Sake Shots: Words in Progress

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – Untitled

“I don’t dream.”

“Sure you do.”

The man was thin with subtle, occasional lines of grey in his combed-over, black hair. His face was dark and starting to crack, perhaps from standing outside much of day. He didn’t look at me when he corrected me, but just continued to stare into the street.

“Everybody dreams. You just don’t remember.” He cut his eyes at me for a second. “Why did you tell me this?”

“Because you’re the only other person standing at this corner.”
“I was here first.”

“Can’t we share the corner?”

He nodded and followed a passing cyclo with his eyes. A schoolgirl in an ao dai rolled her bicycle over his toes and he didn’t flinch.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

“I enjoy the traffic. All the motorcycles with their headlights at dusk and ladies sidesaddle. It’s like a chrome and rubber carousel. I like the neon, too. The neon’s best at dusk.”

“You are strange, my friend.”

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – “Perfume River Deep”

It was the time of afternoon in Huế when pagoda shadows start their surrender to the beginnings of dusk, when a broken ribbon of golden light falls on the Perfume River from a candle lantern sun hanging low in a hazy silk sky. For a third time, he would miss the slow, sweaty fade to grey, passing time in a small, incense thick room with no windows in a wing of Huong Giang Hotel.

“Let’s do it again.”

Thi’s enthusiasm surprised him.


They breathed together, staring up at the ceiling. The massage table was just wide enough for both of them, side to side on their backs and heads tilted together, as long as nobody shifted or wiggled. Some of Thi’s straight, coal hair had fallen across his shoulder.

He started.

“Do I love you, my, oh my?”

Thi’s voice was sweet, almost a sigh, as she followed his gravelly lead, singing the riff covered by horns and strings in Ike and Tina’s version.


That made him smile for his turn.

“River deep, mountain high…”

“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah…”

With a dowser’s instinct for harmony, Thi shone when they sang the mid-chorus yeah’s together.

“If I lost you, would I cry?”


“Oh how I love you, baby…”

Softly, they ended together.

“Baby, baby, baby.”

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – My Novel?

While lamenting my failure to stop the world and melt with anyone, I spotted a Sunday afternoon bargirl lying on a patio table, her boots pointed toward a rare blue moment in the Nashville sky. She spoke to a man who stood near her head and I imagined they were preparing to practice some sort of shot. Whatever was in progress, time and space were taking a breather on that patio.

If she stayed there, on that table, there would eventually be stars for staring. Stars like the ones Kacy put on her ceiling. Tiny, shiny stickers over us on those nights we fell asleep, wet and catching our breaths, on our backs and looking up at the clear night sky Kacy had created for us.

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – “Cowboy Masquerade”

“What’s in it?”

“Does it matter?” Chaka slides the shot glass toward me.

“Yeah. It might.”

Chaka shakes his head. “The only thing you need to think about, if you gotta think about something, is the absinthe. From the Czech Republic. Imported. I heard the green fairies that come with it get freaky sometimes.”

I kill the shot and drop my glass to the bar with the vigor of a salute.

“What you think?” Chaka’s smiling that charming half-smile that shows up when he’s drunk.”

“It still tastes like liquorice, but I like whatever else is going on.”

“Raspberry liqueur, baby. Raspberry liqueur, ginger ale and sour. It’s called a Violent Femme.” Chaka slides me another shot as surf groove toms and Belinda Carlisle’s voice fill the bar.


“It’s my bar. I can play what the hell I want.” Chaka thrusts a thumb toward one of the speakers on the wall behind him.

“You just don’t seem like a Go-Go’s kind of guy.”

“What kind of guy do I seem like?”

“I don’t know. Jacques Brel. Leonard Cohen. George Clinton.”

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – “Hội An in 3D”

Welcome to my new blog series, Sake Shots: Words in Progress, where I plan to share excerpts from works other than poetry and blog posts that are in some state of progress – writing, publishing, nudging me to the brink of sanity. The idea, in part, is to share what I’m working on and invite feedback, which I find drives me and helps me stay enthusiastic about projects, despite my often short attention span. Also, claiming to have something in the works will hopefully keep my feet to the fire, my pen to the paper, my fingers to the keys – you get the idea.

So, here we go.

Today’s Sake Shot is from a short fiction piece I’ve just submitted to my writers’ group for critique.

Hội An in 3D

And I like the looks of our hookah. It’s a regal machine with its golden ashtray tapering into the emerald stem and the royal blue water chamber at the bottom, ornate with floral patterns. The mouthpiece, emerald as well, is fashioned into billows and spheres that are as much about grip as aesthetics. The tin foil sealing the tobacco in the bowl at the top and the black-gray hose sprouting from the grommet on the side are utilitarian breaks from the hookah’s overall luster. Still, I can’t help but think the contraption is the most beautiful water bong I’ve ever seen.