Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Auld Lang Syne.

This short story was written a few years ago, as a study in mood. It's a quiet little story of two old, old friends who meet at a small restaraunt to celebrate New Year's Eve.

As always, feedback is appreciated.

Auld Lang Syne

"So, did I tell you about my blind date?"

"No!" Suzanne leaned across the table, a mischievous smile spreading across her face. "When was this? Details, details."

"Let me see... Where should I begin?" Harry swirled his wine lazily in its glass. The merlot was all that remained of a spectacular dinner. The two of them had packed away an entire lasagna, two loaves of French bread and a respectable amount of wine. Fifty-nine years old and I can still do as much damage as that damn cartoon cat without a single antacid, Harry thought to himself happily. Not bad for a couple of old codgers.

He let his gaze drift up to the TV set mounted over the bar, which was quietly showing the New Year's festivities in Times Square. Technically the restaurant was closed, but every year a few friends of the owners celebrated here while the wild parties roared by on the river outside. It made for a quieter, more civilized evening, just the way Harry liked it.



"The date?"

"Oh!" He smiled apologetically. "Sorry. Got lost there for a moment. Now, how was that phrased?" He thought for a moment and then broke into a wide grin. "' Radiant Writer! Slim, savvy, attractive woman of substance. Loves Bach, Broadway and far-flung places. Seeks smart, spirited, adorable man, 47-60.'" He looked up at his companion and smiled thinly. "Sounds great, doesn't she?"

"Oh, too good to be true."

"Mm." He nodded, the gray brush of his beard scratching against his turtleneck. "If you remember, I fell in love with a woman like that once."

"Harry!" Suzanne folded her arms. "Remember the old deal. No discussion of you-know-who at these dinners."

He shrugged. "You wanted to hear about how the date went."

"But I didn't ask to hear about Sarah."

"Maybe not," he said, "But it's going to be a little tricky to go on without doing so."

Suzanne opened her mouth to say something, but then her eyes widened. "My God," she whispered. "You're kidding."

"I wish." He shook his head and chuckled. "I was looking at something across the room when the garcon showed a woman to the table. I looked up to find my ex-wife standing there with a look on her face like she'd just swallowed a rat."

Suzanne was covering her mouth with a hand, obviously trying not to laugh. "Oh, Lord."

"Sure, we were both a little grayer around the edges, but there we were. It was a miracle one of us didn't have a heart attack, especially considering that we hadn't seen each other for what? Fifteen years?"

"So what did you say?"

"Well, we just kind of stared at each other for a moment, and then I said, as casually as I could, 'I read your book.'"

She burst out laughing. "You didn't!"

"I did. You should have seen her face. 'Not exactly the way I would have put it,' I said to her, 'but overall, not bad.'" He folded his hands across his belly. "What was I supposed to say? How was I to know that the 'writer' in the ad was Sarah?"

Her eyes twinkled. "Technically speaking, she is a writer..."

"A cheap tell-all memoir doesn't make a writer to me."

"So what did she say when she saw you?"

He grinned. "She got this look on her face like a bee had flown up someplace interesting, and she hissed, 'I'm sure you would have.'"

"She actually hissed?"

"I know! I'd almost forgotten how melodramatic she was." He chuckled. "Then she just kind of spun around and stormed out, leaving me and the maitre'd staring after her."

"Wow," Suzanne said. "So did you pick up and leave too?"

"Hell, no. Do you think I wanted to run into her at the valet?"

"So what did you do?"

"I ordered the chicken." He patted his belly thoughtfully. "A man has to have his priorities straight."

Suzanne laughed. "I think I'm proud of you."

"Whatever." He shrugged. "I mean, what else could I have done? Chased after her, waving my arms in the air and screaming?"

"Still. I don't know what I would have done if I'd run into my ex."

"Suze, you've never been married."

"Details, details." She waved a hand airily. "New topic. So, how does your new book start?"

"The ball's going to be coming down soon," Harry said, pointing lazily at the TV set in the corner. "Are you sure you want to get me started?"

Suzanne snorted softly. "I've seen enough balls come down that damn pole. I'm much more interested in hearing how the new Harry Robertson book opens up."

"Flatterer." Harry leaned back in his chair and grinned. " All right, all right. I've been thinking about it. How about this..." He cleared his throat and placed his hands behind his head. "'There are certain great moments in history that the fate of the world has hinged upon. The discovery of the New World, the discovery of the polio vaccine, the dropping of the atomic bomb, Madeleine Jenkins' whispering 'I don't love you anymore, get out' to me while I was lying naked beside her, and my subsequent disobeying of her commands.'" He cocked an eyebrow at Suzanne. "What do you think?"

She wrinkled her nose. "Kind of cheesy."

Harry laughed. "Actually, I wrote that in one of my journals when I was a teenager."

"You're kidding."


"Wow. I'm glad I didn't know you back then."

"Har har," he said. "I figured I'd mine the past a little. See where that gets me."

"I don't know," she said. "The past is past, isn't it?"

"Maybe," he said. His eyes wandered up to the screen and then around the room. On the TV the ball was slowly coming down. The bartender was polishing glasses and leaning against the bar, and one young couple a few tables over was kissing passionately, as if they couldn't wait until the new year actually hit to celebrate. A couple of tables over in the other direction, another couple that looked to be in their late 70's were sitting quietly at their table, watching the ball fall and simply holding hands.

"Harry? What's the matter?"

"It's nothing," he replied huskily. "Look. The ball's coming down."

She didn't look at the TV. "I know."

"Suze, the TV's over there."

"I don't need Dick Clark to tell me what's going on." She pointed over his shoulder. "Look out there."

Harry turned around in his chair. The river outside was jammed with boatfuls of huge rollicking parties. A motorboat roared past, trailing teenagers on waterskis in its wake. Each skiier wore nothing except for a party hat and a noisemaker clenched in their teeth. The world outside was in full swing, but the restaurant was closed up so tightly that they couldn't hear it at all.

Harry turned back around and stared up at the muted television. The crowd in Times Square was waving their arms back and forth, with the outstretched digits on their hands slowly counting down. When they hit eight, the camera cut back to the ball, with the countdown timer situated firmly in the corner of the screen.





Harry looked at Suzanne. She had taken her napkin and folded it delicately into a party hat, and it was now perched precariously atop her curls of silver hair.


"Give me your hand."

Harry smiled, and he reached across the table.



Their fingers met, and then their hands wove themselves together in a surprising fit. Even though they'd been friends for so long, Harry suddenly realized that they'd never even held hands before.


"Happy New Year, Harry."

The TV flashed and flickered, the couples inside the restaraunt exchanged kisses, and the partygoers outside drunkenly fell off their boats. Harry couldn't see any of it. His eyes were closed, and he was smiling.


I thought it was very cute. I liked the way you learned about the characters like water flows down a stream—in stages. I can't help but see the resemblance to "When Harry Met Sally" and I'm not sure that was intentional.
You made certain stereotypes about couples that didn't exactly fit to me. You had the passionate young couple and the simple hand-holding old couple. Suzanne and Harry are somewhere in between. Would it make sense for them to have had a little more passion? Maybe they aren't suppose to seem like a couple, but that's the impression I got.
Opinions aside (because I always have them)…nice work! Literally short and sweet.

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