Diversions

In working on my novel, I’ve ended up with small diversions, separate from the story, but good character exercises for the bigger deal. I’ll post a few of these disjointed short stories here from time to time. Just because.

“Donnaâ€

The plain woman checked her phone. It was 10:17 in the morning. She sat on the first stool near a window and crossed her legs. The floor was wet from a mop, and glasses clanged somewhere behind a wall. Two unopened cases of Jameson sat on the bar to her left. She started pulling lint from her shoulder when she looked up at the sound of keys held by a very heavy man in gray overalls. Without acknowledging the plain woman, the man in overalls limped to the front window and pulled open a heavy shade, immediately soaking the front bar and hostess stand with daylight. The plain woman recrossed her legs and checked her phone again. She had been waiting 35 minutes now.

“Donna?†An attractive black man appeared behind the bar.

“Mr. Denton.†The plain woman said.

“Call me Brock.â€

She smiled and said, “Brock.â€

Brock Denton filled a rocks glass with seltzer form the soda gun. “I read your resume. Impressive.†He said.

“Thanks.†Donna said, “I’ll be honest, I’ve never had to submit a resume for bartending before.â€

A very loud clang filled the restaurant. Donna, Brock and the man in overalls all turned their attention to the open-air kitchen. Three stocky Hispanic men prepped for the lunch crowd and one of the men had dropped a large stack of sauce pans. A tall blonde woman dressed in chef whites began barking Spanish in a Russian accent. Brock yelled something at the kitchen in Spanglish. He still had the soda gun in his hand. The man in overalls shook his head, unlocked a corner closet and disappeared.

Brock was still looking toward the kitchen when he said, “Really? You’ve worked in some pretty swanky places. You must’ve had to impress someone at some point to get those gigs. Like, list impressive experience on a resume, for example.†He returned the soda gun to its holster and looked at Donna.

Donna chuckled and said, “You know how it is, you have this community. When you leave a place, someone else always knows of a job elsewhere, you know? We take care of each other and it gets to the point that after a while, some of us become managers and even owners, so you know who’s out there. There’s no need for digging any deeper, because chances are, you’ve all worked together before, you know? I dunno, maybe you don’t. Maybe that’s just a New York thing.â€

Brock Denton shifted and relaxed his posture. His guard was down now and it felt good, so he said, “No, I know how that is. We have that here. A community, I guess. I suppose if you lived here a while and I knew you — or I knew someone who knew you — there might not be a resume and this wouldn’t be so much of an ‘interview’.†He leaned back against the liquor with the intention of telling a story. “I grew up here, ya know? In Maine. A place about 30 minutes outside of Portland — Lewiston. There’s another town so close — Auburn — that they call it L.A. In Maine. We have an L.A!. Except there’s no Hollywood or celebrity sightings, just a growing population of Somalis. Which has the locals up in arms, of course, brown terrorists moving in next to their kids, they say. Gimme a break. I mean, the world is messed up for sure and I’m just as scared as the next guy, but it seems crazy to start blaming every guy in a turban or lady in a head dress. But that’s the way the world is goin’, I think — crazy. My dad used to tell me, ‘Like everybody, until they give you a reason not to.’ Good advice, although people seem to be a lot quicker to give a reason these days.â€

One of the stocky Hispanics waddled up to the soda gun next to Brock and starting filling a pitcher full of cola. He smiled at Donna and nodded with over-exuberance. She smiled back and felt the awkward pause in Brock’s rambling. The stocky Hispanic said something to Brock in Spanish. Brock tipped his head in the direction of the kitchen and said something back. The stocky Hispanic waddled back to the kitchen. The Blonde woman with the Russian accent started yelling again.

Brock turned back to Donna, who had her chin in her hand now, her elbow resting on the edge of the bar. “Like these kitchen guys. They’re all okay.†He said, “No felonies, keep out of trouble. Cook a steak like the goddamned Cordon Bleu. Some of these rich fat white guys come in, just off the golf course, already three Manhattans deep an’ get a couple more in ’em at the bar and all the of the sudden they’re the goddamned immigration police. Start talk about building a wall around my kitchen, won’t eat a steak cooked by no Mexican when there are good white kids in need of work. Well, ya know what? I used to have ‘good’ white kids working for me and they were all the laziest buncha — just jeez, man. I’m tellin’ ya, have one of these guys cook our NY Strip for you. You won’t care if fuckin’ Hitler cooked it, it’s so good. Some of that basil butter on top, Damn. We make good food. I dunno. I do love this place and I love serving great food. That should be all that matters, right?†Brock took a shot of seltzer like it was bourbon and starred out the window. Donna’s eyes followed his out the window, head still in her chin, like there was something she needed to see.

There was an uncomfortable pause, Brock looked down at Donna and said, “Can I get you something? Water? Coffee? Bourbon?â€

“I’m fine, thanks.â€

He sat down on the beer cooler that was just under the bar. “We know you can bartend.†He said, “Now let’s hear about you. Who is Donna Parson and why does she want a job in my bar?â€

Donna smiled, for real. “Maybe one drink.â€


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