Madeline hides the beginning of belly fat
beneath a mint-green, silk-printed, twist dress,
saunters into Glazer’s Restoration Restaurant,
orders a glass of Cold Duck, handmade pasta,
and a dinner salad. While the waiter jots notes,
she stretches her neck to make sag
of middle-aged skin disappear, unfolds a napkin,
white as a June cloud, spreads it over her lap.

Minutes later, the waiter returns with wine
and a salad. She lifts a fork, and the glint
of its beauty goes to her mouth. Swallowing
the third forkful, lettuce lodges in her throat.
She begins coughing, and the waiter surges
across the room to her table. Her eyes are
frozen open. He phones 911. Four medics
rush in, surround her like parasites
on a helpless host. Other diners, distracted
from meals, hesitantly resume eating.
Medics perform the Heimlich maneuver,
pamper her back to recovery. So pallid
is her skin, makeup appears over applied,
lipstick smeared like a red tire burn.
Medics repack their equipment, pause
for a last look, depart. She smooths her
disheveled dress, straightens herself out
the best she can under public scrutiny.
The waiter announces there will be no charge
for the dinner, compliments of management
along with regrets about the unfortunate incident.
She thanks him, pulls back her chair. Outside,
she waits for Uber, fingers her Kate Spade
handbag, grips it like life.

R. Nikolas Macioci earned a PhD from The Ohio State University, OCTELA, the Ohio Council of Teachers of English, named him the best secondary English teacher in the state of Ohio. He is the author of seventeen books. Cafes of Childhood was submitted for the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.