Bernard Brings a Drink by Jill Barth


“Bernard Brings a Drink” by Jill Barth


Bernard holds out his hand to his regular. Old, hatted, nodding Marie takes her seat in the sun.  No struggle is mentioned, though he watched her lose balance at least twice on her way to his café. 


He reimagines her fall: rumpled skirts and moans of pain. He’s seen her fall. Before the wine and after.


At her seat, she moves her feet lightly on the pea gravel and removes one flat black shoe upon which rests her bare foot.


At clustered tables nearby, an assembly of hike-walkers chats in German. They pass their drinks to each other in a tangle of arms and slosh of color. In Burgundy to try new things, they’ve resolved to say Yes to everything that presents itself. Some of the group even swapped wives last night in the beat of saying Yes, Yes. Today, the being unsure of who’s-who is refreshing. 


Later, maybe someone will start an argument and that’s as it should be.


But now, even Marie can sense the ticklish energy. She removes the other shoe and places both feet on the sun-heated gravel. It’s warm, everything is warm. Bernard brings her drink, a chilled bottle of rosé, one glass. A brown terrier dog says hello by walking past, nothing more, but he came close and that’s enough.


Years ago this moment alone would have caused Marie to remember but she’s learned something that has precisely nothing to do with memory. She pretends she’s never lived a single moment before this Right Now. Eighty years of moments are nothing but sunlight, used now by plants as food and by topless ladies on the beach in Cannes…eighty years of memories transformed into verdant leaves and oily suntans.


She now has a pleasurable habit of moment-by-moment touching. A touch is enough, no grasping or clutching, just a sweep of sensing, mental fingers. No leash of marriage, or work, or pain or even her babies (gone to Paris) pull her back into memory. 


The babies now call her on a cell phone she knows, easily, how to use. She tells them: it’s buttons, mon cher. And listening. And talking. Things she mastered when she was a baby herself…but she doesn’t insist. She doesn’t get on high-power anymore and because of that she’s able to taste the wine, not beg it to blend with her blood in mercy and release.


Bernard brings chops of baguette in a basket, cold butter in a rectangle on a small plate. One of the walkers yaks loudly, as if working words over a bad connection but no, she’s speaking directly into a man’s face. No one wants to be swapped, suddenly, with a long day of walking ahead. Bernard tugs his sweater to cover his belt, first in front and then in back. 


Bernard smiles, refills Marie’s glass and asks if she needs anything else. She rubs her bare feet in the gravel until she feels the chill of the underneath-dirt.




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Jill Barth Artist Statement:

Jill’s forthcoming novel is the story of Provençal wine makers during the Second World War, and later in
1970’s Napa. Jill writes about wine, travel and food as a columnist and correspondent for many
publications. Her fiction has been featured on NPR and has been published in several anthologies and
literary journals.

Her writings can also be found on her blog L’occasion (ed note: Link to Follow
along with Jill on twitter (@jillbarth) and instagram (@jillbarth). She lives in the United States with her
husband and three children.


Author: A Room of Her Own

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