The Little Napoleon Apple Tornado Blues.

by Serge Bielanko

Little Napoleon we called her. On account of her size, I reckon. And her temper. Oh merciful angels with trumpets, did she have a hair trigger nerve. Forged with the private irons from Satan's own fires, she was more agitated than a mama wasp. It was slow, a Wednesday if I recollect, when she wandered in off the western road covered in crusted flecks of God-knows-what (road mud? splattered wildcat? crap?) and ordered her drink by gouging me in the eye with her glare and screaming. She didn't scream words neither. 'Twas sounds. Awful sounds. Shrieks and cackles and the kind of squawks made by a man being slowly crushed under a dead fat horse. It scrambled my wits. Like eggs dancing across a skillet.

She enchanted me, I suppose. Titilated me with her hill country manners. I gave her the good stuff. The Apple Tornado. Tanglefoot.

She'd guzzle without breathing and stare beyond me when I tried to make words with her. Not beyond me. Through me. Her steamed hazel eyeballs blasted right through me just to settle upon the little Mexican girl who played piano in the corner. Dora. That was her name. Little Napoleon never took her eyes off that tiny Mexican lass . Hour after hour she'd just sit there at the bar and tilt an entire bottle of hooch back til it were just a totem pole/sun dial rising straight up out of her face gunning for the noontime sun. She'd draw the last beads of poison from the inside with a flick of her lady wrist. And then, as if she were born to do such a thing, she'd simply launch the bottle across the damn bar right past my head.

And it landed where it landed. That was the deal.

Of course I never said nothin' to her about the bottles she whipped by my face. She wouldn't of had the time to ponder my aches and just as sure as a buzzard likes hot guts, that lass would have hung lead on my bones without lifting her eyes from that Dora.

Sometimes I believe the drinking made her a bit crazy. She's been sitting there, quiet as a mouse, tilting back her jars when all of the sudden (with eyes on Dora!) she'd slam the bottle down upon the bar and start in to batting it about with both her fists as if it were something trying to eat her hair, like a vampire bat. She'd sit there watching the piano song with her eyes and set to smashing that bottle all over the bar beneath her chin until... just like was all over, and she palm-rolled the bottle back around to her like a long lost friend.

Once, I asked Little Napoleon if she might like to try a hunk of some sharp cheddar I had lately procured. I laid some down on the bar there for her, curious to see if she might like it. A few long moments drug by. Then, with her eyes on Dora she walked her fingers toward the cheese. Slow spider steps. A Spider At The Gates of Cheese. With her thumb she rolled that cheese up into her caked hand and drug it slowly back across the bar before her, so that it sopped up all the Apple Tornado she'd spilt in her last outburst. After an eternal minute, she popped the whole thing into her serious heart-shaped mouth.

I stood there watching her watch the Mexican kid. I waited for a sign. A nod, maybe. Or even a glance and a grin.

The world stopped moving.

Then, she whizzed her empty bottle at my pesky fat face without looking.