Jojo, first to arrive, laid out her compostable bowls and spoons, added ingredients from her containers into the stock pot on the stove where she stood stirring her signature pasta fagioli, the main course for the potluck. Anna was next, shivering in her faux fir and fast with her flask of Johnny Walker Red, downing a gulp before unbuttoning her coat. Angie hurried to get the hot mulled cider on the counter on this frosty eve, the last of the Friday night monthly women’s poetry salons for the season with the warning of an incoming Nor’easter predicted to bring a blizzard to Pittsburgh that weekend.

Before anyone came, the new rescue dog threw up repeatedly all along the kitchen floor and was covered with hives; so Angie’s lover Jen carried it off to the vet. She left the gate, decorated with white balloons at the side walkway of the old Victorian, ajar so that Angie wouldn’t have to answer the buzzer or run out in the chill.

The next to arrive and all at once were Milly with homemade biscotti, Karen with Mancini’s bread, Demi with caviar from Wholey’s in the Strip, as well as expected contributions of cheese and crackers, even a big fat kielbasa and skewered city chicken.

The kitchen filled up quickly with chatter and laughter and the living room with pens, pads, folders as markers saving chair seats and floor pillows, the scent of sandalwood wafting through from candles on the sill. The room was soon to fill with words—Anna’s persona poem channeling Appalachian woman Hedy, Angie’s Parisian summer sonnet of her trip with Jen, Jojo’s Warholian ekphrastic, and all the odes to mill hunks and coal miners, steel city sunsets, even a rant called “Chicks” against catcalls and other assaults. This was their regular reprieve from trial briefs, book reviews, final exams, year end reports—their second gigs, as they laughingly called them, believing they were all writers at heart.

After reading around, everyone lingered drinking and talking about each other’s work from the imagery and rhythm to epigraphs and endings.

That’s when Jojo, cleaning up her containers and the pot, let out a yawp from the kitchen: “Unexpected guests!”

Two men wearing side slung Steelers caps swaggered in, one plopping down a six-pack of Iron City and the other of Rolling Rock.

“Chicks!” one crowed.

The other chimed in, “We musta died and went to heaven, man, nuttin but chicks!”

Jen was just returning from the emergency vet when she saw these clearly drunken men in her kitchen and said, “Oh, beer, our dear granny would love that when she arrives for her surprise birthday party; I’ll go get the bows!”

The men hurried out the door and down the steps as Jen snuck behind to watch them and lock the gate after them. They snatched the balloons and put them and the six-packs into their trunk before peeing on the walkway wall and heading off toward the South Side’s Carson Street bars. Barely able to catch her breath after storming back up the steps, she told Jojo about it, begging her not to tell Angie who would surely go looking for them.

Jojo moved to the sink where she had been dumping scraps about to turn on the disposal, scooped them up instead, headed outside and pasted the cannellini beans and ditalini noodles across the men’s iced up windshield in what she called her pièce de résistance for the evening, and in just one word: “Chicks!”

back to issue