birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Bloody Mary

I had been waiting tables at Chadwick's in Georgetown for three or four months when the manager turned to me one afternoon and asked me to cover a shift behind the bar that night. Never having mixed a drink more complicated than throwing copious amounts of vodka into sweet juices, I was sure I'd be a natural and jumped at the opportunity.

I was moving three rungs up Chadwick's pecking order. To celebrate, I called a bunch of my friends, promising free "shooters" for everyone.

Clearly, management had misjudged me. Or they were simply incompetent. They couldn't be bothered to train me, not even for five minutes. Nothing. They just set me up with a shaker, showed me how to refill the ice bin and I was ready to go.

Even 35 years later, I can remember the smell of the back of that bar by closing time. A sticky, gross mess of sour mix, spilled sodas and maraschino cherry juice has slopped into the ice bin. I had not been able to keep up with the orders when things got slammed. Glasses had been broken. Cocktail shakers had stacked up.

Having shared a couple of shooters with my friends, I didn't much care. At least not that night. The next morning when I arrived for my brunch shift, it was another matter.

By the time I finished cleaning up my mess and headed to the floor to take my first order, I was already green around the gills. When I looked at my first table, a 12-top of happy people celebrating their friend's birthday, I nearly turned around and headed to the porcelain altar.

As I served their first round of drinks, my head was pounding. I leaned over the shoulder of the birthday girl to place her Bloody Mary at the top of her paper place mat and dumped the entire tray of cocktails down her lovely back, soaking her white sweater and pretty sundress.

It was an accident. But no one really cared what I called it.

 Big Bang Theories

My relationship to the ground had changed