#FridayFlash: The Last Friday Night

The Last Friday Night
by Tony Noland

The air smelled like snow and cigarettes.

Coming in the front entrance for once, Jimmy the Nose noted the absence of the usual dominant elements of the normal Trattoria d'Ambrosio perfume - urine, bleach and dumpster. He mostly only ever came to Ambro's on Fridays, and then in through the back with the rest of the players. On Friday nights, the dumpster by the kitchen entrance to Ambro's was full of rotten clams, the byproduct of the Thursday pasta con frutte del mare all-you-can-eat special. Vito bought the littleneck clams in bulk, whatever was left from the previous weekend's restaurant trade up in New York. He got 'em cheap, because they were pretty well turned by Wednesday. Throw on enough garlic and salt, though, and you could make forty gallons of clam sauce without the Thursday night cheapskates noticing how far gone they were. Every year, the health inspector got a grand-and-a-half and three bottles of Crown Royal on his annual visit, so everybody was happy.

Angela was working the long bar, Kristoff was working the restaurant bar. Angie's job was to make the guys at the bar feel handsome and clever. She had a good rack and a dazzling smile, which she rarely let go above a twist in the corner of her mouth. To her credit, as a working woman in general, not just as a bartender, she was also just enough of a smart ass to make the guys feel like they'd accomplished something when they got to see the smile. Buy the expensive stuff off the top shelf, tip big and you get a flash of teeth. One guy, an old dot com rich guy, kept dropping so many twenties into the jar that she actually laughed and patted him on the arm. King of the world, that guy was. At least until he got stabbed on his way home.

Jimmy didn't know anybody who was so stupid as to flash that much paper without he was hooked in. Buy a brownstone, buy a Benz, buy a round for the house... none of that buys you protection from freelancers.

"Hey, Ange."

Angela kept drawing the beer, but the corner of her mouth twisted up. She'd seen him come in, Jimmy knew that. He thought of the sillouhette of her naked body moving above him, lit from the side by the motel parking lot lights. The same smile had pulled her cheek up the last night they'd been together, just after he told her he loved her and just before he climaxed. She smiled, let him finish, then leaned forward to kiss him. It was a strange, chaste sort of kiss, considering. Confusing as hell, almost as much as her silence. When she got dressed and left, though, still silent... then he knew.

"Hiya, Jimmy. What's up? You in trouble or something?"

"What? Why'd you say that?"

"You came in the front way." She pointed at the vestibule by the front door, the oak and brass lectern where the new maitre d' was looking at him. Jimmy nodded at him, but the guy didn't nod back. New guys, Jimmy thought, always gotta show how tough they are. "S'matter, Jimmy," she said, "is your boss mad at you?"

He shook his head. "Nah, he ain't mad at me. Not exactly."

"You sure?" She lowered her voice and leaned in so none of the guys at the bar could hear. Her breath smelled of spiced olives and pesto, warm against his cheek. Jimmy flushed, the wave of sadness starting somewhere below his sternum and spreading outward. "It's only the good citizens who come in the front, Jimmy," she said, "and you ain't a good citizen. I been hearin' rumors, Jimmy. About you and Danny. You sure he ain't mad at you for some reason?"

Jimmy closed his eyes and breathed her in. He didn't need to check his shoes to be certain that he'd cleaned the last of the blood from them. The late Daniello Manzo was just where Jimmy had left him, rolled up inside six separate garbage bags, stuffed under the piles of rotten littleneck clamshells in the dumpster out back. You turn snitch for the Feds, people aren't gonna like it, Danny least of all. When you find yourself in a situation, even one of your own making, you take care of it. That's just how the world works.

"Nah," Jimmy said, "Danny's not mad at me. We had a talk earlier this evening, sorted some things out. He's OK. I gotta go take care of some stuff, though. Leave town for awhile."

She leaned away from him, the smile replaced with the hard, steel eyes she used when a customer got too friendly, the way she looked just before she had Kristoff bust somebody's head. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. So, I just figured, y'know, come in, say goodbye. For old time's sake."

"For old time's sake." Her arms were crossed under her breasts, lifting them in a way that made the sadness in Jimmy's chest grow stabbing, icy spikes. She turned and waved at a customer who was trying to get her attention, then turned back to Jimmy. "What have you done, Jimmy?"

"Nothin', Ange. Nothin'. Listen, I gotta go. See ya around, OK?"

When he was halfway to the door, she called, "Hey, Jimmy?" She'd pulled a bottle of Glenfiddich, the real stuff from under the bar, not the fake lable stuff on the top shelf. With professional grace, she poured a highball glass half-full and slid it forward an inch. He knocked it back in one big mouthful. It was a peat fire going in and an acid gasp going out, with a punch in the gut between. Tears came to his eyes, not entirely from the scotch.

"I'm guessin' you ain't gonna get much of the good stuff, not where you're goin'. Right, Jimmy?"

He blinked until his vision cleared, returned the glass to the bar.

"What makes you say that?"

Her smile came back and the sadness grew. He had to blink some more.

"You ain't the only one with a nose for trouble, Jimmy. Take care of yourself."

And that was that.

On the street, Jimmy buttoned his collar against the night. The air smelled like snow and cigarettes and scotch. He drew a deep breath of the cold air and walked north, ready to hail the first cab that presented itself.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. Real nice story, Tony. Enjoyed it immensely. One small edit might make it easier for me. The third paragraph break made me think it was Jimmy who got stabbed. Had to reread it a couple of times to clarify. Or maybe I'm just tired.
    At any rate, this was a delicious story, full of beautiful little details like the pasta confrutte del mare and, oh, the gorgeous phrase: Her breath smelled of spiced olives and pesto, warm against his cheek. Nice, nice, nice.
    And loved the way you tied the lead in with the last lines.

  2. This was a very nice story, it captured my attention completely. I found myself wanting to know more about Jimmy, what he had done, where he was going.

    Like Cathy I liked all the little details in this that combined to paint for us a visual picture, of that bar, the bartender and Jimmy.

    One of your nicest stories I think.

  3. I could guess the genre in the second sentence. I enjoyed that feeling, and enjoyed the whole piece, Tony. Unless you've already changed it, I didn't have any issue with figuring it was Jimmy who got stabbed.

  4. really smooth, effortless (seeming) flow to this. Great lines too. But that opening para is a real knockout. Conjures such a redolent scene. Impressive.

    marc nash

  5. Great piece.. love the physicality of the language and the evocation of deep, dark noir.

  6. Great stuff, Tony. Really enjoyed that.

  7. I think my favorite part was how choked up he got over the girl. Killing a buddy is just business as usual, but a one night stands breaks his heart. I loved that.

  8. Great little noir flash with some vivid characters!

  9. Tony,

    Very well written piece. I liked the mood, all the hinted at stories, and how seamlessly you moved between description and dialogue.

    The fact that my favorite scotch is Glenfiddich just made it perfect!

    All the best,

  10. Enjoyed this one a lot, especially all the little details.

  11. Like everyone else, I really enjoyed the story this week. It was a nice feel and flow to it. And I like the use of the similiar opening and closing lines.

  12. I really liked some of the details you had in there like the bit about the clams. That kind of stuff can really make a piece sing.

  13. Remind me not to eat the clams! This was pitch-perfect, I could almost hear the muted horn playing the background music.

  14. I agree with the other comments: the details pulled me right into the restaurant where I could almost smell the scene. The focus on the clams works so well; not just their stink, but what they say about the place itself.
    Your description of the scotch going down is perfect.

  15. @ Cathy: Thanks for the tip, Cathy. I re-worked that section a little bit. I'd put the paragraph break in the wrong place when I copied the text into Blogger. Taking care of that, plus a tweak of the words fixed it (I hope). For the record, I don't generally like to edit things that I've posted, but since you liked it so much, I couldn't help but make it a bit better for you. ;-)

    @ Helen: Lots of scene and atmosphere - I'm glad you liked it!

    @ John Wiswell: Thanks! As it happens, it was the other guy who got stabbed, not Jimmy. I hope the revision makes that a bit clearer.

    @ Sulci Collective: really smooth, effortless (seeming) flow to this. Well, not entirely effortless! Thanks for reading, Marc. I appreciate the props!

    @ Tom: There's a lot here that I just hinted at. Sounds like it worked for you!

    @ Jack: Thanks for reading, Jack!

    @ Bev: That's a nice touch. Jimmy has killed lots of guys, but he's only ever fallen in love once...

    @ Quinn Smythwood: Thank you!

    @ D. Paul: Prost! One of the elements of noir is that quick-cutting you referred to. I think it forces the audience to stay a little off-balance, which helps the mood of the piece.

    @ ganymeder: Enjoyed this one a lot, especially all the little details. I Googled how to correctly spell pasta con frutte del mare... it's the details that really sell the piece. 8-)

    @ Danielle: I hesitated about doing that, but it seems to have worked pretty well. I'm glad you liked it!

    @ Michael: There is nothing more putrid smelling than an old dumpster full of rotten clams. I tried to convey a sense of smell throughout this piece, one of the trickier sensory details to get across. Thanks for reading, Michael!

    @ FARfetched: All those all-you-can-eat dishes? They're cheap for a reason...

    @ flyingscribbler: It's funny, but when you set out to write a visual scene, or one rich with sound, there are lots of words to choose from. But for smells, it's not nearly as rich a vocabulary. As for the scotch, let's just say that real-life experience is helpful for your writing. ;-)

  16. It's always the details that can make or break a piece and you've used just the right ones to bring the whole piece together. Quite poignant in a way.

  17. Great characters. Played put so well.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  18. That is a lovely good-bye. Just a touching moment.


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