome finish and they are about twice the size of the ones I asked for.”

I could tell by the way she paraded out the phrase “flush mounted” and stressed “chrome” that she had been watching too many renovation shows and obviously thought she’d earned a PhD in the subject. I wondered what that made me. Probably chopped-liver.

“Ms. Hart. With all due respect, these look nice and I don’t understand what the big deal is.”

“What the big deal is? Well Mr. Saunders, the big deal is that now I’m paying one and a half what I budgeted for lights because you can’t tell the difference between chrome and antique.”

Judging by the way she was looking at me now, I was definitely chopped-liver.

“Yes. I do know the difference between chrome and antique. I’m a professional. These were the lights you asked for. End of story. Now I need to get going on this finish. Unless you want to delay your big opening.”

She radiated rage but said nothing, knowing as well as I did that we only had two weeks and there was a lot left to finish. Every day was costing her more money. Delaying an opening was the kiss of death to a restaurant and a massive hit to the faith of her investors.

“Fine,” she said “I’ll prove it to you. Then the difference can come out of your company’s budget.”

She pivoted on one heel and stormed off toward the kitchen. Moneka Hart. She was a piece of work. When she was busy yelling at me (her favorite pastime), that name sounded hard. It had rough edges that could cut you. It was Hart with a sharp T. But when she was walking away, her name became soft. All of the syllables dragged out in nice round arcs. They curved into each other in much the same way as her lower back curved into her hips. They were some nice hips, fitting snuggly into her weathered jeans. You got the full effect too. God bless tank tops that stop short of the waste line. Whatever man invented those knew what he was doing.

Moneka Hart. She reminded me of an old girlfriend. A goodie from my post high-school pseudo-revolutionary punk-rock phase. Not many things worth remembering about that time but her. They both had a slinky way about them that could toughen up at a moment’s notice. Then, of course, Moneka would open her mouth and I’d be forced to remember another, more recent, ex. The nagging brought back memories with PTSD level potency.

“You’re staring.”

I snapped to attention and realized that I’d been spacing out, my eyes trained on the closed kitchen door. The voice that had sprung me back to reality belonged to Sonia, Moneka’s best friend and future bartender of Crave. She’d been helping me with the finish on the bar, acting as though it were her baby and she alone responsible for its care. I could easily have put one of my guys on it. It would definitely go faster if I did. However, she was eager and had done everything short of name the bar and throw it a party. You don’t stand in the way of that kind of love.