Posted by: patriciamar | July 30, 2016

Fiction: The Sad Barmaid’s Tale


Friday, July 29, I participated in the first ever Sudwerk Symposium.  Kathleen Brandl came up with the idea for the symposium series at the Sudwerk Dock Store and asked me to a part of the very first one.  The Davis Enterprise included an article about the start of the Sudwerk Symposium Series as well.

I happily, albeit a little nervously, agreed and decided to write a new short work of fiction for the event.  I promised to make it available online after the event, so without further ado, here it is.   I hope you enjoy.



The Sad Barmaid’s Tale

Liona was a very competent barhand. Barmaid, perhaps.  Not a barback, not a bartender, but something in between.  She served beers to many and all sorts, and the way that Liona served beer was nearly perfect.  All the customers knew.  In fact, why wasn’t she a bartender?  The injustice.  Something about the title.  Beer was/is traditionally a man’s world. Whatever… 

That was alright though.  She had a place in this lovely little malt ridden world, and she was well suited for it, maybe even a little above it.  A little humble, but not too much.  Not like, no, never mind.  

She very much liked this life.  She knew and drank stouts and pilsners and pale ales and British ales.  She could taste her way through a lineup of lambics and saisons and even the rare berlinerweisse.  She did not know ciders, but she respected mead.  Wine was not served at this drinking establishment.

Oh, yes.  Now she remembered why she wasn’t a fully titled bartender.  One time, back when she was in training, a customer had reached over the bar and filled his own pint glass.  It was very rude.  She had told him directly that it was both impolite and a terrible pour.  The bartender questioned the thickness of her skin and her demeanor.  

¿She was too nice?

Today had been a very long day.  Too long and loud for her taste.  Too many confused drinkers.  

She preferred to refer to this type as confused.  They had questions, so many questions–That she just could not bring herself to answer.  She could not answer.  

“What flavor is the yellow one?  How many hops are in a typical pint?  

Where did these folks come from?!  Humbug.

Yes, confused was the right word.  Confused.

She understood why they asked her.  It was because she always smiled.  Smiling was her thing.

Sort of.

Not like Joel.  Joel was beautiful and stern.  He could be friendly, but not until long after you met him–months, years.  Then he was funny and caring and chivalrous and… sweet.

She knew.  She had taken her time, and had gotten to know him ve-ry well.

If Joel were a beer, he’d be a… barleywine.  A 2010 Green Flash Barleywine.  Well hopped, sweet on the backside (wink).  That was a good year.

It had been the best month.  At the first sign of the bright orange of citrus in the trees, it began.  Fresh IPA season.  Double ipa, triple ipa, quadruple ipa if you chose to believe.

She did.  Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, and quadruple ipa’s, she believed.

It was her very favorite time of year.  The aroma, the bitterness, and the floral dankness that reached her very core and made her feel alive!  

She tasted every beer that passed through the Perlick taps here at the best beer stoppe in town, The House of the Rising Suds.

Worked day after day, pouring perfect pours, and killing kegs.  She celebrated the Bike Party Pils and banged on a taiko drum.  She downed Dale’s Pale on the American river, tallboys of torpedo at Big Sur, and experienced salty farmer’s market sweat and salty watermelon gose; she drank cans for days.   

The beer based life was salty and sweet.

But today, yesterday? The tides had turned and all the fresh ipas were somehow and suddenly old.  Leona could admit that she had a bit of a phobia of oldness.  oldity, olderous, olderiety–they all sounded so bad.  

Now, months would pass, surely slowly.  The beers rolling past. Half pints, full pints, imperial pints, the God forsaken shaker pint- sterilize the taps, wipe the counter, check the CO2 tank, the smell of simple green on her top and warm lactose on her breath.

The lacing on empty glasses used to look so beautiful.

By August she was reaching.  She had never felt so stale.  The cans, she crushed them everywhere!  On the floor, on the walls, on the bar, on her face!  

She blind tasted all the numbered Lagunitas, 13, 16, 21, 22.  

Summer brought so much of the same… and the heat built.  The square broke one day and was fixed the next.  The tips ebbed and flowed.

Eventually, it was fall.  Autumn colors came late to Davis. She’d semi-successfully made it through the dog days of August and September in the valley, when heat caused you to make bad decisions. Cheap fixes and flavor you’d never admit to in the light of day… Natty Light and Hamm’s.  Uhaghk.

And then one day Joel walked in through the front door–she had opened, the taps were ready and the glasses clean, but the doors were still closed for the day.  The sandwich board still leaning against the front of the bar—and he said those two little words, “Hey Punkin.”



No. No. Humbug.

No, Yes!  She was ready for it, had been ready for days, for months.  Since the Wolf Among the Weeds had become old.  She’d happy hour’ed her way through cans of Lawnmower Lager and Swami’s,

“Leona,” he asked, “want some? In my opinion, today’s the day.  No need to resist thi-is.”

She swallowed the lump in her throat, the last {swill] of the Boont from the night before, perhaps, and nodded.

From deep in his bag he pulled a bottle, and uncapped it swiftly with the adeptness of the man he was, a seasoned bartender.  Beard, overgrown boy haircut.  

Pumpkin beer.

As she knew she would, she became sick with overconsumption in a week.  It had been a rough fling.  Her senses bathed constantly in nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon.

She went home feelin ill, and wondering if this was it.  Was she done with this seasonal life?  Over it, once and for all?  Next was Christmas beers and winter spiced ales.  She couldn’t take it.  She could still feel the burn of fermented maple syrup on her tongue.  

Not one more pumpkin beer party.  Not one.

Hoppiness! She needed it!  You might even say she was in pursuit of it!  


She consulted the saison savant, and he handed her a complex and loveable Flemish Red, but it wasn’t enough.

A quad from the local Belgian lover, bourbon barrel aged plums that would have normally made her ovaries do flips.

But Pumpkin beer season after the hot summer of cans had been such a short fling, and it left her so flung.
It hurt.

Finally it was winter, and she could rightfully slip into hibernation before turning in impermanently for the winter wait until barley wine season. Oh, Joel. Sigh.

She waited out the dark days of her year, black Friday, Christmas, New Year’s…

And then it was happening again.  Deja vu. Joel walked through the door and gave her a look.  She turned away with a dramatic swish of her hair.

 She couldn’t take it.

Not another seasonal fling.   

“No, wait!” he called.  “Leona. Darling, I know you’re headed home, and you’ve had a hard day, but I need you….

Could you please help me with this keg?”  

Yes, of course she would.  She’d been known to never say no to Joel.  But why didn’t he just use the dolly?  

Men.  Bartending men.

She took five swift steps towards him and reached down to grasp the top rim (edge) of the keg next to him.  They locked eyes, and his glinted.  ¿Men?  

He let his eyes drop, and so did she.

They dropped down, down, down to the keg cap.  To the keg collar.  Blue, with a yellow-orange keg cap.  A silhouette of pine trees.

Something lifted inside her.

Joel smiled.

She, of course, smiled back.

This was it.  It was her year.  The Younger had finally come to the House of the Rising Suds.




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