The Palate Cleanser

“Smut ‘N Eggs”

by Kashana Cauley

 

Nida and I are hipsters because we are black girls who do irony and do not do b-girl wear; that awful mix of baggy pants with tank tops and dresses so tight they look like swimsuits and hair that’s been straightened ’til it falls out and sideways turned hats and little backpacks too small to hold anything.  We are the only two hipsters in Wisconsin because Wisconsinites are deathly serious and honest and unironic.  Everyone’s dad or granddad or great-granddad was a farmer, and farmers wouldn’t know irony unless it shot up from their land every April.

There are these people who claim they’re doing the same thing in New York.  They’re not.  They wear trucker hats and drink PBR and go to bad concerts because they think the bands will be funny.  The only people who wear trucker hats here actually drive semis for a living. PBR is unironically consumed every night here unless the bars announce something else is cheaper.  And bad concerts are too damn expensive.  So we’ve been forced to find our own way to be.  We have plans and we execute them and even when they don’t work so well, like the whole Smut N’ Eggs thing, we’re there, in the corner, laughing at something anyway.

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It was sunny and bright and not too cold for February, and we were finally going to Smut N’ Eggs.  Allen’s, the bar that staged it, ran these tiny black and white ads in the weekly paper that seemed tinier because they were cramming too many ideas in the frame.  A plate of eggs always sat on the top of the ad, and a woman who was almost naked took up the bottom, the two of them divided by a heavy black angled newspaper slash like they were a presidential ticket.  Nida and I thought the ads were funny and pathetic.  So we decided to go to laugh at guys who were willing to eat eggs and zero in on smut in public.

We showered and dressed and zipped up our heavy winter coats.  Our breath rose up from our mouths in white wispy chunks as we walked to my car and fired it up.  Since everyone else in Milwaukee had been out drinking ’til close the night before as usual, instead of going to bed early to wake up and crash a party, the roads were silent and clear.  There were fifteen or twenty cars in the Allen’s parking lot, which didn’t have space for more than thirty total.  Most of them had that first patch of rust on the part of the body above the back wheels.

“I didn’t know it would be so full,” Nida said.

“Right.  Who gets up this early on a Saturday?”

“No shit.  I’ve already decided I’m never doing this again.”

“Puh-lease.  It’ll be funny.  I promise.”

“Don’t make silly promises, girl.”

We got out of the car and slammed the doors shut, and I couldn’t hear anything for a second.  Then we walked in there and got beaten with sound.  The TVs were going at full speed, all jumbles of noise and flashes of people who only had half their clothes off but were working on it.  And the guys watching the action didn’t disappoint.  They were exactly how we’d pictured them.  Love-handled and handlebar-mustached and completely focused on the screens.  Until it became clear that we were planning to stay more than a second or two.  Then they got all happy.  The kind of happy guys get when they realize they might have the chance to hit on someone who isn’t the waitress.  Allen’s had been running this promotion for years.  I remembered seeing the ads in college, laughing at the idea that anyone would actually go.  But here we were.  The first women to have ever made it to Smut N’ Eggs who didn’t work there.  All the startled eye contact being tossed in our direction made it clear we were pioneers.

On my way to the bathroom, all the men at the bar turned around on their stools in one big wave.  I took a couple extra seconds to throw some water on my face and re-emerged, feeling fresh and new and amused and only slightly creeped out to be in a whole room of guys who were increasingly more interested in us than the actual entertainment.

“Dude,” Nida said.

“What?”

“One of ’em’s coming up on your left.”

“No way.”

“Hi,” he said.

His mustache was real thick and feathery and retro, like this was a saloon and there’d be a shootout later, ’round back.

“Hi,” I said.

“You both having a good time?”

“Just killer.”

Nida started to laugh.  She was trying to keep it quiet, but I could hear her over my right shoulder, clapping her mouth over a hiccupy sound.

“You two aren’t lesbians, right?”

“Excuse me?”

“Well, what other kind of women would come in here?”

“Um,” Nida said.  “The kind of woman who likes her smut?”

“Right.  Ok.”

He wandered back to his seat at the opposite end of the bar.

“That was odd,” I said.

“Yeah,” Nida said.

“This is the last mustache bar I’m ever going to.”

“Right.  Total mustache bar visits- capping ’em at one.”

“There have got to be other ways to do this hipster thing.”

“We could always just get some PBR.”

“Come on.  You know that’s not funny here.”

“If this is what’s funny, I’m giving up.”

“There is definitely something funny about this.”

We got our eggs and managed to eat half of them in peace before another one of them came up to chat.

“How you girls doing?” he said.

This one was skinnier than the last one.  When he opened his mouth, I imagined him as a talking pencil that twitched a little more than pencils usually do, unless they’re about to break.

“We’re good,” I said.

“Um — um — um –”

“We’re not interested.”

“It is really rude to assume I came over here to ask you that.”

“But you did.”

I leaned into the bar and gave him my best annoyed look.  Plastered my eyebrows up on my forehead.  Slipped my mouth into one of those judgmental black girl shapes, the one where we take half our lips, roll them into a corner, bug our eyes out and wait for you to finish talking.  Nida was quietly whooping behind me again.

“Anyway, we’re not interested.”

The rest of the guys at the bar looked up, startled and disappointed, and turned a higher percentage of their attention back to the screens.  We chewed our eggs in silence.  When I saw that Nida had cleaned her plate, I gave her the sign and we got out of there.

“They should call that “The Man Cave in the Morning,” Nida said in the car.

“Like they’re a bad am talk show.”

“Anyways, I’m never going back.”

“Me neither.”

 

“Laughing Animals”

by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

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