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Anne Boleyn Could Drink You Under the Table

Story by Jules Archer (Read author interview) November 19, 2018

Art by SmokeLong Quarterly

Anne Boleyn loves mead. You drink it like a fish, Henry used to say. And how he laughed. Big, baritone, besotted. But that was before she was beheaded. Before she had to do it all over again.

Now she’s back. A reincarnated, over-educated college student in some preppy east coast town. She has a cramped dorm room, a roommate who listens to Norwegian Black Metal, and these cool things called jeans instead of corsets and gowns. In her leisure, there is no needlecraft, only homework. Although, Anne prefers not to listen to her professors. She never thought the words of others were just ways to get someone else in trouble. But now she knows differently.

She sneaks mead into the lecture halls. Sips the honeyed wine from her Yeti tumbler. She is taking three European history courses and sinks low into the seat, tries to look mean, tries to feel drunk. She hasn’t yet been able to open a book about herself; instead she wants to understand how the men speak of her. If she is mentioned at all.

Men. These men. Men that make excuses, take all the credit with swords, with swinging ropes, with crude rhymes like: Divorcedbeheadeddied, divorcedbeheadedsurvived. She supposes times have changed although can’t necessarily say if the fight is better.

On Saturday nights, Anne bartends at a local tavern. She chose the job based solely on the uniform. Though tavern wench isn’t the right costume for the time period she remembers, or her class, it’s the closest she can get back to her roots. She logs drink orders to memory. Wine. Beer. Sex on the Beach. Manhattans. Shake, pour, repeat. On smoke breaks, she escapes to the alley. There, she takes a shot of mead. She likes the way it warms her insides, reheats her memory. When her boss, Hank, says, What you drinking? Anne says, Have a sip. He does, and she smirks at his grimace.

Anne thinks of her own Hank. How love was good at first, how she waited seven years to be queen, how he broke the church for her. In the dark of the alley, she traces a line across her throat, remembering the way Henry used to kiss her pulse with hot lips. Gentle when he loved her, hungry when he hated her. And her own mouth, the way it murmured prayers over a book with razor-thin vellum pages, the way it did not tremble, no, never, not once, on the day of her execution when she repeated, to God I commend my soul.

At least the cut from the sword was quick and clean.

She glances over to catch Hank staring.

And because she throws no man a bone, she turns on her heel, lifts her skirts, and leaves him and his mouth in a kind of gonzo-gawp. Boy, bye, she says.

Sunday morning, she rises. She dresses, packs her lunch, her bible, her tumbler of mead, and leaves her dorm room. As she walks, she pictures Henry again. Ruddy and orange and fit. She supposes he is out there somewhere. A reincarnated boy ready to marry, ruin, do it again. Fuck, marry, kill. Isn’t that how the game goes these days?

When Anne enters the church, she imagines them meeting.

The now-Henry will be new and fun but still six-foot-one with a legendary waistline. They will have drinks in a very public, very expensive place. Henry will take her hand, clasp it to his broad chest, and apologize. I want to try again, he will say. And his booming voice will make Anne look at him through lowered eyelashes.

Anne will wonder at their future, knowing their past.

She will lean away from him, smiling with a patience she’s kept since the platform of her execution. From her backpack, she will pull her tumbler of mead and pour two glasses. When a pretty young waitress catches Henry’s eye, and he glances over his shoulder, Anne will add the poison.

Henry will take one last look at the waitress, look back at Anne, and ask, What say you?

And Anne, thinking, Kate and Anne and Jane, and Anne and Kate (again, again), she finally will say: I’ll drink you for it.

About the Author

Jules Archer writes flash fiction in Arizona. A Pushcart-nominated writer, her work has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, >kill author, Pank, The Butter, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. She likes to smell old books, drink red wine, and read true crime tales. Her chapbook ALL THE GHOSTS WE’VE ALWAYS HAD is out from Thirty West Publishing.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Two

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