December 13, 2010

Christian Bell

Blackened Catfish

I ordered the blackened catfish as they ripped the neon cactus and Stetson from the wall. Background sounds of crashing glass, chopping wood. A bulldozer’s rumble as my meal arrived, sawdust snowing down. Excellent as ever, I told the hardhatted waiter, one hand a forkful of fish, black beans and rice, the other a dark beer. Too bad you’re closing—where will I go for southwestern dining?

A wrecking ball shattered the wall, swung overhead. I looked around at the memories. The bar, devoid of liquor bottles and stools, where I held court with friends on weekends. One table where I proposed but was denied; another that hosted two first dates—both covered in debris. The front steps, now just broken bricks, where I tripped the first time in.

I ate slowly, savoring this last meal, as the ceiling became a cloudless sky. Brick and wood pieces drizzled down. Finishing the last bites, I asked about dessert. You’ve been a solid patron over the years, the waiter said, but now we must depart.

So I paid and left, as the last pieces rained down, the crew outside looking at me as if I were a funeral mourner. Progress, a man in hardhat said as I walked by. Hardly, I mumbled. The crumbled structure burped a cloud of dust. I watched, the beer and catfish tastes buzzing in my mouth, soon to fade away.


Christian Bell lives near Baltimore. His fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Skive Magazine, rumble, JMWW Quarterly, among others. He blogs at

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