Jim Meirose

In the Diner

               Ben walked out of the restaurant without paying. Ben was angry but did not know at who or why. A big shiny black car pulled into an empty spot in front of the restaurant. As the driver got out Ben went over, grabbed the keys from the driver and pulled the driver clear of the door and got in the car and pulled away. Ben was angry and was going to get whoever was causing the anger. Ben drove a while until he came to a red light. He ran the red light and a cop was sitting there and the cop car came after Ben, lights blazing. Ben knew he was in a stolen car and didn’t want to be caught; so he floored the pedal and quickly took a ramp down to the Interstate and kept on with the pedal floored and the speedometer got to ninety, then one hundred, and slowly rose higher. The police car was left in the dust. This was a powerful car Ben had stolen. For the first time, he realized it was a Mercedes-Benz. He kept the pedal floored and was glad it was Sunday evening without many cars on the road. One hundred and forty the car flattened out to. And he kept the pedal down and it was like drifting along on the wind, like soaring through the air, everything was in slow motion slow motion and he pulled off the Interstate after about fifteen minutes at one hundred and forty and there was a diner and he pulled in. The car was smoking from under the hood and Ben figured he had pushed it to its limit—squeezed all the life out of it—and he went in the diner and was seated at a booth by a polite woman in pink. In about five minutes two burly state troopers burst in and talked fast and loud to the owner.
               Whose car is that out there? Which of these customers owns that Mercedes? We’re looking for the guy that has the Mercedes—and it was a big diner jam packed with people in all the booths and there were three big rooms all packed and people were coming and going like mad, all frantic. Ben sat upright in the booth holding up the menu he’d been given and the state troopers started walking all around the place up the aisles between the tables and Ben sat there all innocent looking and the state troopers looked at each other and talked to the owner some more and went outside scratching their heads and stood by the Mercedes-Benz and talked to each other and Ben figured I’m not worried, its not my car, I’m not the owner I’ve got nothing to do with it and just then a waitress came up with too much rouge on her cheeks and way too much lipstick and she said to Ben Take your order?
               Egg sandwich, said Ben. Ham and egg sandwich. On a roll.
               Fried egg?
               The waitress wrote it all down and walked off. Ben watched through the window at the state troopers sitting in their car and the driver was on the radio. Ben thought he was a free man and he intended to stay free—he would slowly slowly eat the egg sandwich and sit for a long time nursing a coffee and wait it out and never leave as long as the cops were there. After about five minutes a flat bed tow truck came up and loaded up the Mercedes and the cops were talking to the tow truck driver as he secured the car to the truck and Ben’s sandwich came, and then he realized he had just eaten a big prime rib all raw and he wasn’t really hungry so he would just sit here nursing the sandwich and drinking coffee. The car went away and Ben thought of Les and felt bad all of a sudden that he had clobbered Les and he hoped they could still be friends after that. He thought Les was a good guy and didn’t want to lose a friend who was a good guy. He had friends who were bad guys but these were involved with liquor drugs and gambling and he didn’t feel entirely comfortable around them because they were volatile and unpredictable and the state troopers came back in the diner and talked to the owner at the register some more and looked around the place with eagle eyes holding their caps and scratching their heads and they really didn’t know what to do, was what it looked like to Ben. He laughed inside and grunted under his breath like he did when something struck him funny and he took the first bite of his egg sandwich. It was hot and juicy and tasted good enough that he thought he could ultimately eat it even though he wasn’t hungry. Ben ate with his mouth and eyes not his stomach. That was where his hunger was all the time he could eat and eat and never get full and he wouldn’t even pay for it with a stomach ache and the troopers went back out and got in their car, and waited. It suddenly hit Ben that they might be getting a description of the guy who carjacked the Mercedes back at the other restaurant and they would soon come in and check all the booths. Ben took another bite of his sandwich as suddenly it hit him that they were doing this—he had a devious mind as devious as the cops and so he left the booth and went in the men’s room and went in a stall and sat down and pulled a thin paperback book from his pocket and looked at the cover. THE ABRIDGED HOLY BIBLE was the name of the book and Ben carried it with him always and it was thin enough to slip neatly into his pocket and he read the psalms as he sat on the pot and the men came and went outside the stall using the urinals and washing up and he figured the cops were probably checking the booths up and down the aisles looking for someone who matched the description. And he sat there for over an hour before he dared come out of the stall he figured the cops didn’t think to check the stalls and maybe some of the men he had heard come in and leave had been the cops and they thought the probability was low that their man would be in the stall with his pants down and so he went out of the stall and back to his table and just as he guessed, the cops were nowhere to be seen. He touched the back of his hand to the sandwich and it was cold. He motioned for the waitress. She came up.
               Yes sir, she said.
               I want another sandwich. This one is cold.
               Well you’ll have to pay for both you know, she said with a smile. Is that all right with you? That you should pay for both?
               He glanced out the window. The cop car was still there and he guessed the cops were just waiting for the diner to empty and a man who came out and started walking away instead of driving away would probably be their man. Then he thought how good could the description have been that they got from the guy he stole the car from and then he got an idea.
               Sure, he told the waitress—I’ll pay for both sandwiches. Take this one away its cold—oh and I got one more thing to ask you.
               Could you drive me to my house tonight? My car’s broken down.
               Well—I don’t know—
               Then he wondered how he had had the balls to ask her this after all she wouldn’t go in the car alone with a perfect stranger from a diner off the interstate and so he changed the subject.
               What were those cops in here before about.
               Oh. They’re looking for a guy that ditched a stolen car outside and they figure they’re in the diner so they’re waiting it out to see who leaves who doesn’t have a car.
               See she is sharp I know she is sharp sharp as a tack she thinks just like me and he said Oh and then added in a low tone well, I’ll just have my sandwich please. And she said sure and went off carrying the cold sandwich back to the kitchen and he thought if I could hook up with somebody here and get them to drive me away from the place—I could just walk out with them and get in the car with them and be driven away and the cops would never know. But how can I hook up with someone? The owner can’t be asked for a ride because he’ll think Ben is the guy the cops are looking for right off the bat—so Ben looked around the place to see if there was anyone who looked like an easy mark to beg a ride off of and he noticed three teenagers in a booth across the room who had probably driven here in daddy’s car and he got up and went over and asked them.
               Fellas, he said.
               They looked at him.
               What? said the one with the glasses.
               Do you think that when you leave you could give me a ride up the road to my place? My car outside—it won’t start. The—the owner over there said he thought you’d give me a ride.
               Oh sure, they said. We’ll give you a ride—but it’ll cost ten bucks.
               Deal, said Ben. He noted that the waitress was bringing the new sandwich over to his booth so he told the teenagers here—and he peeled off a ten and gave it to them and said my booth’s over there—don’t leave without me.
               We won’t.
               And he went back to his booth and took a bit out of the new sandwich and found it was extra hot and then he thought Do they think I’m some kind of pervert or something I mean there are three of them they should not be afraid to have me in their car that is why I think I chose them because if I just went to someone who is alone or if I asked the waitress they’d never let me go in the car with them because they’d be afraid I was a killer or something but the three teenagers would figure they could overcome a killer if a killer I turned out to be and though I’m not a killer they’re got nothing to fear I hope they don’t tie me in with the cops coming around look at then they’re talking amongst themselves maybe they’re saying who is that weird guy who came up to us and asked for a ride do you think he has anything to do with the cops coming in—
               And then Ben figured he just better calm down and eat his sandwich and he took another bite and the waitress came up and sat down across from him in the booth and said something that stunned him.
               Are you the guy the cops are looking for? she half-whispered.
               He held the sandwich up before him like a shield.
               I—I—well no, he said.
               Oh. I just thought you might be. You asked for a ride. That’s a little suspicious—anyway, if you’re the guy the cops are looking for don’t worry—I don’t like cops either. I won’t blow your cover. Do you still need a ride?
               Don’t be shy, she said. I’ll give you a ride. I don’t like cops either—I know you’re the guy. I saw you pull up in the car that they towed. I watched you come in . The car got my attention because it was smoking like a champ. I—I think I like the look of you.
               Well, he said—I like the look of you too.
               He smiled then thought now I’ve somehow got to get the ten dollars back from the teenagers because I don’t need them to give me a ride. But I’ll wait until they’re done and come over to get me it’ll seem more natural for me to say then Oh, no, never mind, I don’t need a ride thanks—things have changed. Give me the ten dollars.
               Anyway, she said—what’d you do. Why were you running away from the cops?
               Oh, not much. I slugged a guy in a restaurant and I stole a car and I drove one hundred forty miles an hour on the interstate and lost the local cop who was following me. I didn’t really do anything wrong though.
               Except steal the car though.
               That’s right—and now the damned guy is going to get his car back so what harm has been done? It’s good of you to give me a ride though. Why aren’t you afraid to be alone with me?
               I’m a good judge of character. You seem like a good guy to me.
               He took a bite out of his sandwich. It felt good going down. And he knew he would get away. Thanks to her. Then it occurred to him.
               What’s your name, he asked her.
               Millie, she said. What’s yours.
               Ben. Heh. Millie and Ben—like Bonnie and Clyde.
               I hope you don’t have any guns on you. Bonnie and Clyde were into guns.
               No, he said. I’m not interested in harming anybody—unless I get mad. When I get mad I look for someone to beat up or mess with. I was mad earlier today and that was why I slugged the guy and stole the car—it’s like something comes over me.
               She tilted her head and looked him dead in the eye.
               So you have a problem with anger. There’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of people do. I do too—hey listen. I can’t sit here all night. Got to go waitress you know. Bread and butter.
               What time does the place close?
               We’ll be leaving then?
               She got up and went out into the diner to wait on customers, who were pouring in and out. Around the police car parked outside, cars came and went and parked and backed out and left and came in and it was a madhouse of chaos, the lot was so busy. Ben took another bite of his sandwich. He looked out at the cop car. Here I am, he said under his breath. But you’ll never catch me. Then he figured as he chewed the next bite that they must not have had a description of him or else they would have checked when he was in the bathroom stall. He knew Les wouldn’t have given them a description. Les was a buddy. Though Ben slugged him tonight. He felt bad about having done that. Les had helped Ben though hard times with money again and again and never asked to be paid back. Les was the closest thing to a brother that Ben had. He felt bad about slugging him but he knew Les would understand. Les was there when Ben got mad and slugged the guy in the back row at the movies who was talking all through the movie and Les said go easy, Ben—but Ben just kept slugging him and slugging him and his hand had blood on it when they left the theatre, they left right after Ben slugged the guy so Ben wouldn’t get caught, because he figured the guy would go call the cops but Ben never seemed to get caught by the cops no matter what he did. Like that time he brained that guy with a brick at the factory outlets, just because the brick was there and the guy was there and he looked like he needed a brick in the head. Les thought Ben was crazy but never said anything to him about that because he was afraid what Ben would think—but Ben knew there was something wrong with him because he knew most people didn’t even slug one person in their whole life let alone a half dozen like Ben had. He took another bite of his sandwich and felt suddenly very tired. It had taken a lot out of him, the events of today, and he wasn’t getting any younger. At fifty-five he thought he would have mellowed by now but no, no mellowing for Ben. Millie came over as he took another bite and sat down next to him.
               How’s it going, she said. I’m on break now.
               Oh. It’s going, he said.
               Where do you want me to drive you to tonight. Home? Where do you live.
               I live in East Barclay. On the Ridge road. I got a house. I had the house from when I was married, but we got a divorce. I bought her out to keep the house. It’s a nice house. You ought to come inside with me and have a cup of coffee—oh my but wait a minute I’m being presumptuous—You never said you’d drive me all the way home—
               Oh but I will. Then, you’ll be safe.
               You know it was my best friend I slugged earlier tonight.
               Your best friend? What did he do to piss you off?
               He was there. That’s all it takes—when the anger takes hold of me.
               What are you so angry about?
               Oh, I’m not sure. It started from nothing when I was still married and when I slugged my wife and spent a few nights in the county jail, I knew there was a problem—hey you know I lost my job because I slugged her and got put in the county jail? I was a truck driver. When they heard what I had done they fired me. That is, Tom Panko fired me. I ought to find him and slug him. I waited for him outside the truck depot one night but the cops saw me sitting there and told me to move on. I was going to clobber the shit out of him—
               Sounds like I ought to be afraid, she said, smiling.
               No, no, it’s late and I’m tired and it never comes over me when I’m tired. If I was home I would be in bed right now. Hey maybe I’m going to use the phone and call Les. Make it right with him, or at least make sure it’s right with him. You got a phone here in this diner I can use?
               Here, she said, producing a cell phone. Use this.
               I’ve never used one of those. How do you use it?
               What? You’ve never used a cell phone? That’s amazing—
               Right. Computers either. I never used a computer. Or a cell phone of any of those fancy gizmos they show in commercials on TV. Do you think you could dial Les’ number for me? I don’t know how to dial on a cell phone—
               Why sure. Go ahead give me the number—
               He gave her the number and she dialed it in and got up because her break time was over and she went out into the diner to do her thing and the phone rang and Les answered.
               Les! Les, its Ben.
               God damn you Ben! My jaw is still sore Ben. What were you so mad about. You’re lucky you’re my friend and I just know you have this anger problem. After you stole the car the cops came in the restaurant and were looking all around but they had no way of knowing you had been with me, so they got nothing out of me. But I owe you one Ben. When I see you again, I’m going to give you a slug in the mouth when your mouth is full of pastry.
               Hah! Said Ben into the phone, because he knew his friend was kidding. Ben was twice Les’ size. He could wipe up the floor with Les. Les would never dare slug Ben. These were just words. They were like brothers. Brothers always fight. Ben asked Les a question.
               I bet you don’t know where I am now, Les.
               I’m in a diner. The cops are waiting outside for me—
               Why don’t they just come in and get you—
               Because I ditched the car here and came in the diner—Lord God, Les, you ought to have been in me with that car. Left the cops in the dust. Mercedes-Benz. I topped it out at one hundred forty miles an hour on the interstate—anyway the cops don’t know who I am. They don’t know who to drag out of the diner. I met a girl here named Millie. She’s going to drive me home after the diner closes.
               Wait, Ben—remember what happened the last time you were alone in a car with a girl.
               That’s not going to happen with Millie. It’s—Millie and Ben. Like Bonnie and Clyde. She hates cops just as much as I do.
               He picked up his sandwich in the hand not holding the phone to his ear and took a bite.
               Well—just get home safe Ben. Looks like you got away with another one.
               Looks that way Les. See you tomorrow down at the garage.
               Ben didn’t know how to hang up the cell phone so he just put it on the table and went on eating his sandwich slowly—this one was getting cold too. He wished he knew what time it was so he would know how much longer he’d have to sit here—then, he realized the worst—he had no money to pay for the sandwiches. He’d given his last ten to the teenagers. They were still in the booth across the diner. He didn’t know how long they’d be there, so he got up and went over.
               Fellows, he said.
               Oh, don’t worry we’re leaving soon you’ll get your ride don’t worry—
               No. I mean to tell you. I don’t need the ride now. Can I have back my ten dollars.
               What ten dollars?
               They boys smiled at each other. Ben smiled back.
               The ten dollars I gave you to drive me home, wise guy.
               Okay sure—we were just kidding.
               The skinny kid handed over the ten dollars.
               Thanks, said Ben.
               No problem.
               Ben went back to his booth and found that someone had thought he had left the diner so they took his sandwich and cleared the table. He called Millie over.
               What, she said.
               I could use another sandwich.
               What kind was it?
               Ham and egg on a roll.
               Fried egg? Or scrambled—
               Okay, I’ll get you one—
               You’ve got over zealous bus boys I think.
               What does that mean?
               I stepped away for five minutes and they cleared my table.
               Oh—I seen that happen before. It’s pretty funny—I’ll bring you another sandwich and another coffee too. How’s that?
               And guess what else, she whispered, looking around to make sure no one else heard.
               What else.
               It’s all on the house. You won’t have to pay. My treat.
               What do you mean, your treat? You’re going to pay for my sandwiches?
               No, no, no—that’s not right—
               But I insist—hey I see the cops are still out there.
               Yep. They’re waiting me out. Whoever leaves and doesn’t have a car or a ride, is their man—but anyway—I want to pay for my own sandwiches.
               Okay—if you insist. I’ll see you later—
               Say listen what time is it?
               It’s ten o’clock.
               She took off back to her job and Ben thought this is bad—the owner’s going to wonder why I’m here nursing this sandwich until closing time—he’s going to figure out I’m the guy and tip the cops off. I know. I’ll move to the back room, out of sight of him.
               Ben picked up his coffee and sandwich and went across swiftly to the door to the back room and took a seat in a booth.
               A burly waitress quickly came up.
               What’re you doing fella—you can’t just change what section you’re sitting in—why’d you change the section you were sitting in?
               Oh—I—I don’t know—
               You’re one of Millie’s. That’s her section you came from. Want some more coffee?
               She walked away. Ben thought that he had annoyed her but at least he was out of sight of the owner at the register now. He took another bite of his sandwich and the burly waitress came up with a coffee pot and poured his cup full.
               As she walked away, he thought he might have just made a bad decision, to leave Millie’s area when she was the one who was going to give him a ride home. But all at once Millie came into the room and spoke.
               Why’d you move in here?
               I—he looked around, to make sure no one was listening—I didn’t want the owner to see me sitting there until closing time.                That’s what—how much more time?
               About an hour and a half. It’s ten thirty.
               You’ll still give me a ride right?
               Oh sure—Millie and Ben, right—like Bonnie and Clyde.
               Right—hey listen—are the cops still outside?
               Sure are. Well, I got to get back to my section. See you at closing time.
               She smiled. He smiled back. After she walked away the burly waitress who had filled his coffee cup came up.
               I saw Millie out here talking to you. You know Millie?
               I—uh—yeah. I know Millie.
               How do you know Millie?
               We—we went to school together.
               But you look a whole lot older than her.
               I’m not as old as I look.
               Millie’s twenty five. You look at least fifty.
               Ben suddenly got mad and wanted to clobber the waitress, but he held back. It was hard for him. His hands trembled under the table.
               Well, I’m not.
               He took a long drink from his coffee and forced a smile at the burly waitress who turned away and went back into the kitchen through the swinging doors. He thought what if she asks Millie how she knows me—she seems the nosy type who would ask that and what if Millie didn’t say they had gone to school together—but then he thought this burly waitress looks about sixty, she probably doesn’t have a lot in common with Millie to where they wouldn’t just sit around and chat. He thought of what it will be like to walk outside right past the cops and get in the car with Millie—he even thought he would wave at the cops like some good citizens do—and they would think no he can’t be our man he wouldn’t dare wave at us like that—and he would urge Millie forward and tell her let’s hurry up, let’s not be the last car out of the lot—when they see that no one is coming out who doesn’t have a car they’ll figure he must have gotten a ride—and if we’re last out of the lot they’ll come after us. They’ll come after us and see me when they stop the car and if they do have a description, they’ll nab me—he imagined walking with Millie across the gravel topped parking lot and he wondered what kind of car Millie will have—probably something small she’s just twenty five and a waitress she wouldn’t be able to afford anything but something small—the burly waitress came up and asked Ben if she could get him anything. This surprised Ben because he hadn’t figured her to be the friendly type—he said yes, as a matter of fact—get me another ham and egg sandwich. These are good—and he took a bite of the sandwich before him and there was just a bite left and he thought she will be glad she’s waiting on me now because I’ll have to give her a tip, actually to do it right I’ll have to give she and Millie both tips—but then he remembered Millie was going to not charge him for the sandwiches so she shouldn’t get a tip, but then he thought if you get something taken off your bill or don’t get a bill at all you still have to tip the waitress the amount that the tip would have been had you been charged—the burly waitress nodded and walked away and then the lights suddenly went down like someone had turned a dimmer switch and he though oh yes, how romantic, and then he thought of what he would tell Millie after they drove away from the diner.
               Where do you live, Millie will say.
               I told you already. Guess.
               I said guess. We’ll test your memory—
               Hey listen, she said—I don’t have a memory when I’m this tired after a shift. Everything gets erased. Where do you live—hurry up we’re almost to the interstate I need to know which was to go.
               East Barclay. Ridge road.
               Oh, that’s right, I remember now.
               They smoothly took the turn off to the interstate north and she said I got a good sense of direction—I know right where East Barclay is. You’ll have to tell me how to get to ridge road though. I don’t know the roads up that way.
               Oh, that’s all right—
               Here you go, said the burly waitress, putting another egg sandwich before him. And let’s see—okay. You don’t need a fill up on your coffee. That’s good. We’re in the middle of making a fresh pot. It’ll take a while. Is there anything else I can get you?
               No, he said, slightly annoyed at having been jarred out of his daydreaming about riding in the car with Millie. He ate the last bite of the first egg sandwich and eyed the one he had just been given. What a pig I am, he thought. Eating like this. I had a prime rib and an egg sandwich—but you know the adrenaline rush of the drive down here must have burned up all the food I had in my system, because I am actually hungry. He took a big bite out of the new egg sandwich and in the car with Millie he kept his eye out the back window to make sure the cops weren’t following him, and then he thought this is all much too easy—it was too easy to get away from the cops and then he realized he was saying this out loud to Millie.
               Sometimes the cops aren’t the brightest lights, she said, with a smile. What does it take to be a cop—I mean, really—what kind of brains does it take?
               They have to take a test so they must have some brains—
               What kind of test. Something a two year old could ace?
               I don’t know.
               He thought of his former best friend Craig, who had gone to Florida to become a cop. He got the job because he knew somebody. Ben remembered how he had told Craig he would come down to Florida and get on the force with him and all and Craig had greased the skids and all but at the last minute Ben got cold feet and he didn’t think he really wanted to live in Florida at all—
               All at once Millie was at the table.
               How we doing here, said Millie. You look like you’re a million miles away.
               She smiled that smile like she just had in the car.
Oh—I feel a million miles away—you know you’re taking a big chance to give me a ride home with the cops out there and all—you know they might have a description of me.
               Where would they get a description of you.
               From the guy—the guy I slugged.
               Slugged? Oh, right. You did tell me that. You know, I can’t picture you slugging anybody. You look gentle to me.
               Gentle? Far from it.
               Well—I like you—your name is Ben right?
               I told you that.
               Yes. I like you Ben—
               The burly waitress came up to the table and stood next to Millie.
               I understand you two know each other, she said to Millie.
               Ben spoke up quickly.
               That’s right—from school—
               School? said Millie.
               Yes. school.
               She snapped her fingers as if remembering.
               Oh yes, right. School. That school—well anyway is Rosie here taking good care of you?
               Yes, said the burly waitress. I’m Rosie.
               I, yeah, Ben said to Millie. Rosie’s taking fine care of me.
               That’s great. Well I got to get back inside—got a lot of customers tonight—
               Oh yeah, said Rosie. Almost too many—
               I’ll see you at closing time Ben, said Millie, walking away. As she disappeared from the room Rosie pointed in her direction and asked a question.
               Why are you going to see her at closing time, Ben?
               You two going somewhere together?
               Oh—yes. She’s going to give me a ride home.
               Why do you need a ride home?
               I—I don’t have a car.
               Then her look told him he had made a terrible mistake in saying this, so he added My car is broken down out in the lot. Millie’s going to drive me home.
               Where’s home?
               I know some people in Courtland.
               Oh really.
               Ben realized he probably should have just told her the real place he lived, as she went on.
               What street on Courtland do you live on?
               Ben didn’t know any of the streets in Courtland so he blurted out Main Street, because it wouldn’t have been appropriate to say I don’t know.
               There’s no Main Street in Courtland.
               Oh—the main street that runs through the town—you know—I forget the name—
               Case street—
               That’s it Case street right I live on Case street—you know I always just think of that as Main street, because, you know—well it runs right through the town. The downtown I mean—
               She nodded narrow-eyed at him as he went on while at the same time realizing that he was probably putting his foot in it big time. So he just shut up and smiled at her.
               Well, she said—enjoy the egg sandwich.
               I will.
               She went back to the kitchen again and he kicked himself for having said much too much to her and that probably she would put two and two together because it probably had gone through the grapevine like wildfire that there had been cops in here looking for somebody and she was sure to think of him as suspicious now—she would be sure to go up to the owner now and say that guy, the guy the cops were looking for—he’s in my back room—my back room there—
               Suddenly she came up and asked him How’s the sandwich.
               Oh—I—fine! he said.
               She smiled and walked away toward the coffee machines. He thought then that there was probably no harm done, else why would she have come up with a big smile saying How’s the sandwich like that—then he took another bite and relaxed some and it hit him how dog-tired he was—and what he would say to Millie when they pulled up in from of his house in East Barclay.
               Want to come inside, is what he should say.
               Want to come inside?
               Oh—sure, she said.
               They got out of the car. He thought this was probably another stupid mistake because he was really too dead tired and full of egg sandwich to do the right thing by a twenty-five year old, and he smiled when he thought what that right thing would be, and they came in the front door and he showed her to the kitchen and spoke to her.
               Want a glass of wine? Or a beer? Or do you want me to put on some coffee?
               A glass of wine would be nice.
               And pretty soon they were sitting across from each other with wine glasses in front of them and he realized he had never done this kind of thing before with a woman like her. Oh, he had brought whores home—but Millie was no whore. What was he to do with this nice girl, and what was she expecting? He took a sip of wine egg sandwich coffee and wiped his mouth with his sleeve and asked her a question.
               So—where do you live, Millie?
               Courtland? I been to Courtland.
               I went to college there. There’s a college there, you know.
               I know I think I’ve heard of it.
               The wine was strong.
               The room was cool.
               So what do you do, asked Millie.
               I work in the county garage.
               Oh. That sounds interesting.
               Millie, I—
               Rosie was there and Ben looked up.
               Well, quitting time Ben. Come on. Let’s go.
               He looked around.
               Where’s Millie?
               Millie—oh, right. Millie. Millie left.
               But she was going to give me a ride home—
               She asked me if I would take you. She had to leave. Some kind of emergency.
               She can’t take me home, thought Ben—she thinks I live in Courtland—
               I live out by East Barclay. Ridge road.
               Oh, he said—
               How does she know I live in East Barclay she and Millie must have talked she knows I’m the one I got caught in a lie why would I have lied oh why did I lie—
               Even though I could swear you told me you lived in Courtland, said Rosie. Or at least I think it was you—I swear in this job you talk to so many people I could be mixed up because Millie said you’re from East Barclay—
               Oh—right—I don’t remember telling you that you know I might have told you that because I used to live in Courtland—just moved up to East Barclay. Heh. Wasn’t thinking—
               Well if you want a ride come on lets go.
               He slowly rose, saying but what about the bill—the tips—here—
               He went through his pants and came up with the ten.
               Here, he said, handing it to Rosie. Split this with Millie—
               For what?
               A tip. Oh—and actually—I should pay you for giving me the ride when we get to my place I’ll go in and get some money and pay you for giving me the ride—
               That’s won’t be necessary. Come on lets go.
               She turned and went into the front room and Ben followed and as he watched her wide hips move he thought now this one isn’t one I would invite in like I would invite in Millie—
               Rosie got her coat from a rack by the front doors.
               Got a coat? she asked him.
               No—no I don’t—
               Well come on.
               They went out into the mild dark midnight air. The police car was there. There were few cars. He followed Rosie. He thought she was taking him to her car but she walked straight at the cop car, then swiveled around and got behind him and gave him a hard shove toward the cop car and she shouted and pointed at him.
               Here! Here’s the one! He’s your man!
               The cops began to get out of the car and move toward him.
               Fella—said one.
               Ben ran out off the parking lot no one would catch him Millie and Rosie had both been rats you can’t trust no one you just can’t trust no one and to think he thought he could have had Millie in and he gave that Rosie his last ten dollars and she had the nerve to take it and how stupid he had been to come outside with Rosie he should have known something was up and he ran out into the road and was instantly taken by a Mercedes-Benz doing one hundred forty miles an hour just like that, it was come and gone in a flash and so was he but the egg sandwiches had been good what a shame the egg sandwiches had been so god-damned good—

Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous journals, including the Fiddlehead, Otoliths, Witness, Alaska Quarterly review, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards. Two collections of his short work have been published and his novels, "Claire" , "Monkey", and “Freddie Mason’s Wake” are available from Amazon.
previous page     contents     next page


Post a Comment

<< Home