Julie Benesh ~ Trois Rochambeaux

 “…pre­tend you’re a bar­tender in the tav­ern of life. “ – James McBride, Guernica

I. Natural Causes

Accident, Suicide, and Murder walk into a bar. The bar­tender says: hey, you look famil­iar. Especially, you, ges­tur­ing at Accident, who looks like a work­er, or one of those makeovers who go from plain to knock­out. Yeah, I got one of those faces, like a movie star, or a char­ac­ter actor, or an extra. Plus, I’m a reg­u­lar here and every­where else. Everybody’s des­ig­nat­ed drinker.

The bar­tender, indulging in the clas­sic thought exper­i­ment, decides to mar­ry Accident. Suicide, scrib­bling on a nap­kin, says call me Paper. My cousins here go by Scissors and Rock. Kill, thinks the bar­tender, frus­trat­ed at the inter­rup­tion of the fan­ta­sy of run­ning away with Scissors.

Murder, aka Rock, does­n’t speak, or the bar­tender does­n’t hear, expe­ri­enc­ing a chem­i­cal brew of repul­sion and attrac­tion, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly real­iz­ing these so-called cousins mas­querad­ing as game-play­ing chil­dren have their Own. True. Crime. Show: an epony­mous who­dun­nit where­in, as inno­cents die, these despi­ca­ble deplorables con­trive to frame one anoth­er and con­found detectives.

And that’s how our bar­tender final­ly learns to love… Disease.


II. Short Course in Cult Crit

Modernism, Postmodernism and Classicism walk into a bar. As the bar­tender puts out napkins
they all start order­ing at once:

M says I like my liba­tions like I like my com­pan­ion­ship: evolved over time. Spouse mate­r­i­al, thinks the bartender.

P says I embrace my spir­its like I do every­thing else: nev­er the same way twice. I knew you were trou­ble, thinks the bartender.

C says I expect my drinks to reflect real­i­ty: trans­par­ent and pre­dictable as your dad­dy. Kill me now, thinks the bar­tender, say­ing out loud, how do you three even co-exist?

What three? they ask, in uni­son, look­ing around. You see­ing triple?


III. La Ronde

Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer walk into a bar. Do I detect a fam­i­ly resem­blance? the bar­tender asks.

You mean between these two losers and you? asks P. Gimme a Silver Patron shot.

It’s on me, says R, hold­ing out a gold card. I’ll take a Veen 5, the purest water in the world, and

get V here an angel shot…

… with extra roofies, says P.

V is already face­down on the bar.

The cus­tomer is always right, says P, fol­low­ing the bartender’s glance.

Won’t you join us, says R, wav­ing the card.

Suddenly V lunges at P, and R decks V who yells I’m gonna sue you MFs…Seeing them scram­bled on the floor, it is hard to dis­cern where one ends and anoth­er begins, let alone who is whom.

Security breaks them up and ush­ers them out.

The bartender’s hands caress the bar, the sol­id expanse of it, and the bar­tender decides, not for the first time, nor the last, that there are worse roles in life than being a bartender.


Julie Benesh is author of the poet­ry col­lec­tion INITIAL CONDITIONS and the poet­ry chap­book ABOUT TIME. She has been pub­lished in Tin House, Another Chicago Magazine, Florida Review, and many oth­er places, earned an MFA from The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and received an Illinois Arts Council Grant. She teach­es writ­ing craft work­shops at the Newberry Library and has day jobs as a pro­fes­sor, depart­ment chair, and man­age­ment con­sul­tant. She holds a PhD in human and orga­ni­za­tion­al sys­tems. Read more at juliebenesh.com.