Not sure yet
|The door banged against the door frame. |
"Can you go close that thing," Mary yelled out in her piercing voice that cut through the customer chatter and clanking of plates and cutler from the back. Her round face contorted like she was sucking on a sour lolly when she realized the only person she could direct was me.
"Yes sure," I called over my shoulder as I balanced my tray laden with plates and 3 glasses. Used tissues slid off the side of my tray as I pushed the glass door shut into the wooden frame three times before the latch caught. I decided not to push my luck any further and left the tissues while I carried my tray back to the counter, collecting coffee cups along the way.
As luck would have it three customers entered the front door by the time I was back at the counter. Others lwere leaving and once again a cool breeze seeped in through the unlatched door.
"You do the till," Mary rolled her eyes pushing her small frame past me as she gathered plates and smiled at customers, picked up the fallen tissues, and shut the door. It was warm in the diner but the draft coming from the door could quickly change all that.
The three men who had walked in didn't take long before they were ready to order. A sausage roll and cream bun for one, a pie and coke for another but then of course one wanted to know what the soup of the day was.
"Mary what's the soup of the day again?" I asked as she walked past me out the back to the kitchen balancing trays determinedly.
"I told you already." She replied much to the other two customer's amusement.
"Mary..." I followed her out the back. She was on the phone.
"I'm on the phone," she announced. "Got to get that guy to come back and fix the door."
My heart sank. I would have to ask the cook. I continued past Mary and the dishwasher to the cook by the commercial oven. He was a big man sweating and smiling as he saw me approach.
"Having second thoughts?" He grinned, a dark bushy moustche balanced above his top lip. He wiped his pale chubby hands on his apron and stuck his hip to one side so his big belly made him look quite misshapen.
"No, I just want to know what the soup is." My voice went quiet. Damn it why did that happen?
"What was that?" he asked striding up to me, grinning like the cat that got the creme. "I need you to help me in the freezer later, got to put some of these things away." He motioned with his hand to nothing in particular and got so close to me that I could feel his apron touching mine.
"No I just want to know the soup." I stepped back as he stroked my arm.
I looked at Mary, she rolled her eyes and looked away. The dishwasher was a tall lanky teen with a bad haircut.
"It's mushroom." He said.
"Mushroom?" I asked. He nodded and I was out of there. The cook snapped a cloth at the teen dishwasher. I called a thank you back to him but doubt he heard me.
"So what was it then?" Asked the customer. He was the taller one of the three. The other two had taken a seat and he was standing unamused.
They were older, maybe thirty or forty in age. He was nice looking though for his type. His tanned face was weathered but blue eyes bright. His jeans were loose but not intentionally. He had one of those lumberjack check shirts on and what looked like a real oilskin jacket over a wool vest. Not the knitted type the domed outdoor type.
"I have been waiting, what is it?" he asked again, annoyed.
"O the soup, umm mushroom."
"I hate mushrooms." He replied as if I had purposely chosen to keep him waiting and feed him mushrooms.
"What about a pie?" I asked trying to be helpful.
"Do I look like I eat pies." He did so I said nothing.
"My doctor said I can't eat them anymore."
"Sorry to hear that." I continued. "What about a toasted sandwich?"
He stared at me, expressionless.
"Cheese and ham?" I suggested. He was pretty obviously that kind of guy." He agreed and paid including a coffee then followed his friends. I passed his order to Mary who was just getting off the phone.
Maggie and Joan were next. They got their usual tea for two and lamingtons, calling out greetings to Mary.
"Isn't that Carl a looker." Maggie smiled to me as Joan struggled with her purse. I reached over to Joan, opened her purse, removed her card and swiped it. While she took her time to enter her PIN I asked Maggie who Carl was.
"The young man you were talking to," she smiled over to the table of three at the other end of the cafe rubbing her pearls between her fingers. She wore a heavy jacket that reminded me of old movies. They both wore a lot of makeup and impressive earrings in contrast to the rest of the customers who tended to be older but the jeans and jacket crowd who for whatever reason didn't go to the big multi-storied mall down the road. A lot of the rural people stopped here who preferred the smaller, overpriced supermarket next door and small local hairdressers, key cutters and clothing businesses in this aging complex to the thriving mega mall with it's glass and mirrors, and flow of fashion-conscious individuals with their pouts and shiny smiles.
"He looks about forty," I observed out loud.
"He's probably younger than forty."
"Yes." Joan agreed as she replaced her card in her purse and fiddled around trying to clasp it shut.
"Mind you forty is a baby to us." Joan laughed and Maggie joined in.
"He's single I heard," Maggie continued. "He used to go out with Joan's grandaughter years ago when they were in High School. He comes from a big farm inland. A real cowboy." They laughed and smiled as if part of a conspiratory with a special understanding of cowboys.
Maggie dug into me with her small hip, moving me away from the till so she could continue to chat with the ladies in their diamond earrings. She would join them when she had made their tea.
The cafe was almost empty now as I carried the toasted sandwich and coffee over to the three men.
"About time," Carl announced as I sat down his plate, cup, and saucer. On the way back to the counter I collected the dishes off the other tables and pushed the front door shut again.
Joey, that was the dishwasher's name. He was out clearing tables too with a plastic bin. He still looked like he had just rolled out of bed and here I was in uniform, a frilly apron, and Mary always seemed angry with me.
"He's a catch that one," Mary motioned to the table of three men while she sat with the two discussing the lack of women in the rural world. "You should be nice to him."
"O don't tease her." Joan laughed quietly. "I don't think she is his type." She rolled her eyes to me, referring to my mixed-race I suppose.
Mary raised her eyebrows and giggled unkindly with the other two old crones. I carried on with clean-up.
"Jokes on you Mary, you know you're Asian right," I thought to myself."I bet they call you mail order bride behind your back."
They continued their chatting while I cleared the display shelves and washed them and the rest of the counter. I pretended not to hear the cook calling out my name as I dragged out the vacuum and began to vacuum behind the counter.
"Hurry up your shift is almost finished," Mary called out. Only the tables of three men and women were left. The men stood to leave then Carl recognized the old women and they began their conversation as I vacuumed up the remnants of the diner.
As I put away the vacuum cleaner the men looked amused and the women disapproving.
"What a din. We could hardly hear ourselves talk." Carl announced and they laughed impolitely.
I was over it to be truthful, so didn't bother pretending they were OK and went directly to the cupboard between the counter and kitchen, returning the cleaner and collecting my jacket and bag. I kicked off my shoes and pulled my jeans on while in the cupboard then shoved my feet back into the shoes. I then pulled my girly uniform over my head and put it with the frilly apron into my backpack. Sweatshirt and jacket on then I was out of there.
The men had left, Maggie and Joan were heading out the door.
"Bye dear." Maggie called while Joan echoed weakly as the cold had hit her in the voicebox. Thinking about the cold closing her windpipe made me smile which was mistaken for a farewell smile by the two old ladies as I passed between them and the door fame out to freedom.
As I carried on reveling in the briskness of the cold and freedom of striding along the pavement a man's voice called out my name. I looked back to where the voice was coming from.
"O no .." I groaned as the cowboy Carl approached from behind. I increased my pace hoping he would take the hint but he caught up with me as I made it to the edge of the shopping center.
"Julie isn't it." He smiled as I paused to look at him.
"Yes, Carl right?" I replied. He looked younger out here in the light and without his friends.
"Where are your friends?" I asked.
"They aren't my friends. We just work together. They are at the leather restore shop."
"That's right you're a cowboy." I smiled.
"No, no I'm not .."he trailed off.
"You're not a cowboy? " I asked mockingly. "And here I thought you were a cowboy."
"No, I'm an ariel hunter," he replied.
"I hunt animals from a helicopter. Pest control."
"Gosh." I hadn't heard of that before, well maybe I had but I had never met an aerial hunter. I told him.
"Well yes. You're pretty." He looked at me, eye to eye with the unreasonable confidence rural people seem to have.
"Umm... thanks. I have to catch my bus." I stepped towards the road.
"Look, sorry I don't get into town much. I know those women in the cafe you work in and they said you might be free to go out sometime." It was getting uncomfortable so I continued to walk toward the road.
"I'm back next week and maybe you want to go for a helicopter ride?" he suggested.
"A helicopter?" I stopped and looked at him, surprised.
"A real helicopter?"
"Yes'" He grinned. "It's my work so why not. We have to go and scope out some areas Sat morning so you could come if you want to."
"How do you know I'm not working?"
"I asked May." He grinned successfully as if he had accomplished his mission. I hesitated. I had to admit to myself it sounded a lot better than eating baked beans on toast and watching TV in my room.
"Here's my number." He handed me a card with a number on it scrawled in pen. "But I'll be back same time next week" he added before he bounded off to join the two standing back by the building.
"Well, that's a first." I thought as I took a picture of the card on my phone discarding it in the bin at the other side of the road.
Once on the bus, I grinned to myself as I looked at his number in my phone gallery. It would be better if he was perhaps a little older and had a son I could go out with but then who did I know my age who could take me out in a helicopter?
"No one," I answered myself. When was the last time someone remotely attractive asked me out?
"Tech," I answered myself and thought about Taane with his flowers and concert tickets. I had been so shocked, he was such a nice guy and over the previous years, I had never known he liked me like that. He had been like a cousin to me at tech. A supportive and hardworking friend.
But my father forbade it. He had been worried I would settle down and have a family I suppose. I had to study so I could pass, come to the city, study some more and be a part-time waitress.
I decided then as I sat on the bus I seriously need to go on a helicopter ride next Saturday.