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Third place

'Terminus'

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Elizabeth Rose Anderson is a 24-year-old freelance writer, bookseller, and native Atlantan. She received her B.A. from Bard College and an M.A. in Southern Literature from the University of Mississippi. She facilitates a writing group for young women at Charis Books and More. She currently is working on her first novel, Waking Where You Fall.

Warren props open the Limber Lady's red vinyl door, which bears only the sign "no minors, no cameras," and exposes us all to the milky spring afternoon. No one seems to mind, not even Miss Bonita who is dancing. I just nod at Warren and he flaps his big tattooed arm at me and grins.

"I wanted to hear some birds," he shouts. I draw my finger across my throat pantomiming a "you're dead" motion 'til Miss Bonita nudges my shoulder with the toe of her stiletto. I grab the damp dollar from the old guy leaning over the bar and hand it to Miss B. Without looking, I know she will fold it in two lengthwise, drag it around her tits in a figure eight motion, trace it down the middle of her stomach, over the top of her patchily shaved pussy, and tuck it with one finger into her orange garter where the rest of her bills arrange themselves against her thigh like a tourist's Chinese fan. All the girls have some variation of that move, but hers is the sexiest even though she has twenty years on me. Warren's got about ten years on me which is why he's not so worried about Darla, our walrus looking bitch of a boss, firing his ass for opening the front door and letting God and half of Atlanta get a peek for free.

Warren ambles up, flopping a heavy paw on my shoulder. Since I spend most of my days watching him check IDs in the beer-sign light, I know how big he is, but when he stands next to me I feel like a kid. Normally I feel as tough as him, like I'm six four and three hundred pounds of underused muscle and hard alcoholic fat. But I know that's not why Darla hired me. She wanted a girl behind the bar to make "her girls" feel safe. Besides, I look about as mean as a bulldog puppy, all floppiness and false intimidation.

Tishaun is up now, strutting to "All My Ex's Live in Texas."

"What are you up to tonight?" Warren has his own friends, a crew of aging rockabilly boys that drag around on his coattails like swooning girls, but he is forever asking about my plans.

"If Tommy ever gets here we're going to a thing in Cabbagetown."

"What kind of thing? A homo thing?" Warren's grin is all gums as he tears the ring off an empty High Life can and lobs it at me.

"Yeah, man, a homo thing, all for me, none for you."

Warren makes his best downtrodden face and says, "How come you won't ever let me go with you?"

"'Cause man, if I took you everybody'd be trying to show you their ID's all night, thinking you were hired to be there."

"I'm not that conspicuous." Warren runs his palm over his stubbled head.

"You're as inconspicuous as a whore in church." I punch his shoulder and he laughs, a big fat man's laugh.

"Who's a whore in church?" Tommy bounces through the door, the sideways afternoon sun gleaming off his studded belt and sending little bits of light scattering around the room like a mirrored disco ball.

"You're my whore in church, baby. Where the fuck have you been?"

"I got caught up. Can I get a beer?"

"He got caught in some dude's zipper is what he means," Warren says.

"Least somebody takes the time to undo my pants every now and again. When's the last time you got your shit taken care of Dubya? 1985?" Tommy cackles and reaches over the bar into the bucket where we keep the Bud Lights.

"You keep your hands on your side of that line, Tommy," Warren says, pointing to the bar's edge. "I'm going back to the door to make sure no more riff-raff like y'all gets in. You ladies have fun tonight."

Tommy takes a long pull off his Bud. "Always do, darlin', always do."

"Were you really getting your shit taken care of?" I ask, 'cause the truck radio's busted and I don't like silence.

Tommy raises his eyebrows, smiling, and for a second his cheekbones look sharp enough to cut.

"Naw, I just got held up at work. There was this guy, but nothing happened."

"Really nothing happened, or y'all hooked up in the bathroom but didn't fuck?" I know this is my most frustrating quality to Tommy. He hates questions and I don't let things go. He identifies this trait as being the result of two factors: one, me being a woman, which he says he forgets most of the time until I start harassing him about shit, and two, me being only twenty-four and him being thirty-two and thus infinitely less concerned with all the little moral things that I hold onto for dear life. I say it's cause I love him.

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