HAPPY HOUR WITH CATHY ULRICH AND JAYNE MARTIN

A Fantasy

INT. THE MAKE BELIEVE BAR – EVENING

 

Wooden paneling like the bars they remember from when they were girls, slipping in under-aged with laughing crowds; soft velvet barstools that never get whiskey-stained; a bartender who knows how to make Galactic Ales and Naked Pretzels, who doesn’t flinch when Ulrich substitutes lemon juice for the pineapple.

Martin sits at the bar sipping a Margarita, blended with salt, as Ulrich pops a quarter into the jukebox and then sidles up next to Martin, a chilled Allegheny awaiting her. “Run Through the Jungle” by Creedence Clearwater blasts through the bar.

 

JAYNE

Nice choice. I slept with the drummer.

CATHY

Nice!

 

Martin and Ulrich raise their glasses to each other.

JAYNE

So hey! Big congrats on your book. Love the title, “Ghosts of You,” and that all the stories are told in second person point of view. Such a cool choice.

 

CATHY

Thank you! Congrats on yours, too! “Tender Cuts” is such a gorgeous book, with the pairing of the micros and the artwork. The sweet illustrations kind of downplay some of the inherent sadness of the stories.

 

JAYNE

Thank you. I’m happy you saw that. We both seem to write stuff that’s on the dark side. Yet we’re such nice, normal people.

 

Jayne and Cathy exchange a look and burst out laughing.

JAYNE

Okay. “Normal” may have been a stretch, but seriously, you work in a funeral home. That’s got to color your outlook. I love that the embalmer supply guy bought your book

 

CATHY

It was really sweet of him! He’s a great guy. I think the guy that cleans our carpets will get a copy too!It’s really nice, because I wasn’t expecting a lot of local support. Although, I guess technically the embalming supply guy isn’t local.

“Run Through the Jungle” ends and Jayne heads to the jukebox.

 

JAYNE

I’ll get this one.

 

The opening organ riff of “Black Magic Woman” fills the room. Jayne returns to the bar.

 

CATHY
(joking around)

So did you sleep with the drummer of Santana, too?

 

JAYNE

Keyboard guy.

(off Cathy’s eyebrow raise)

Hey, it was the Seventies. I worked in the studio where they all recorded. It was like a candy store.

 

CATHY

Sounds lovely! You mentioned that you have a dark side in your fiction. Where does that come from?

 

JAYNE

I think I have abandonment issues. I was an only child. Both my parents were dead by the time I was 23. I didn’t notice until I put together “Tender Cuts,” but every character in the book is dealing with some kind of heartache and they’re doing it alone.

 

CATHY

I’m so sorry for your loss – that would definitely make for a dark side! I didn’t make the connection to the isolation of the characters when I read the stories individually, but when you put them all together, you do see that.

 

JAYNE

To the dark side!

 

They clink glasses, bottoms up and slam down the empties. Two replacements immediately appear.

 

JAYNE

Big tip for this guy. Huge.

 

A little girl dressed in a Can-Can outfit wearing a crown and a sash that says “Little Miss Soybean” climbs up onto the bar stool next to Jayne. This is Julie-Sue, the main character in the Tender Cuts collection.

 

JULIE-SUE

I’ll have a Shirley Temple – on the rocks.

 

JAYNE

Julie-Sue, you can’t be in here. You’re only
seven years old.

 

Julie-Sue’s face contorts and reddens with anger.

 

JULIE-SUE

YOU NEVER LET ME HAVE ANY FUN!!

And she runs out of the bar.

 

JAYNE

Man, it’s brutal when your characters turn on you. So I read in an interview you did with Tommy Dean that in the plot versus character debate, like me, you are firmly in the character camp. I’ve got nothing until I can hear the voice. You?

 

CATHY

I definitely can’t write a story without hearing the words first. I still have ideas for “Murdered Ladies” stories, but until I hear the voice, they’re just ideas without a story.

“Black Magic Woman” ends and it’s Cathy’s turn to pick a song.

 

CATHY

I’ll try to pick a band you haven’t slept
with.

 

JAYNE

Good luck with that.

 

Cathy wavers between Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and Andrew Applepie’s “I’m So,” finally choosing Supercar’s “Last Scene.”

 

CATHY

I really love this song – it’s about a guy who is trapped in a salaryman career, but really he wants to be a dancer. I love this line: “shizuka ni shizuka ni tada shizuka ni yume wo mite iru.” “In the quiet, I’m only dreaming.”

 

JAYNE

Are you one of those who knew they wanted to write while they were still in the womb? Because I didn’t figure it out until I was almost thirty.

 

CATHY

I started writing when I was a kid, yes. I always liked reading, and I was tremendously shy, so it was much easier than having to talk to the other kids. And by “talk to,” I mean get bullied by because I was a weirdo. You started out writing movies, right?

 

JAYNE

Right. I was struggling as an actress and then Stallone made that big splash with “Rocky” and I thought, if he can do it how hard can it be? God, I was such an asshole.

 

CATHY

But you did it.

 

JAYNE

I did. Turns out it was a great learning curve for writing flash where you also have to jump into a scene, move it forward, and get the hell out while leaving the audience wanting more.

 

The ghost of a murdered bride wanders through the bar.

 

JAYNE

Uh, friend of yours?

 

CATHY

Sometimes they follow me. I don’t actually see ghosts – I just write about them. I think everyone is haunted by some kind of ghost or another.

 

JAYNE

What was the genesis of your murdered ladies stories? I’m fascinated by your fascination.

 

CATHY

I’m going to say – Laura Palmer from “Twin Peaks?’ That whole show was a plot set in motion by her death. It’s really interesting to me. What I like about that one is there’s as much mystery about who she was as what happened to her. It makes her really real.

 

JAYNE

I loved “Twin Peaks.” The original. The remake not so much. Hey, have you been following that story about the guy who killed 93 women over like 40 years? So creepy. I’m pretty sure he’s the one who killed off my character in “Working Girl,” and maybe a few of yours, as well.

 

CATHY

I saw something in the paper today. I’m glad they caught him, and I hope they can identify all his victims. But I don’t usually follow stories like that. It somehow becomes all about the killer and, man, who cares about them. But I want to know more about your book! Do you have a secret favorite moment in “Tender Cuts?” I always have a secret favorite line in stories, and then if someone says, “oh, this line is my favorite,” I’m like, “YES!”

 

JAYNE

I love it when a reader tells me something they saw in the story that I had no idea was a possible interpretation. And if it’s really great I’ll totally take credit for it… Don’t look now, but a lobster just walked into the bar.

 

A lobster dressed in a tuxedo and smelling of butter wheels a cart of laundry over to a booth and orders a Manhattan.

 

JAYNE

But to answer your question about favorite lines, I kinda of love “A Lobster Walks Into A Laundromat.” The story was written in a Meg Pokrass workshop andit’s probably the one I had the most fun writing.That one and “I Married A 1985 Buick LeSabre.” So the collection isn’t all dark.

 

CATHY

Speaking of dark, how long have we been here?

 

JAYNE

I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I’m not fit to drive.

 

CATHY

That’s okay. I have connections.

 

A black hearse pulls up in front of the bar.

 

JAYNE

Well played, my friend.

 

And, arm-in-arm, the two writers stagger out the door.

Cathy Ulrich is the founding editor of Milk Candy Review, a journal of flash fiction. Her work has been published in various journals, including Black Warrior Review, Wigleaf and Passages North, and can be found in Best Microfiction 2019, Best Small Fiction 2019 and Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions (2017 and 2019).She is the author of Ghosts of You (Okay Donkey Press, 2019).

Jayne Martin lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she rides horses and drinks copious amounts of fine wines, though not at the same time. She is a Pushcart, Best Small Fictions, and Best Microfictions nominee, and a recipient of Vestal Review’s VERA award. Her debut collection of microfiction, Tender Cuts, from Vine Leaves Press, is available for preorder now.

Recent Posts

Join Jayne