Pale girl in Mort’s

Barista smiling at counter

Along the strip row, next door to the tattoo and piercing parlor, Mort’s deli, burnt ginger walls, and I stretch elbows across the aluminum counter, sweep aside a horde of salt bits, stale crumbs, shoo a bloated fly, and spectate the unshaven Mexican dude carving my bagel, dealing his grill an American slice and a pair of eggs, sizzling hiss, and he’s crooning some honeyed Spanish, melancholy, romantic, as the front door swings inward to clamorous bells, and this white-faced girl strides in among the riotous notes, petite, and I marvel at her paleness — like a lunch break geisha, or a vampire broaching sunlight without melting like eggs and cheese on a griddle — and I watch her with an eye, maybe both, trying to not look enthralled, to not notice her weight shift from left boot to right, and she’s way pallid, she of the delicate nose ring, the raven bangs, and I want to approach, to drift within her monochrome aura, but I know it’ll seem intrusive, vaguely creepy, so I just cough, hacking deeply, then muster some weak words, but only for the fellow cobbling together my bagel with the delectable ooze, and it’s like, guy, please spare me the ketchup.

Kurt Praschak

A lifelong New Jersey resident, Kurt Praschak owns a degree in English, and has spent his professional career as a public relations counsel, journalist, and freelance writer. His poetry -- which has appeared in Stepping Stones Magazine -- tends toward a breathless, stream-of-consciousness style, because that’s how his brain works. Married with two grown children, Praschak is tormented both by his decades-old fan relationship with the New York Jets and by his 12-pound Jack Russell terrier, who insists on twice-daily walks in even the most abominable weather.

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