When The Wind Blows Kelly was leaning against the wooden cabinets that lined the wall. The restaurant was peaceful; the candles dully illuminated the room and John Mayer whispered lullabies through the radio. This is how every Friday night started and she always embraced this moment. In five minutes, she would want it back. The room would soon wake from its rest and John Mayer’s whispers would be drowned by the sound of people talking, bar glasses clinking and servers shuffling. For the next 5 hours, she’d have to carry trays of roasted duck and filet mignon, make small talk with faces that would begin to blur together, add bills that totaled to more than her monthly income and act grateful for even the 10% tips that she depended on to pay for her student loans.
Walking through the familiar doorway, down the stairs and towards the bar, Drew saw the girl that looked like his wife. She was much younger, of course; she couldn’t be much older than 20. Yes, an image of a younger version of his wife leaning against the wooden cabinets that sat adjacent to the barstool that would serve as his perch for the evening. Maybe he could take her upstairs at the end of the night, her long brown hair that seemed so familiar sweeping across his face, her small waist in his weathered hands.
“Hi Drew! How are you tonight?” She smiled but she didn’t want to. Why was he always there? He was old, a creep, with a wedding ring. “Just getting my daily dose, you know.” He winked. Of course you are, you damn alcoholic. Go home to your wife.
Was he there for the alcohol or was he there to watch her? Maybe it is a little bit of both. Sure, the taste of the gin was always enticing but no more than the look of his younger wife in that little kilt that she had to wear. He watched her walk away, towards her first table of the evening, where a family of three sat with a screaming child.
He always cried. Putting him on her knee, the mother bounced the child up and down. Maybe that would shut him up; maybe it would keep him quiet for the 2 short hours he needed to be quiet. One evening, that’s all she wanted. She never got to eat at nice restaurants like this. He was ruining it though; he just wouldn’t stop crying. Wasn’t there a bathroom or something she could cage him up in? She bounced him faster as the waitress walked by. “Excuse me miss, can I please get a glass of Pinot Noir?”
Oh, the joys of parenting. The mother glanced at her desperately but still looked beautiful; it must have been the glow of motherhood. The child’s screams got louder and the mother playfully bopped him up and down on her knee. She could not wait to have kids someday. “Yes, of course ma’am. Is there anything else I can get for you?”
No, all she wanted was her fucking wine. Unless she could get free a babysitting service. The waitress scurried off, not knowing how lucky she was to still be young. She thought about herself when she was 20; she was much prettier than what she was now. She was thin and her
long legs used to catch the attention of every guy in the room. Oh, how she wished she was still single. She’d be able to get a man like the one sitting alone at the bar. Yes, if she was single, she’d walk up to the bar with her long legs, sit next to him and drink what he was drinking. Oh, if she was single she might not have a screaming child.
He started to feel the effects of the gin. His limbs felt lighter but his eyelids felt heavier. Why couldn’t he always feel this good? His eyelids were dragged down slowly. Yes, he felt good, good, good. He could hear his wife singing, “Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop...” He wanted to tuck his knees into his chest and rock-a-bye as his eyelids continued to be pulled down by the weight of the gin. “I need a Pinot Noir!” His eyelids fluttered open; his young wife was back. He flashed her a drunken smile. What was her name again? Sarah? No, no. Not Sarah. That was his wife’s name; but they look so similar. S... S... S... Sarah. No, no, no! K... K... K... Kelly. Kelly! Kelly, Kelly, Kelly. That’s her name. What a name. Come here Kelly, he thought. Her name turned him on. You like that, Kelly? He was upstairs, her hair in his face.
The bartender took forever to get her the Pinot Noir. How long does it take to pour a glass of wine? The seconds passed and the weight of his stare became unbearable. She uncomfortably pulled down her kilt farther. He was drunk again. Did his wife ever wonder where he was?
The glass of wine was set in front of his young wife. She picked it up and carried it to the mother of the still-crying child. He watched the mother take the wine from his young wife. She took a sip, rocked the little boy and he saw her whisper into the child’s ear, “... when the wind blows ...”
The bitter taste of the Pinot Noir finally kissed her lips but the child still hadn’t shut up. Maybe it was the taste of the wine or maybe it was her shallowing patience that made her lean into the child and whisper words that he could only hear: “You need to shut the fuck up you little brat.” She should have just ordered the entire bottle. One wasn’t going to be enough. She didn’t care if she couldn’t afford it. She was going to need more. “Are you folks all ready to order?” The mother looked across at her husband to see if he knew what he wanted to eat. In response, he looked at Kelly and said, “Yeah, I’ll have the filet, medium rare. The mashed potatoes are fine.” “And for you ma’am?” She wanted the roasted duck but her husband had decided to order the most expensive item on the menu. No, they couldn’t afford two expensive entrees, not with the amount of wine she needed to drink tonight. “I’ll just have the caesar salad. Can you please just put a piece of grilled chicken on it?”
She was not surprised that the mother ordered a chicken caesar salad; she seemed like that kind of woman. She cared about her health. “Of course, ma’am. Anything for your little boy?”
Not unless you have a muzzle. “He’ll just share with me! Oh and when you get the chance, I’m going to need another Pinot Noir. This one will be gone soon.”
“I’ll be right back with another glass!” She stopped at the bar on her way to the kitchen. She told the bartender that she’d need another Pinot Noir and walked away. She wasn’t going to wait again. She’d write-in the food order while the bartender poured the wine. She didn’t want to be around Drew any longer than she had to and she hoped he would just go home soon.
Why did she leave so quickly? It was harder for him to fantasize about his younger wife when she wasn’t standing right there, but he could still do it. He’d ask her if she wanted to go upstairs when her shift was over. Oh Kelly, Kelly, Kelly. He’d take her upstairs just like he would his wife, her hair in his face. He’d rock her. His eyelids drooped and he could hear his wife singing, “... the cradle will rock ...”
The child was no longer crying; it was about time. She took the last sip of her wine, ignoring her husband who was telling her about his day. Her attention was focused on the man sitting alone at the bar. He was older than her, but not much. He was probably in his mid-40’s. She saw him watch the young waitress pick up the glass of wine that the bartender had just
poured. Yes, he was on the prowl and if she was single and without a child, she’d have a chance. Damn the little devil that laid in her arms and her husband who had nothing interesting to say. The waitress handed her the wine and she put it right to her mouth: “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome, ma’am. Your dinner should be out shortly.” She headed back to the kitchen to wait for the food. Yes, she would someday order chicken caesar salads, she thought. She’d have a husband and a child. Maybe she’d even drink a glass of Pinot Noir. Someday she’d sit at the table and someone would serve her. She couldn’t wait for that day and she wasn’t good at being patient; even a five hour shift felt like forever.
The mother took another sip of her wine. Drew ordered another gin. Kelly’s food was up.
The small chicken caesar salad that was put in front of her was nothing like the filet dish set in front of her husband. In fact, she was sure that the salad wouldn’t even fill her. Was this what she was paying $13 for? She told her husband he’d have to share with little Tommy, as she cut a chunk off of his filet and placed it on the small bread plate. She cut the filet up in smaller pieces and set the plate in front of Tommy who proceeded to pry at it with his fingers.
They had their food. She was alone. This was his chance. He left his perch and made his way towards her. “S-Sarah,” he slurred his words.
“Excuse me?” Kelly said. “I mean, Kelly! Kelly, Kelly, Kelly. Come here, Kelly.” “What can I help you with, Drew?” “I was just... Oh Kelly, Kelly, Kelly... J-Just wondering if after your sh-.”
What the hell did he want? Did he have the audacity? She was about to walk away from the creep when she heard a man scream.
What was happening? Her husband was freaking out but he had no reason to; the wine tasted so good. Her husband clawed at her and took the little devil from her arms. He can have him! “He’s choking... He’s choking! Someone help, someone help!” Kelly could not move and she stared blankly: A man, scared to death, holding a child. The child, turning purple in the face. The mother, sitting quietly, sipping her wine as if she had no idea what is going on. Before she could think to take action, Drew threw her to the side and ran over to the suffering child.
He saw his wife. K...K... No, Sarah. Sarah. Sweet, sweet, sweet Sarah. Sweet Sarah, swinging. Tree tops and closet doors. “When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall...” Sarah, sweet Sarah... Swinging. Swinging to the lullaby that once sang from her sweet lips. He should have climbed the tree with her. The tree behind her closet door. Sweet Sarah, he would have carried the rope. One, two, three. They would have jumped together, maybe holding hands. They
would have forgotten the baby cradle together. No, no. Not the cradle. The little wooden coffin. Sweet, sweet Sarah broken because of something that seemed so small. A little coffin, her little world. Sweet Sarah, he would have jumped with you but you jumped all alone and now he has nothing but a bare tree and a broken lullaby. He took the child, put him against his chest and wrapped his arms around him. He squeezed and released, squeezed and released, squeezed and released. Finally, the child coughed. No, it was not chicken from a chicken caesar salad that came out of the childâ€™s mouth. It was a piece of filet. He took the child into his arms. He rocked him and sang, â€œ...down will come cradle, baby and all...â€? His younger wife was next to him, lightly touching his back with her fingertips and looking over the child as if it were her own. Everyone in the restaurant stared intently at the bizarre scene. There was a father, too shocked and confused to move. There was a mother, too selfish to care about anything but the wine glass in her hand. There was a drunk man, holding onto the child he once lost and there was an impatient waitress whose eyes were embracing her future.