Excerpt: See You Later Maybe Never by Lenore Rowntree

The following is an excerpt from See You Later Maybe Never by Lenore Rowntree and is published by Now or Never Publishing Co (October 22, 2022). You can read an interview with the author here.

At the back of the Ramada and downstairs, they find Heckler’s Bar & Grill. The round tables are covered in chocolate brown vinyl. A mic and a stool stand in the centre of the room. The crowd is young and most of them look like they’ve had a few cocktails already. Tom heads for the empty table beside the stool and sits down.  

Vanessa stands beside him. Tom looks up at her. “Do you not want to sit at this table?”  

“It’s fine,” she says and sits down. Why didn’t she tell him she would be more comfortable not so close to all the action? Not so centre shot in front of all these young people? Is this her way of being nice to Tom by letting him take control? She vows not to make him pay for it. To stick with her choice and not sulk. Still, this is not how she imagined celebrating her birthday weekend. 

Tom picks up the triangle standup menu on the table. “Fifty flavours of wings. Sleeves of beer and Caesar’s for five bucks. Not bad.” 

When the callow young waiter comes over, Tom orders a sleeve of beer and twenty wings. “Ten with honey sauce and ten with ranch dressing.” 

The waiter looks at Vanessa. 

“Do you have a menu?” she asks. 

“Yeah. You want something to drink?” 

“A Caesar, please.” 

The drinks come. The Caesar in a heavily salted glass tankard with a stick of pepperoni plunked in it. No menu.  

The wings come. Still no menu. 

“What else do you have besides wings?” Vanessa asks. 

“Steak’s on special. You need to order quickly. The show’s about to start.” 

“Okay. Steak. Medium rare.” She knows the waiter didn’t hear the last part as he’d already started to walk away. But she isn’t going to complain, even if the steak comes tough as brokeback mountain. She is not going to make a mess of this night.  

 The spotlight hits the stool, and a voice over the loudspeaker introduces the evening’s opener. “Let’s give him a big welcome. It’s his second time on our stage since he graduated from high school, which took a few tries, so he’s been here lots. You all know him, Mario Spencer.” The voice laughs as Mario moves from a table of rowdy drinkers who look as if they are still in high school. They hoot like they’re cheering on the local team. When Mario gets to the mic, he takes off his ski jacket and places it over the stool carefully. He touches it once as if to make sure the jacket is all right with where he’s put it.   

“This is all I have left to wear,” he says pointing to the jacket. “Yeah, sad isn’t it. The girlfriend and I were at a wedding last week, you know the whole happy couple thing, over to their place afterward for a toast, and some finger food. I fucking hate finger food—way too many bones.” Mario stops to let people laugh and only Tom does. Vanessa would have except she didn’t get it until he started again. “After a few drinks I started to think I’d be okay with getting married. You know, as a concept. A hypothesis, only. Next morning in the haze of a really bad cocktail flu, I mean a real rager, I stupidly said, ‘That was okay.’ I was talking about the free bar, not the fifty years of marriage that comes afterwards. But the girlfriend, she thought I was proposing. Right away, she’s all about our place. On about how, ‘We gotta clean up this mess. We can’t have people over after the wedding to see this.’ I said, ‘What? What this?’ and she started hurling stuff at me. ‘Man,’ I had to tell her, ‘You’re the one making a mess. All my underwear used to be sorted into clean and dirty piles. Now it’s everywhere—skid marks touching clean gonch.’ She looked me and shrieked. ‘This place stinks like hot garbage. And it’s because of you.’ Now I ask, is that the way a loving wife is supposed to talk?” 

Mario pauses to let the crowd laugh. Tom laughs again. Vanessa puts her head down into her tankard. 

 “Turned out that was sort of sweet compared to what came next. She screamed and threw the biggest, dirtiest, skid-marked pair of gonch out the front door. They might have been dirty but they were my best pair. The ones with the beer mugs on them—no seriously, beautiful cotton boxers, high thread count—so I ran out onto the lawn to get them and she locked the door! And here I am with just this ski jacket she so kindly hurled at me from the upstairs window. I threw the dirty gonch right back at her and she caught them between her tits like the Major Leaguer she is. You know, I might be able to marry that girl after all. But it’s going to be a lot work. How about you sir?” 

Without looking, Vanessa knows he’s talking to Tom. 

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James M. Fisher is the Founding Editor of The Miramichi Reader. He began TMR in 2015, realizing that there was a genuine need for more book reviews of Canadian literature. It has since become Canada’s best-regarded source for the finest in new literary releases. James has been interviewed about TMR on CBC Radio and other media sites. He works as a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologist and lives in Miramichi, New Brunswick with his wife Diane, their tabby cat Eddie, and Buster the Red Merle Border Collie.