Brian Ted Jones
Caroline Blue stood and looked around the empty dining room of Louanne’s Kountry Kitchen. She glanced at the sides of splintery lattice propped against the walls, and at the paintings of maize, garlic and red peppers that hung between each window. She was irate.
“Now I’ve been workin since I was in the ninth grade,” she said to the cook.
The cook was an old choctaw woman with a happy face and a body shaped like an onion. A shadow of mustache patched above her loose mouth. She rolled frybread and listened.
“Mmm,” she said, giggling, not looking at Caroline.
Caroline was a solid woman, almost tall, with blondstreaked hair. If she were a little bigger in the chest, or a little smaller round the waist, you might could have called her busty. Instead, figurewise, she was what she was: a woman in her early thirties who did not exercise, who had dieted off and on all her life, but who nonetheless believed, even in her heart, that certain events--ballgames, movies, county fairs--simply demanded her to eat.
“And I aint sayin I mind workin!” she went on. “Not at all. In fifteen years I aint called in sick hardly none but what I could count on two hands, and I’ve always had me a job, except after each of the boys was born, you know.”
“Nn,” the cook said, softly punching dough.
“So I aint complainin about workin,” Caroline continued, “not one bit. But dadgummit, workin folks deserves respect!”
“So when those little turds come in,” Caroline was getting to her point. “Highern a kite, each of them orderin a basket of chilicheese fries and leavin a grody mess like that on the table, and keeps me runnin back and forth refillin their cokes, gigglin an mouthin off the whole time, then leave me a little old dollar for a tip, in change, and dont even shut the dadblasted door on the way out? Huh-uh! That aint right!”
The cook nodded. She picked up the patty of dough and dropped it into the basket of fizzing amber grease.
A little red car drove off the highway and into the diner’s parking lot. A few seconds later, a bigboned girl of seventeen entered the restaurant. The bells hanging from the inside doorknob jingled. The door didnt close all the way, but the big girl didnt seem to care. She was sweaty, and she carried a gray money bag.
“Whew!” she said. “It is HOT out there. And people is gettin pissy, too, cause I told em we’s chargin on deliveries.”
“Well,” Caroline said, “I told you that’d happen. But with gas where it is, Louanne just cant expect you to pay for delivery gas outta your own pocket.”
“I know!” the girl said.
“You just wouldnt end up makin any money,” Caroline finished.
“Nope,” said the cook. “Gotta make money.”
“Well,” the girl went on, “that’s what I told Louanne. I said to her, it’s simple business administration! Youve got to take in more than you spend! It’s the profit principle. Everybody knows about it.”
Caroline bunched her lips at the girl’s spouted knowledge--Vo Tech had made her haughty--then picked up a gray washrag. She tossed it back and forth between her hands like a slinky. The delivery girl waited a second for more of a response, then huffed when it didnt come. She tapped her feet, pulled the bottom of her gray teeshirt up to wipe sweat from her mouth. She exposed a slab of white belly.
“Order,” the cook called.
The girl groaned.
“What is it?”
Caroline lifted the styrofoam container from off the cook’s work station, nested it within a plastic take-out bag, and cracked the styrofoam.
“Indian taco,” she said.
The delivery girl groaned again and shook her head.
“All this food stinks up my car so bad!”
Caroline nodded, pursed her lips, and tied a bow on the bag. The delivery girl didnt need this job. Hadnt even had to apply for it. She was Louanne’s niece, and didnt need the money anyway. She just worked so she could have money for driving around and buying clothes and eating out.
“Here you go,” Caroline said. “Hospital. Pharmacy entrance.”
The delivery girl huffed, picked up the bag, and was out the door, jogging to her car. Caroline watched her through the window.
“That girl’s big,” she said.
“Mm,” the cook said from the back. “Healthy.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Caroline said. She looked down her shirt at her own chest. “I think her butt’s about doubled since she started workin here,” Caroline added.
The cook chuckled. “May be. Girl’s gotta lotta shape.”
Caroline shrugged, walked back to the kitchen, and opened the refrigerator. She screwed the lid off a pickle jar, picked out a spear with her fingers, and started to munch it. She turned around and looked back out the window. The delivery girl’s red car was stopped near the lip of the highway. It honked at a heavy brown pickup truck that was turning down toward the diner. Caroline recognized the truck, and crammed the rest of the pickle into her mouth.
“Rusty’s comi-g,” she said, mouth full of picklepulp, her throat burning at the acid.
“That’s nice,” the cook said. She was sipping from a styrofoam cup of coffee and straightening the clear plastic tubs of hamburger dressing and condiments.
Caroline finished the pickle, swallowed, and took a sip of watery Dr Pepper from her own cup. She smoothed the front of her shirt and swished soda around her mouth to clean out the pickle smell, then froze. Her heart began to stomp.
Rusty, her husband, and another woman, were getting out of the pickup truck.
*****Brian Ted Jones was born in Oklahoma in 1984. He is a graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis. He lives in Oklahoma with his wife, Jenne, and their son Oscar.
Story Continued HERE