Skylar was unpacking her suitcase and putting away her things in her room. After she had arrived at her new town, Peterville, she had located a rooming house a block from the water. The little fishing village seemed to be exactly what she had in mind; now all she had to do was get her affairs in order; first on the agenda was finding a job as a waitress. She had noticed a small café on her way in and as soon as she finished unpacking she headed there. She walked in the Hideaway Café and saw an older lady behind the cash register; the place was totally empty. Skylar walked briskly up to the lady; she wanted to show her that she had plenty of energy. Marist Johnson looked at the woman in front of her and sized her up; what she saw was a trim pert lady of about fifty-five or so with chopped off hair. As she perused her for a few seconds she adjusted her age presumption; “she might be trying to look plain, what with no makeup at all,” she thought. “Wonder why she would want to look so plain.”
“May I help you?” Marist asked, a hint of a smile on her sixty-year-old lips.
Skylar smiled broadly and extended her hand; “how do you do,” she said, taking Marist’s proffered hand and shaking it firmly. “I would like to apply for a job as a waitress,” Skylar said confidently.
“Well I could use some help; I just had not advertised for it yet,” Marist said, noticing that the applicant had very soft hands and a very nice manicure, the nails being a bright pink. “How much experience do you have?” Marist asked, wondering about the applicant’s hands.
“I will tell you the truth; I have never been a waitress in my life, but I need a job and am willing to do anything you want,” Skylar confessed, looking closely at Marist’s eyes to try to read a reaction. Skylar could see nothing. Marist looked at Skylar a good thirty seconds before she spoke, and was thinking about how it would be easy for a person in the applicant’s position to lie. Marist decided that the honesty was the determining factor; “one could teach a monkey to be a waitress in a few hours,” she concluded.
“I’ll take a chance on you; take this smock and little hat and be here in the morning at five o’clock,” Marist said. “This is the uniform and it must be worn any time you are at work. This is not some kind of dating service; I once had a girl who came to work in low cut dresses and fishnet hosiery, but I ran her off after a week. Turned out she was sleeping with half the men that came in—thus the uniform. Capice?”
Skylar looked at Marist, smiled, and said “you are the boss.”
“Alright then, five o’clock sharp; this is a small fishing village but I am the only game in town and these fishing guys get an early start and they want their food right away. No shenanigans with the patrons, okay?” Marist said and gave Skylar her best attempt at a hard look.
“Yes ma’am,” Skylar replied, and turned on her heel and went out the door, heading back to her little seventy dollar a week room, smiling at the realization that the first step in her transition was complete.
Jerry Fisher was sitting in his living room trying to take stock of things; for the past month he had been trying to adapt, to adjust, but he was having trouble seeing any progress. When he thought about the word “seeing” it brought a trace of a smile to his thin liver colored lips. Back some years before Jerry had been a very heavy drinker, to the point that the television station had to make up some story about a terrible back problem to allow him the time to go to the “drying out” session for two months. Of course the station had become rather versed in such processes, having fabricated a whopper two years before. Seems a cute Asian anchor had been consorting with the golden boy weatherman and her husband, a quite virile local home builder, got wind of it and had wrapped his very strong hands around Tommy’s throat. The choking session had resulted in two things—damaged vocal cords for darling weatherman and a quick exit to her native Chicago for the cutie. The upshot of the whole affair was that the station brass announced that Tommy had spent years speaking “incorrectly”, causing damage to his throat that would require up to a year of rehabilitation, during which time he would be on a leave of absence. Seems he would have to learn how to speak all over again.
But the word “seeing” brought back good memories of the bar he had faithfully supported for some ten years; it was known by the name of “Most Valuable”, a moniker the owner, a fellow known only as “silverback”, had chosen for his establishment. Silverback had a younger brother who was “just a little bit off”, in other words he could hold a job but it was always something marginal, like landscaping or stocking shelves at K Mart. His name was Dennis and his famous saying was the following; “Well I’ll see it when I believe it,” transposing the venerable phrases. Dennis’ other claim to fame was when he was in Most Valuable one afternoon shooting pool and was very upset about a traffic incident he had just experienced. He was going on about somebody who had cut him off in traffic, a gentleman who happened to be a man of color.
“Yea, this friggin’ nigger cut me off right there at the Brentwood light on Capital Boulevard,” he had exclaimed. As was customary there was a group of beer drinkers hanging around the pool table and one of them happened to be black. Dennis’ use of the forbidden word set off lots of whispers toward Dennis and gestures toward the black guy. Dennis’ response was “no problem, it wa’n’t that nigger,” and an oft repeated anecdote was born.
Jerry reflected on what had set the ball rolling in his recent troubles; of course it was the exit of his wife Skylar and the concurrent robbing of most of their savings account. “Never saw that coming,” he muttered out loud, and then moved on to the other negative things that her abrupt departure had precipitate. Then an old medical condition reared its ugly head. The symptoms had erupted within a week of Skylar’s departure and had progressed at warp speed. Jerry had always had an enlarged prostate and had treated it with the over-the-counter medicines with pretty good success, but suddenly the stuff just ceased to help. A trip to the urologist and an ensuing “internal” exam and x-ray revealed the problem.
“It is common for the prostate to enlarge once a man is beyond fifty years, but what we have here is rather extraordinary. The normal size for a healthy prostate for a man younger than fifty is about like an English walnut, but yours is approaching the size of a tangerine. Of course this is causing the dribbling of urine and the constant urge to urinate that you are experiencing. The incontinence is caused by the enlarged prostate squeezing on the ureter, which passes through the prostate,” Dr. Phalang the urologist had announced. “The leaking will increase as time goes on.”
When Jerry had asked about treatment the good doctor had told him that “surgical reduction may work, but of course sexual side effects are possible.” This last bit of information sealed the deal for Jerry and he thanked the doctor and departed, deciding to take his chances without the operation. The last thing Dr. Phalang said was a rather poor attempt at urological humor; “You let this thing go and you will probably be incontinent, and I don’t mean in North America,” the doctor had offered as Jerry departed. Jerry recalled how he had concluded to not go under the knife; for one thing, he was deadly afraid of anesthesia, and for the other he figured he could self-medicate like before and just step up the dosage. Things did not go well at work afterwards, the first problem being when he finished the eleven o’clock forecast one night and noticed that he had a sizeable wet spot on the front of his trousers. His producer brought it up after the broadcast and Jerry had promised that it was “episodic,” but as it turned out it was anything but. Within a week it was so bad that even a double set of “depends” was barely able to handle the load; additionally, it made the front of his pants look like he had about four horse dicks packed in there. After a consultation with the station brass it was determined that “for the good of all parties involved Jerry would go on an extended medical leave with the understanding that his return would be contingent on the rectification of the issue.”
All of that was two weeks in the past and the formerly regionally famous meteorologist had just been moping around the house and feeling sorry for himself. His prostate self-medication seemed to be helping him a bit, allowing him to cut down his depends changes to two a day. One Tuesday afternoon he was sitting in his living room and reading his Bible when the phone rang; turned out it was a meteorologist who used to be at his station learning under Jerry and had moved on a year before. Jerry had heard that he was somewhere on the northeast coast. His name was Teddy, and actually Jerry and Skylar had socialized with them quite a bit over the two years that he was at the station.
“Jerry, this is Teddy, how are you?” Teddy said, and then listened patiently while Jerry bemoaned the flight of Skylar and the plight of Jerry’s bulbous prostate gland. Teddy let him finish and then said “Skylar is the reason I called; I am sure I saw her in a little café in Peterville. I have grown a beard and have much longer hair now and was wearing a ball cap so I am satisfied she did not recognize me. She was not my waitress so I had a lot of time to observe her and I am sure it was her. Her voice and her teeth definitely gave her away; those two things just don’t change,” Teddy said.
“What kind of a tv station lets you go around looking like that?” Jerry asked, being quite familiar with the rather stringent dress codes imposed by stations.
“I changed over to radio so they don’t give a fuck what I look like; you might want to consider it yourself and then you could pick your nose all you want,” Teddy chortled. Jerry ignored the jab.
“So you are really sure it was Skylar?” Jerry asked.
“She looks considerably different; she has stopped coloring her hair and has chopped it off short but I have no doubt that it was her,” Teddy said. “The place is called the Hideaway Café; Peterville is a small fishing village on the coast and not difficult to locate. I did notice that she was paying a lot of attention to a table with four crusty looking fisherman types; kind of looked like she was being a bit flirty. I did notice that other waitress, who I think was the owner, had to come over and tell her to take care of another table. Skylar took off but as soon as it slowed down a bit was right back over at the fishing table. Seemed she was talking to all of them pretty equally, kind of like she was interviewing them,” Teddy said, chuckling at the thought of the once glamorous Skylar hanging with one of those red faced rough looking characters.
Jerry had been listening intently, and what he was hearing made him wonder about some things that had happened since Skylar’s disappearance. There was the several times that a caller had hung up when he had answered the phone and also there was the instance where an eighteen wheeler had parked just up the street from his house and just sat there for two hours. Finally a well built dark haired man had emerged and started toward Jerry’s house but had only gone a few yards and had abruptly turned and hurried away, as if he was going to do something and had thought better of it.
Jerry thanked Teddy for the information and they hung up. He knew he needed to assess where he was in the world and what he needed to do, or maybe just what his options were. The first thing that popped into his head was to storm up to Peterville and demand that Skylar get her fine ass back home, but he quickly dismissed this idea as absurd. “Being forceful is just not in by blood,” he said out loud, realizing that such an action was not even close to anything he had ever conceived of in his life. Then he thought back to when he and Skylar had first met, and how she had told him what attracted her to him. This confession by Skylar had come after Jerry had gone on so about how beautiful and sexy Skylar was and how he just could not understand why she would want to have anything to do with a hard favored nerdy meteorologist who had a lot of trouble keeping his index finger out of his nose. He remembered what she had said; “It’s because I feel sorry for you Jerry, because I feel sorry for you,” she had told him. He remembered how he had mixed emotions about what she had said; one part of him felt sad, sad because pity was the only reason she was with him, but the other part told him “screw it man, you will never find anyone this hot in a million years,” and the pact was sealed.
“Well, if pity worked once, there’s a good chance it can work again,” Jerry said to himself and pulled his suitcase out of the closet and started packing.
Skylar was running hard; it was 6:30 a.m., the busiest time of the morning. She was getting accustomed to the opposite side of the little cafe, the table numbers and such. Skylar had asked her boss if they could swap areas, having worked the right side for six weeks. Things had started out fine what with the four fishermen; It had been fun waiting on them and flirting with them. They were all pretty good tippers and after a week or so she had agreed to go out with her favorite, Donald. She had learned their names quickly; there was Donald, Ian, Charles, and Kirk. “Dick,” she had recited to herself, using a mnemonic device she had learned in elementary school when they were studying Roman history and the three types of columns. Skylar recalled how she had learned them, D I C, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, from the simplest to the most ornate. Things had developed quickly with Donald; it was the first sex she had had in a long time. Skylar was feeling mighty frisky; her newfound freedom just sort of went to her head and before she knew it she had dated all four of the guys, sleeping with each one of them. That was the reason she had changed areas; things had gotten a little crazy even for her, culminating in a fivesome over at Donald’s house. Skylar had not planned for it to turn out that way, but there were tequila shots and lots of pot and she wound up taking on everybody, one hitting her from the back side while she blew one while giving the other two handjobs.
Skylar had ignored all of them, making no eye contact and not returning phone calls. She really felt truly ashamed and embarrassed; what happened was a far cry from having a steady guy and doing an occasional tryst from out of town. Plus she had started to notice an emotion she had not felt since she had left home; she was starting to miss her nerdy meteorologist. The four fishermen eventually got the message and left her alone.
Even more strange was her mood; she stayed in her little room when she was not working and had started to read in the Gideon Bible that she found in the bedside table. That was when she started to wonder if she were cracking up; she had never been introspective like that in her life, being much more likely to make impulsive decisions like the out of town guys at bars and her latest one, the flight from home. In her Bible reading and contemplative time she thought back to when she and Jerry Fisher had first gotten together and eventually she recalled what had drawn her to the poor sap. “I just felt so frigging sorry for him,” she said to her bible and for a fleeting moment thought of going back home.
“He would never take me back,” she thought, “especially after I took all that money.” But then she realized that she had actually spent very little of it, being able to exist on her salary. But it was getting very late so she went to bed, figuring she would do some more reflection after work was over tomorrow.
Jerry Fisher walked into the Hideaway Café at 8:30 that next morning and took a seat at a table in Skylar’s area; he was a little taken aback by her appearance, being accustomed to her typical glamorous look, but he immediately recognized her. She came over with coffee and said “hi Jerry, I still have most of the money.” He looked at her with his most absolute pitiful expression that he had been practicing coming down the highway and as she looked at him her heart melted into a mush of compassionate pity. Skylar took Jerry’s hand and led him out of the café and across the street, where he waited as she changed her clothes and packed her suitcase. As they were leaving Skylar placed her little uniform in front of the Hideaway Café and the two of them departed Peterville as tears stained both of their cheeks.