Tuesday, January 7, 2014
A Day: Part Four
"Why did you pick this place?" The man asked. He put his hands behind his head and leaned back in the restaurants chair.
"What do you mean?" She said, setting her clutch on the table. She crossed her legs. "This place is nice. None of the lowlifes you spend time with would go to a place like this."
The man's forehead wrinkled. "Remind me, who is paying for this?"
"Yes, you have money." She pulled her hair back behind her ear and looked left, away from him. "You know what I'm talking about. How's the new place coming along?"
The man coughed quietly and grinned. "Slowly. I have a bunch of idiots working on it." He paused for a moment and stared at her, grinning. "I have a bunch of fuckheads working on it, so it is coming along slowly. Some of them are hard workers, but a lot of them don't give a shit."
"Maybe you should hire better workers." She sighed.
"Does everyone I know think I'm the richest man in town?" He learned forward slightly. "I have to make decisions. There's a lot of of people in town happy with building and demolishing things. The market is positively flooded, so I take my chances with the cheapest workers I can find. There's a lesson economics, that dismal and scientific hand, for you."
Her face was turned down. She sat completely still. "You're saying you'll make it work." She said. "I thought you might like to have some fun."
"I am having fun." He said. "I've been grinning since you mentioned the new place."
They sat in silence from a moment. Her smile came back slightly. "And you hire your friends." She said.
A List of Musicals we both enjoyed:
-Pennies from Heaven: Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters
-Cannibal! The Musical: Trey Parker and Polly Pry
-Dancer in the Dark: Lars Von Trier and Bjork
"Oh!" The man said bouncing his chair forward. "Let me tell you what happened to these fuckheads I hired a while back."
She put her head in her hand. She smiled a little wider. She looked at him. They stared into each others eyes. For a moment both of them were entirely happy.
"These kids I watched grow up." He looked to the side and bounced his hand back and forth. "In one way or another."
"Okay." She said.
We both read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck a while back.
"Okay. I hired these two guys, Jed and Zeke. Do you know these guys?"
"I don't know anyone named Jed or Zeke."
"Jed is someone I went high school with's kid.He was never an A student or a B student or a C student even, but to be fair, neither was I." The man said. "But he's not worthless. He's just too dumb to know he has a brain right now."
"And Zeke?" She asked.
"Yeah. You guessed it." He said. "He's useless, but he comes with the package. It's like they're brothers."
"So what happened?"
"What do you think happened?"
"Zeke got hurt."
"Do you remember Tom?"
"Oh, yes." She giggled.
"Yeah." he cheek fluttered a bit. "That Tom. Tom told me that these goofballs were mostly worthless. About halfway through their work shift, Tom, who is pretty much my right hand man at the new place; Tom, always liberal in his use of his phone, called me to tell me these guys were worthless." He looked up at her to see if she was still listening.
"Go on." She said with a sleepy smile on her face.
"Well, I told him to just let them finish the workday." He continued. "Give them a days worth of pay and send them on their goofball way."
The server walked up. "Are you ready to order or will you need more time?"
"We'll take the drink menu." She said. "And the dinner menu."
"I'll take a beer." He said.
"Want kind of beer would you like sir?"
"What do you have that is made in state?" The man asked.
A People's, a Flat 12, a Sun King, a..." The server paused. "Sorry, they rotate so often anymore. Sometimes it takes me a moment. We have an excellent import selection as well."
"Forget it." The man said. "I'll have a Coors. Original"
The server made eye contact with the man. "Of course."
"The drink menu and the dinner menu." The woman said.
"Of course." The server walked away.
The man looked down and check his phone for the time.
"So what happened?" Her head was in her hand, elbow on the table, leaning to the side. Counter-balanced with one leg out past the table in her black dress. "How did Zeke get hurt? At work?"
"No. Not at work. They finished the work day. They stayed out with the rest of the crew. The crew uses the new place as their own after work." He smiled. "A private affair with friends and acquaintances." He looked up at her.
She was looking at him smiling. "You're quoting me." She said
"You are very good with euphemisms." He said. "And you are very beautiful."
She sighed and closed her eyes. "What happened?"
He shifted. "The day was going great! I got up early and was going to get a lot of things done on the list I perpetually have with me."
"Like what?" She said in a playfully punchy way.
"I went to the farmer's market on a sunny day, picked out produce with our kitchen manager, local produce. Jay was there discussing beer pairings with the dishes that would be made with the produce we were buying." He stopped for a moment. "I was buying, of course."
She sighed with a smile again. "I wish I could have been there." She said, "Such rare form."
"Yes." He said. "Exactly!"
"Your Coors Original, sir." The server said. "Here are the drink and dinner menus. Would you like to hear our special?"
"Sure." The man said.
She leaned over to him across the table, looking up at the waiter. "You know the specials are just things they're trying to get rid of, right?"
"What's the special?" He asked.
"Pan seared scallops with sea salt and cracked pepper. Kale with currants and pinenuts, sauteed in extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate vinegar, dressed in a garlic tahini sauce. And Quinoa fritters with a romesco dipping sauce."
He looked over at her. "I think I'll have the special." His smile broadened. "How about you, my dear?"
"Yes." She said. "That sounds delicious."
The waiter nodded
"And a dirty gin martini. Tangueray. Very dirty." She nodded.
The waiter nodded and walked away.
He was closing his eyes when her eyes turned up to his face. He was nodding his head with his tongue pushing the skin below his lower lip. She closed her eyes and sighed a sustained sigh. She felt her skin was flush. "So what happened?" she asked with her hands wrapped around the back of his neck. They were pressed together in the dark, sweating.
"Hmmph." He exhaled, lowering his head. "I don't want to talk about this anymore tonight. Let's go to sleep."
"In the Swiss Alps there are inns and pubs set high in mountain settlements. People drink and carouse there the same as we do here. And there is a game some of them play, not everywhere, but still many places." He said the next evening.
"Tell me about this game." She said.
"It is really just a test of skill and agility. You set a nail into a stump lightly with a hammer. Then you drive the nail into the tree stump with as much power and precision as you can manage."
"Drive the nail into the stump with one hammer's blow."
"You can see why it is a drinking game. There are some old timers up there, hard as bark from the cold. Some of them do not even set the nail. They cradle the nail with their calloused fingers until they can balance the nail just long enough to drive it into the stump. An impressive feat."
"Why would they do that?" She asked.
"Why wouldn't they?" He said why a smile.
"Jed tried." He said. "He set the nail sideways and ended up bending it when he struck it. Apparently, there was a big laugh and the whole crew shotgunned a beer afterwards."
"Here is your Tangueray Martini." Their server for the night said. She set the drink in front of her with grace.
"Thank you." The woman said.
"Thank you." The man said.
She took a sip of her drink. "Zeke?"
"Yes." He said. "Zeke decided not to set the nail into the stump." He paused for a moment. He shifted a minute looking at her. "What's up with the servers here?" He asked.
"What do you mean?" She responded.
"They keep expecting us to know what we want before we know what they have." He said.
"I come here a lot" She said. "Sometimes alone and sometimes with others. I rarely come here to eat, but they do have delicious food, no?"
"I see." The man said. "Do you know the owner?"
"Of course." She said.
"Of course." He said.
They stared into each other's eyes.
"I met a girl you know the other night." She said.
"Is that so?" He asked.
"She was in town for the evening, she said. Visiting friends. She told me she knew you. She said that she loved your bar and went there often."
"What was her name?" He asked.
"Oh, I don't remember, we were all drinking." She said. "She was with someone else."
"No doubt." The man said.
"A very pretty young man." She said.
"Symmetrical in fuckability I presume." He said.
"Oh, shut up, you asshole." She said quietly. "I thought you might like to have some fun."
"You still don't think I'm having fun?" He said grinning.
"Okay." Her face darkened. "What happened to Zeke?" Her lips and cheeks curved upward.
"You're beautiful. No lie." He said. "He drove the hammer directly into his thumb. The nail dropped away from his hand and rolled off the stump those fuckheads dragged into the place."
"And Tom called you." She said.
"Wrong." He said. "Zeke, apparently grabbed his thumb and said he was fine."
"He wasn't fine, though."
"Hell no, he wasn't fine." The man raised his voice. "He destroyed the tip of his, no doubt, soft thumb with a Craftsmen hammer." He took a drink of his beer. "But everyone remembers him dropping the hammer, grabbing his thumb, and saying, very clearly and very loudly 'it's fine.' Then, according to everyone else there, he left the place without another word." He paused.
"Okay." She drew the word out. "What did Jed do?"
"I don't know. He didn't leave, I know that, but no one paid any attention to him. They were just glad that Zeke was gone."
"That seems a little cruel." She said.
"Why?" He said. "They didn't know him. I just dropped them off to work or at least learn to work. They stuck around like they were a part of the crew and not just day workers."
"Who is the crew?" She asked.
"Gah." He moaned. "A bunch of people. You know most of them. They're all downtown people."
She smiled for a moment, looking at him as he swirled his beer can. "You know these boys."
"I knew them as boys. They're men, now." He said. "They need to learn how to be men, but not from me. That isn't my responsibility."
"You said that you know Jed's father."
"I know Jed's mother."He said. :I've known her for a very long time. We went to high school together. I went to college, trying to get an education. I ended up partying a lot, pretending to be in a band, barely making my grade point average for a while, until I didn't, and then I dropped out. You know this." He said.
"Okay." She said.
"She had a Jed pretty quickly after high school. She married the guy that knocked her up even quicker. Their marriage lasted about three years, I think. I don't even remember the guys name. I'll call him Jed senior, the deadbeat. He looked over at her. "They stayed to get free beer."
"Jed and Zeke stayed after because they knew they were probably going to get free beer."
She pulled her hair back behind her ear and pursed her lips. Leaning back into her chair she crossed her legs. "What do you know about Zeke?"
"The only thing I know about Zeke is that he is always with Jed." He looked down at his beer and raised is eyebrows slightly. "And he can't swing a hammer very well. And he smashed the living shit out of his thumb, then pretended like nothing happened."
"And after he left, Jed stayed?"
"For a little while. He didn't stick around long."
Their server walked up to the table again. "Would you like another beer, sir?"
"Sure." He said. "Something local. Don't think about it too much."
The server dropped her shoulders. "Okay." She said slightly annoyed.
The man looked up at her. "Hey." He said to the server. "Thank you. This place is very nice."
"No." The server said, now smiling. "Thank you, sir"
"And for you, Ma'am?"
"Sarah, no need for formalities." The woman said. "You know Sarah, don't you?" She looked over at the man.
He felt a slight wave of heat tingle through his neck and chest. "Sorry. Yes." He cleared his throat. "Sarah. I am bad with names. I will not forget again."
Sarah stared at him with blank eyes; her hand in his for the moment; an etched silver platter under her right arm, suddenly a grasped discus. Worried eyes. Recognition.
"Yes. Well." The man said and laughed nervously. "Very good to see you."
Sarah brought a smile to her face. "Good to see you, too." She tumbled backward rhythmically towards the kitchen with the platter stretched out away from her body for a moment. She passed through the shuddered door of the kitchen, leaving it swinging back and forth, a rocking yin and yang of overhead light and inevitable shadows.
He watched her exit. He looked over at the woman and leaned forward. "Do you you want to get out of here after this drink?" He put his hand on her leg. "I don't feel like being out much later tonight."
She put her hand on top of his. "That sounds fine." She lifted his hand off of her leg. "But I am going to call it an early night all around. I have to be at work early tomorrow."
His eyes squinted. "Is that so?" He forced a smile.
"So if Zeke said nothing about it, if he just up and left and Jed eventually left your crew to do whatever it is they do in order to avoid their wives or girlfriends or whatever, why are you talking about it?" She said quietly.
He let the fake smile drop away. "He wasn't alright." He said. "It got infected."
Aaron C. Molden