Three Short Essays

Beth Ann Fennelly

Please Pass the Vodka

Inside Wendy’s freezer: a bottle of vodka and a dead cat in plastic wrap. The cat she froze so she can bury it in Florida, where the cat was happy, before Wendy divorced and moved away to make a fresh start.


Our Friend the Memoirist

It was his wife’s birthday and seven of us were having dinner, seated around a festive table. Our friend the memoirist felt moved to make a toast.

“I’d like to make a toast,” he began. “I’d like to tell a story about our first date, which took place on my wife’s birthday, thirteen years ago tonight.”

“Aww,” one of us said, probably more than one of us. We’d drunk some wine. It was the right time of the evening.

Encouraged, he continued, “Thirteen years ago, I took my beautiful wife to a Mexican restaurant.”

We all turned—she’d been placed at the other end of the table—expecting her smile. She has a very sweet smile. And in fact she was smiling, but not the way we expected.

“Well,” she said, softly. Softly, but precisely. “The Mexican restaurant was one of our early dates, for sure.”

This gave him pause. “That was our first date.”

“Um,” she said, “no . . . but that was one of our first dates.”

“The Mexican restaurant. On your birthday. Our first date.”

“No,” she said, “not exactly.”

“The Mexican restaurant wasn’t our first date?”

She shook her head, still smiling. She’s a good bit younger than the memoirist, with long dark hair and really the sweetest smile I know. But you shouldn’t underestimate her. And it might be worth mentioning her first novel will be published in April.

“If that wasn’t our first date, what was?”

A pause. “Remember the bad sushi restaurant?”

We watched him remember. It was almost painful.

He sat back in his chair. He said, “Well, I guess I’m not going to make my toast now. I guess I’m not going to tell my story. And I had it all planned out and everything.”

“Oh, come on,” we said. “You can still say what you were going to say.”

“No,” he said.

“Oh, come on. Please.”

“No, I can’t. Not anymore, I can’t. Which is too bad, you know. It was a really good toast.”


11. And I’ve Been Searching Ceaselessly For You Ever Since, Mon Amor

  1. Once, many years ago, I sat on the beach, reading and drinking a beer.
  2. It was a breezeless afternoon so I decided to walk down to the water to cool off.
  3. I left my book—a fat novel, The Brothers Karamazov—on my folding chair. I snugged my bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale deeper into its red rubber coozie and screwed the coozie an inch or two into the sand.
  4. It was pleasant by the water’s edge. I watched the sandpipers running, their legs puncturing the silk of the receding surf, and remembered feeling mesmerized by the little jackhammer needle of my mother’s sewing machine.
  5. Strolling back maybe ten minutes later, I could easily pick out my blue chair—it wasn’t a crowded beach—but I didn’t see the dark lump of book.
  6. Even standing beside my chair, I could see I couldn’t see it.
  7. I toed around in the sand but there was no point.
  8. When I picked up my coozie, it was light in my hand, although it hadn’t tipped over.
  9. Someone had ignored my towel, my chair, my beach bag with its sunblock and keys and wallet.
  10. But drank my ale and stole my fat Russian novel.

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