Category Archives: short stories

The First Client

Standard

Amber sat outside waiting for the person who said they would be there, who would stand by her side. It was one of those parts of a city that people called the grove. It was the center of the city, people congregated there often. The grove was surrounded by several buildings full of businesses, restaurants and stores. The street was busy with vehicles slowing moving for the sounds of their engines were idol at the light. Occasionally, a horn would beep in anticipation of a clear road to drive, though it never occurred it was a very busy intersection. Several people walked by mostly in suits and skirts for this was downtown. The fountains streaming water had people gathered around for mid day meals. A man was waiting with a fiddle case open on the corner playing popular tunes. Some stopped to listen for moment as they wonder at the sounds emerging from the wooden instrument, every once and a while someone disrupts the sounds with money dropping on the velvet lining barely audible over the fountain spewing water not meaning to be in melody with the fiddle.

Listening she thought, if we sat in one place forever what would happen, would it be like in the movie The Time Machine where the man sits in the machine and watches buildings and people change around him eventually even a mountain engulfs him. Though he stays the same, completely the same, only the world changes around him. Does that happen in real life? Do we stay the same and the world changes or does the world stay the same and we change. With the advent of different ages bronze, middle, industrial and technological they had changed the world but we as people still communicate, we still eat, sleep, and have families, friends. How we have achieved that is through different means, the changes we brought into the world though world itself hasn’t changed there is still dirt, mountains, clouds, bodies of water, grass there is simply everything including the weather those are the all givens she had. Then she remembered we have all heard the given in life is death and taxes but what is the given in nature the seasons, the orbits of planets, What? What is definite versus what isn’t there really isn’t is there, we all haven’t had anything last every day, month, year, decades and all our emotions tumble with sadness, anger and happiness there has not been much change for feelings always encompass if we will be liked. She sighs, breaks her concentration and wonders where is her friend here.

While looking, she sees the people around her, they seemed cheerful on this day laughing and smiling while walking. She has waiting well over an hour and still no sign, not even one person looks remotely familiar. She continues to think, we all want that love of friends and family. That is the human constant in our world that will always be the constant do people really see our selves as crazy, intelligent, considerate. We all want that, we all strive for support and we all strive for the love of family and friends and we all have it. That is why she waited for her friend the person that would introduce her to her new clients. Amber decides to wait a little more, they must be arriving soon still everything seems closed the entire building blacken with inactivity. How was it possible it was the middle of the day but no one seemed to come in or out just the desk person inside reading a magazine.

Amber thinks back to the moment when changed her career. There were times she felt like she lost her family, her friends though she still talked with them as often as she could, it was her friend who set up this appointment. Therefor she did not want to go in by herself they promised that they would be here, why aren’t they here. Doubting herself and her friend she waits longer. Amber saw that the trees and shrubbery were growing well since they had been planted several years ago, it was her that had the businesses around agree to put in some greenery. She thought even nature needs the love and care of others and itself, we all know just like trees and shrubs that all living things evolve over time as well as their relationships, now hers too. She was starting a career, she was starting a business, Amber was evolving. This enhancement of character, strength as a person that we experience is definitely quite different from others for each person is different.

She knew she was going into her initial meeting with clients with a different outlook than she ever had before. She knew that her interactions with the entire world would change. Whether good or bad combined with difficult or easy most everyone going into that meeting had a rehearsal or were told, here is what you need to know and do, these are the briefings she was aware were occurring. She practiced reading her notes and interpreting them in several ways finding all the meanings all the questions they would want answered, but she didn’t feel prepared she never felt prepared. She began to get nervous where is my friend then over the fountain, over the fiddle, over the cars in the street she heard a faint ring. It was her phone. “Hello?”

“Where are you?” her friend asks.

“I am here, downtown in the grove waiting for you.” Amber says with anticipation.

“I have been up here waiting for you.” They both start laughing.

“I’ll be right in, what floor is it again?” Once Amber heard the number she ended the phone call with a “See you soon.” she stood up walked into the dark building and entered closing the door behind her.

-Jennie Nawrocki

The Best Housemate

Standard

“Hey I saw you parked outside the Wing Dome, what did you get the buffalo or traditional?”

“Didn’t get either went into the video store instead.”

“But I saw your car outside the Wing Dome.”

“I know there weren’t any spaces so I parked there.”

“You must have gone inside, your car was out front!?!”

“You have never parked somewhere but really went to another store?”

“That is not the point, the point is I saw your car parked out front.  You had to have gotten some wings.”

“I didn’t.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“As much as it may have looked like I did, I didn’t go into the Wing Dome.”

“Where are your movies then?”

“They were a one night rental, returned them this afternoon before I went to work.”

“See I knew you were lying. Even if you did go to the video store doesn’t mean you didn’t go into the Wing Dome.”

“I am not lying. I haven’t seen you for two days, how do you know what I have done and what I haven’t done!?!”

“I know I saw your car parked outside the Wing Dome.”

“What will it take for you to believe me?”

“Nothing, I know what I saw.”

“And I know what I didn’t do.”

“You are a @%*$^.”

“You’re the best housemate.”

-Jennie Nawrocki

Daisy Lu and Zeb

Standard

It was going to be a short flight Amber didn’t need to have many things to do on the plane.  She decided to spend the time checking over her new clients website and her suggestions in its development.  This small business made and refurbished furniture along with a warehouse of items that you could add to your home.  They sold old nobs, handles with or without the windows, doors, and drawers they attach to as well as a variety of lighting fixtures.  All these items never made it to the dump instead they were given a second chance, all offered at their store Tidbits, A Home Redone, which Amber thought was a very good name for the store.  As a result, she thought a good border for the main page would be a collage of all the items they offered.  In addition, their furniture and overstocked hardware would be sold on-line these were all things she was going to give for options when she met them.  Most of her suggestions and others would be easy as they had already requested many of the ideas she was thinking of implementing.  She also wanted to suggest a virtual tour of their store so that customers could see the advantages to coming into the store as a local customer.

Daisy Lu and Zeb have been married for about 20 years.  During that time Zeb worked in construction and Daisy Lu took care of the children.  Though on the side she liked collecting items to decorate or giving to her husband to create something from them.  Slowly over the years they started doing things for friends and were hired to do some commissions here and there.  Finally they were making enough money that they started a business out of their garage, soon turned warehouse.  Then he finally decided to quite construction and they would move into a new house and run their business out of a barn.  It wasn’t that far out-of-town for the previous owners had lived there for years as the modern world was built around them.  It was a gorgeous place to be for a business like theirs.

Amber walked into their home, she had never been anywhere that had such an eclectic feel to it.  There were no patterns that matched essentially resulting in a style that went together well.  It was one of the most gorgeous homes she had ever entered and was welcomed into.  Though she didn’t have much time to really look at the place because from the first moment she looked inside as the door opened for her she was in the midst of conversation.

“Welcome, Welcome, Welcome! We really wanted to pick you up from the airport, save you some money that way.”  Already giving her a cold glass of homemade lemonade and having her sit in front of various homemade snacks.

“Miss out on some tourist time in Savannah, you wouldn’t want to deprive me of that now would ya.”  Already her southern accent became a little thicker in their presence which went well with theirs.

“No, no, no, we wouldn’t.  Didn’t know ya liked Savannah that much, it is a good place to live, How long do ya’ plan on stayin’?”  Very excited to hear someone like her home town, Daisy Lu had lived there since she was born and didn’t plan on moving any time soon.

“For 3 days, I like to leave some opportunity for us to re-meet if either of us has any questions, it is a bit better in person than over the phone don’t you think?  Especially if there are some glitches in the development of the website.  No charge though for sight-seeing, just hours worked, nothing beyond.”  Amber said in a little more relaxed way than normal because she had felt so at ease with them the second she walked in.

“Well now we like you already.”  Daisy Lu looking at her husband smiling.

“Daisy Lu here is new to the website jargon, she was frettin’ she might not remember everything you taught her, now I can see ya have already given back her sleep for the next few nights.  She can worry this one, quite a bit, nothing worse than a tossin’, turnin’ Daisy Lu, feel like we have one of those vibratin’ hotel beds, you know the ones with the quarter slot machines, every time she does.  Even have a few out back to show ya’ if you don’t know what I am talking about.”  Zeb said in a very lovingly, joking and serious way.

Amber laughed a little,  “Yeh, you’re talkin’ about those beds that feel like more of an amusement ride rather than something to relax in after a long day.”

“You got that right, I don’t know how those things ever became popular.”  Daisy Lu says handing Amber a Dream Bar, she continues, “Here have one of these been makin’ them in my family for generations.”

Zeb adds, “You must eat, not one person who has ever been in our home hasn’t had one of these.  Heck, I remember being so nervous about meeting Daisy Lu’s parents for the first time almost ate the whole plate and would have licked it too before I think I even said a word.  Helped me though, her parents thought if I could eat that much in one sittin’ I wouldn’t mind eatin’ them for the rest of my life.  They were right, never have stopped liking them since and along with that I have never stopped liking being with my Daisy Lu.”

“Aw Zeb don’t make me blush, Now go and get that laptop of ours so we can get some work done.”  Daisy Lu said with a smile.

Amber smiled and felt like one of the family already.  She took out her things and began showing Daisy Lu and soon Zeb joined in looking at all the options for the website she had prepared.

She was there almost until night fall talking about logistics, taking pictures and even had a leisurely lunch.  All the while Zeb and Daisy both would be interrupted every once in a while by their helper Les.

At first there didn’t seem to be anything special about him, he didn’t seem like a real southern guy nor a city or even a country guy either, he seemed very versatile, very…

Her thoughts were interrupted by Daisy Lu. “Amber would you like more lemonade? I see you are almost out of yours.”

“No I think we are pretty much done, with these changes, it should give you a little more business than you are used to having.  In fact, have you given any thought of what you would do if you did get a lot of orders coming your way?”  Amber said, wanting to make sure that she didn’t give them too much to handle.  Nothing worse than a business that gets bad reviews because it took on too much.

Without hesitation Daisy Lu mentions, “yeah we were gunna hire Les on full-time.  He is already good with computers and knows the business pretty well.  We have been hiring him part-time since a few years back.  Needed to send our baby off to college, you know and the drive up to that big place to help her set up and find a place to live, move in you know all those things you do when you first go to college.  Even had to help her find all the good local places to go if she needed anything, right quick.  You should have seen the look on her face all scared, thought there was a ghost in the car as white as she was.  She says we had the same looks on our faces as well.  Well we couldn’t close the business down for a few weeks like we normally would, had some people coming in from Florida.  Guess they stopped by here on their way home from visiting DC and they didn’t have the space then, their rig completely full on up.  So they said they be back before the end of the summer.  We didn’t think much of it at the time, always having passers by on their way from here to there, though we gave them our card like we normally would do and invited them to come back.  Lo’an’ behold a few weeks later called us back and said they would be on their way, in about a week to be exact.  Well that was the same week we were going to take our baby to college, so we asked Les who worked in construction as a free lancer to come on out and help us.  Paid him the same wages he would have made while working construction.  Les agreed and it was the best decision we ever made.  We came back, he had organized all the drawer handles we had sitting in a tub.  Made them look all nice and pretty he did, even labeled them for the customers.  There were porcelain handles I haven’t seen in years, bought way back even before Zeb and I met.  We were so grateful we hired him every time we needed to go somewhere or when we had big orders come in to ship out.”

Zeb interjected, “knew he was a good worker once I saw him struggle with a sink in a civil war era plantation home.  Still to this day I think that sink would have remained standing in a nuclear holocaust in that home but Les for some reason had that sink out of there and replanted a new and improved version completely un harming the surroundings in three days time.  Always knew I wanted to hire him full-time then but just didn’t have the business yet, maybe this website will help?”

“I sure hope so, I think I will go and work on it some more and come back tomorrow if ya’ don’t mind.”  Amber said very happy with the day.

“Not at all.”  Daisy Lu and Zeb said in unison. “We look forward to it.”

-Jennie Nawrocki

The Fundraiser

Standard

It happened about a few years ago Amber had just left her house to go to have dinner with her aunt at an event her company was sponsoring. She was running a little bit late but just got out the door.  It was during this time that she had a roommate and was about to finish her fifth year at her job.  Business was starting to move forward faster, she hardly had to call and find clients anymore, they were calling her it felt good even though she still couldn’t afford to get her own house.  Amber liked how everything was going it seemed like the things she always wanted to do, she was happy.

As she locked the door, at the beginning of her trek across town she was mapping out a good way to get there.  The event was a fundraiser for a local company my aunt was managing.  She always had a hard time giving to charities for there are so many charities out there that you never know how much of it goes to pay/help clients versus what it cost to pay the salaries for employees or simply the business aspect of the charity.  For these reasons when it comes to charities she has always believed there should be no middleman.  If people helped people directly in their communities how would that change the world.  She was perpetually going off on tangents like this, especially as she was going anywhere alone, she had a lot of time to think while commuting by walking, driving or even public transportation.  When riding public transportation it gave her the ability to think of even more things because seeing all the different people and little glimpses of their lives that they show, gave her a lot to think about daily.

Her aunt was a firm believer in helping and learning about others too.  It was probably her that put these ideas into her head.  She either taught them to her or injected them intravenously without her being aware, probably through the chocolate toffee bars she made that Amber liked so much.  Either way she was looking forward to tonight.  Despite the rain the traffic was easy to maneuver around, even with the game going on downtown.  Taking the purple line they were able to wait for only 1 train to pass rather than the regular 2 trains during these heavy commute times.  Today though she sat down with her ear buds on she just thought and listened to music.  Nothing really specific, she could hardly hear it anyway with the subway being so packed.  Though she was happy there has been never a need for pushers as they do in some countries, however she thought we don’t have regular high-speed service like they do to attract several more riders.  Instead people here are just content to wait the extra few minutes for there is never a rush to a game.

Living just outside downtown where it begins to become more of a residential area, she had better access to public transport.  She never really minded the unclean stations and squeaky rails with the jolts of movement here and there while riding the subway.  She always thought it gave her city of Atlanta character, however others would say it is because of the characters that ride the subway in the city that give it its character.

A few stations down she exited the sardine tube, squeezing through people emblazoned with filial team colors as she did.  Gaining her bearings as she left the vacuum packed seal of doors she looked at her clothes and they still looked as though they were in the subway being ironed into wrinkle hood by the closeness of their bodies.  Trying to pry her crinkled up and wrinkled clothes from her body, she says to herself there goes my perfect look.

Reaching the hotel lobby where this event was being held, she immediately found a bathroom to see in a mirror how she could fix the damage that had been done.  Straightening up as best as she could, then outside she went to the meeting room turned dining room, she was late. Before she entered she went to the greeting table to obtain her name badge for the fundraiser.

“Hi! Welcome!  We are glad you could come and help the Urban Greenery Foundation where we plant trees so you can breathe.”  Said the woman sitting behind this long table filled with displayed nametags and other information.  “May I have your name please?”

“Amber Teels” answering while scanning the table for her name tag.

“Ms. Teels”  We have been waiting for you.  Amber could see her reach for something under the table, within seconds she hands her a big manila envelope.  She opens it and there is her name tag, noticing it was a different color from everyone else’s.  “I hope everything in is there, let me show you to where you will be sitting.  Lily, I will be just a bit can you please watch over the table for me?”  Her table partner just gave her a nod of the head and smiled.  While she grabs Amber by the elbow as though she was blind.

“Really this in not necessary, I can probably find it on my own.”  Amber states as she tries to be released from her grip.

“Nonsense, we can’t have the guest of honor seat herself.”

Amber’s whole body when numb and limp as this woman was escorting her in the big room.  “Guest of honor”  Amber replies in a whisper.

Turns out she was to sit on the stage with her aunt and some people she recognized from some plantings she attended.  Though she didn’t really know any of them she was always doing other things while they were working in their newly planted areas or in the offices or organizing items for the plantings.

The charity had a very simple idea and premise.  They would have work parties of a few people who would walk around a section of the city find open areas with just dirt or weeds growing and turn it into a self-sustaining greenery area.  Amber herself didn’t do much of the planting, she was in charge of getting businesses to allow them to use vacant patches that usually doubled as garbage cans or mud puddles when it rained.  The city had already given the charity cart blanche to enhance the look of the city.  Rarely would she find anyone that wouldn’t allow them to plant some sort of shrubbery.  Essentially it was a free service to have someone landscape their property.  The volunteers always put in native plants so they wouldn’t have much maintenance.  To her aunt, “Any green we plant in the city is barely even a tenth of what we tore down to live here.”  she always told people.

In the past five years, Amber thinks they have covered almost a quarter of the city.  She didn’t make much money but she did like to walk and that was why her aunt hired her.  She would take walks so often, she would just use that time to start mapping areas that needed help and asking the local businesses if they would be willing to have the Urban Green Foundation help them make the city a little more environmentally friendly and just plain pretty.  She would carry around a form, so that it would be all legal and such, but really it was very easy. People were more than willing to talk with her especially if she wasn’t asking for their money or time. Once the word got out about the organization and how good it was all Amber had to do was say the name and they would ask where do we sign.  Sometimes they would even help on the day that the charity was expected to be present.  As a result, Amber’s job was very easy.  It was the people on stage who did the harder work.  They were the ones who actually, tilled the land and planted trees.  She could understand why they were up there but not herself.  Walking towards the stage amongst these true heroes made her feel sad as she was being escorted to her seat, she didn’t belong here she thought.

Then her aunt grabbed the other arm that the woman was not holding and said, “Thank you Carla.”  Carla then went back down the steps as my aunt continued on to say, “Where have you been you are late.”

“Sorry, I am not that late, am I?”

“No, no not really we put time in the schedule for everyone to be able to get settled, they are all just getting their bread baskets and drinks now.”

“Certainly, but I have to ask Aunt Tabitha, why am I sitting way up here?”  Amber said hoping there was a mistake.

“You have helped us out a lot Amber.”

“I haven’t done anything these people are the real workers, they planted the trees.  I should go and sit at one of the tables down below.” Amber says almost pleading.

“Now don’t be silly Amber you sit right here.”

Amber looked at the place setting that her aunt had gestured towards.  To its left was the podium and in front of it on a wooden block with a shiny faux gold metal plate was her name Amber Teels.  Sitting down reluctantly in the chair that her aunt pulled out for her, she looked at the audience and the other people on stage eating their bread getting very uncomfortable.  She barely was able to break of a piece of bread to eat.

Not even ten minutes had gone by and they were already taking the plates getting ready to serve dinner.  Then my aunt stands up to give the speech for the night.  It began with the usual greetings and jokes, accomplishments made over the past year, then all of a sudden she heard her aunt say “With all the great work we have done to make our city green, I must inform you that I am no longer am able to be the leader of this organization.”  The room went real silent. “Instead, Amber Teels who has been working along side me from the beginning will be taking over.”

Amber felt her insides begin to jump like she had been on a trampoline for hours.  Just then her aunt grabs her arm and helps her stand up, the whole room begins clapping and slowly she sees some of her family emerge from the darkness of the back of the room.  Then everyone started standing up to clap for her.  Though the only thing Amber could do was sit back down and cry.  Seeing this everyone became overwhelmed by her emotions that even they started to cry.  Though her aunt helped her back out of her seat and pushed her in front of the podium before stepping aside she said, “I am sure Amber has a few words to say at this time.”  The room started to go silent again.  Though all Amber could think of was, how could they do this, especially now.  Thinking to her self, I don’t want to run a charity, I like my job.  She had to say no but how.  Then she very softly said into the podium microphone, “I am sorry, I am truly sorry.” And Amber walked out.

-Jennie Nawrocki

FBI

Standard

Once the cake had been served now was the time of the evening where everyone was filled with sugar compounded with numerous drinks of alcohol, that some had been enjoying since the early afternoon.  Not being much of a drinker, she got a thrill and countless internal chuckles watching the awkward interactions unfold around her.  This eased the flow of her mood throughout the party as she was encountered with each blow delivered during each conversation.

First, it was her sister, “look at those shoes, I told you should buy some new ones those big honkers make you look like a man and you should dress a little better show off some of this bod you have.”

Then it was her friend “Why haven’t you called me, I called you.”

“I was out of town, remember?” Amber said knowing she knew she was out of town but went through the routine anyway.

“Yeah, I know, I just miss you when you are gone, you don’t ever seem to be around.”  Replying with a half-smile, though not really meaning it.

“What about this week, I am free all week, oh sorry I can’t how about on the 14th

Amber looks blankly at her as she says this date almost 2 full weeks away and replies with a hopefully gesture of understanding her choices. “That is when I am going to Philly, though I am free the following week.”

“I wish you could get together on the 14th that is really the only day I am available.”  Her friend says pleadingly.

Without saying anything Amber thinks, and they say I am the one who is inflexible.  Seeing that they have gotten nowhere and know they will go nowhere with this, Amber grabs her hand as a way to diverge the topic from the usual dancing of dates and show that she is interested in her friend as a friend, so they find a place to sit down to talk.  Instead of sitting together her friend changes who is leading and they find this guy, she clearly would have no interest in.

He was at most in his early 20’s a boy really maybe late 20’s, 26, 27 but couldn’t be older than that a baby really and not her type in the least.  A set up that happens at almost every gathering where she is expected to hook up with him and eventually they will marry.  It made her sick that this was their choice today and everyday they played matchmaker.

As usual he was probably a decent person but was way too young though, better than the beer belly stench ridden person in their forty’s, their last bit of bait for her, or how about the garbage man in his 60’s who turned out to be an alcoholic.  Really searching the bottom of the barrel for her perfect guy.  To be nice she had dates with them all, to show she would go along and at least try and also show she wasn’t playing hard to get, picky Victoria, or unreasonable social recluse.  Each one always turning out to be failures completely, not only that she felt horrible doing it because she knew she wouldn’t have gone out with any of them in the first place if it wasn’t for their pressure to settle her down.

They were on a roll tonight, so far the way I dress, my job, dating, what was next, just then she knew she didn’t have to ask because here were her parents coming as a pair, all smiles.

“I thought you were going to get that new car”, my mother starts the conversation.

“I like the my car.”  Knowing this is the same conversation they have had pretty much since she bought her used Ford Aspire a few years ago.

“Didn’t the tire blow last week?”  Dad chimes in, using his man to man talking voice.

“Yes, there was a tire that popped, though I was able to fix that.”  She replied happily.

“Really that is the 4th problem you have had with it this month.”  Already almost exasperated, her mother says with a slightly raise tone.

“It will have to wait I can’t afford a new car and really I prefer the car I have.”  Trying to ease the conversation anyway she can she just replies cheerfully.

“I thought you were making good money?” in that demanding, I am disappointed in you tone, my mother speaks clearly.

Still being cheerful Amber replies, “Yes, I am but I still have many financial responsibilities.”

“You know you could live by us it is cheaper and we could help you.”  Dad says hopefully.

“I know but I like where I live.”  Firm and generally happy about her response, for the evening was well rounded now, there wasn’t one subject left uncovered.

She wanted to find a way to stop the questioning, the interrogation of the FBI as she referred to it.  It wasn’t actually the Federal Bureau of Investigation, even though it had the same initials, to her it stood for the Family Badger Inquisitions.  Something she avoided when she could.  Knowing though she couldn’t leave the party early, for if she did, she wasn’t spending quality time with the family or was being a baby.  As a result, she just looked for another out, just a way to be free, a break, until the inevitable next set of questions.  She simply told her parents that she left her drink outside and wanted to go get it and left.

Walking back outside she saw the guy with whom she had helped rescue the birdie.  He was tall though not too tall.  What is tall for a guy anyway, her mind wandered 6 feet, just past 6 feet what was it, when does the general population start thinking a man is tall?  Anyways he had a slender, sturdy build.  Dressed decent not over the top but not scruffy either.  Strange how he could look elegant even though his clothes were well worn.  He had resumed playing the game, there was quite a bit of people she didn’t know playing badminton her sister or Jimmy must have joined a new club or something.  That was the last she remembered of him until today here at her presentation gazing right at her.

Blind Date

Standard

She remembered that day very well as she was waiting for the waitress to come to her table. When she finally did she ordered without much conversation for she by now had no questions about the menu, it was all familiar to her.  The waitress recognizing her said, “what would you like today? ”

Not hesitating to order the chef’s specialty saying out loud to the waitress, “the beef stroganoff please.”  It was cold outside and she hadn’t had time for breakfast because of a meeting scheduled.  It would be very filling and warm to eat.  She didn’t cook beyond bbq’ing much, hardly ever actually, just learned to follow the directions on the box so coming here was like coming home.

The waitresses has been here for awhile you can tell they have lived hard lives supporting their families probably travel by bus or metro leaving their children to be at home by themselves because their father was non existent in their daily lives.  They were cheerful in their actions but there always seemed to be a bit of sadness to them.

Having told the waitress what she wanted she could relax.  Grabbing the latest tech magazine from her bag she was shocked to find a man sitting down on the other side of the booth in front of her.  A big stout guy with a shirt that couldn’t be tucked from the over hang of his kangaroo pouch of a belly.  Which didn’t match his pristine chiseled appearance of his face.  “It’s a little crowded in here so I thought I would sit down, here if you don’t mind.  The waitress said you didn’t have any company so I thought I would be yours.”

Amber sat staring blankly at him, as he continued to talk “The name’s Bartholomew but people call me Bart for short, not because I am short but because of my name although I am pretty short have been my whole life, don’t understand it I have such tall parents considerably.  You are pretty tall aren’t you? How tall? About five eight? I have always loved tall women. Hey, I like this place don’t you? Ordered the beef stroganoff hear it tastes like mom’s homemade.”

Having regretted ordering the beef stroganoff after this whirlwind of conversation.  She thought it probably wouldn’t have mattered he was going to order the same thing she had regardless.

Starting again after only a few seconds rest to take a drink of water. “Man I miss my mom she past away a few years ago, she was a good cook though, a real good cook.  How’s your cooking?  I like a pretty lady like yourself, I’d like her even more if she was a good cook?”  Finally ceasing his conversation, he looks at Amber waiting for a response.

Looking back at him completely silent and emotionless in her expression, but the audacity of this man was making her laugh, though she knew she couldn’t his obvious mommy issues were making her queasy.  Wondering what to do she started thinking of ways to get out of this situation, now.

Still haven’t heard anything Bart begins speaking again.  “I also go to the movies often you like the movies don’t you?  What am I talking about everyone likes the movies, seen any good ones lately?”  He only stopped because the waitress came with Amber’s food.

This was her chance, speaking only to the waitress, “Can I have this in a to go box?  I know I said I would eat here but I have some where I need to go.”  Thinking yeah home to take a shower all of a sudden this booth became very filthy.

“What’s the rush?”  Bart blurted “your food just got here and I could use the company please won’t you say, people say I always am a good person to have a conversation with, I can keep a conversation going for hours.”

Amber looking at him thinking this is ridiculous, can’t this guy take a hint she wanted to leave.

Trying to sweeten the deal Bart spoke again “I’ll even pay for your meal, in fact I already have?”

The waitress standing by not attempting to leave to go put her food in a to go box says, “He did pay for it.”  With a smile like it was the sweet romantic gesture.

What was Amber going to do now?  She like the waitress and the food here but felt absolutely violated and nauseated by this obvious set up.

In an encouraging tone the waitress says, ” You should go he seems like a good guy.”

Supporting her statement Bart replies, “Hey afterwards we can even go to a movie together.”

As much as she liked movies the thought was revolting.  The guy had no charm, common sense and was poorly acting off a script somebody gave him.  Who was it?  It didn’t matter, it was yet another attempt to get her to settle down in a specific way, in somebody else’s life that she did not want.  To her that lifestyle was the suburban lifestyle while she respected and even admired at times she couldn’t think of living it.  Although, she could be a soccer mom, she really wasn’t the type to intermix well with helicopter gossiping parents, whom she called soccer moms on acid.  That is what this gentleman screamed as he spoke every word. Which gave her an idea as to how she was going to get out of this surprise blind date she was on.  “That is really very kind of you to do, but I really should be going, I have to re-bandage this hand.  I don’t want to wait too long after I eat, it might get infected.”

Which wasn’t a lie the doctor said to watch the wound through tomorrow, he wasn’t sure about whether or not to perform surgery, she had to call him in the morning and tell him if and how it was healing.  He wanted to make sure he got out all the little pieces of sidewalk concrete dust out.  At this moment to Amber the thought of surgery was more pleasing than sitting at this table.

Maybe because she was a regular, maybe because she felt rejected herself, maybe out of compassion the waitress took her plate and simply said, “I will be back with a to go box.”

Very relieved Amber said, “Thank you.”

Bart then started to speak again, “Well now that’s a shame, sorry to hear about your hand.  Is there anything I can do?”

“Not really.” Amber replied.

“How about we take a rain check on the meal and movie, can I call you?”  Bart said hopefully.

Though before she could reply the waitress came back put the to go box on the table and left.  Then grabbing a 20 out of her purse she sets it on the table and says, “Here, I am sorry but I will be leaving town soon for work it may be weeks before I get a chance again.”

Almost forceful now holding her forearm Bart states,” At least give me your number, email, something?”

Pulling her arm away “I am sorry I have to go.”  With that she left the restaurant.

-Jennie Nawrocki

The Chef

Standard

“How many will it be?”  the hostess said smiling dressed in a black button down shirt and slacks with high heels.

“Just one.”  As she said it Amber looked at the hostess for her reaction.

Some hostesses were generally annoyed for either two reasons when she would announce it would be just one, who is this person that she has no friends or family to eat with her or that she would take an entire table for one person.  Most hostesses though were neutral and today she was lucky, the young hostess just said, “Certainly come this way.”

Following her, Amber could see the place was pretty busy it wasn’t an upscale restaurant but it was modern and the booths were well maintained. It was one of those restaurants that couldn’t decide what it really was.  It had burgers, pasta, burritos, pizza and even shepherds pie on the menu.  Ironically though having gone here a few times she found out that the chef was Asian, from Vietnam to be exact.

It was an interesting story when she heard it.  It was a slow day so he came out to greet the customers, an extremely friendly man with lots of energy, going around laughing and shaking people’s hands while they gave him compliments on his food.  He was a good cook other wise she wouldn’t come here as often as she did.  Knowing he would soon come to her table she took a drink of water so she wouldn’t have to speak with her mouth full or have food stuck in her teeth.  Finally, when he came over to her table she smiled and held out her hand, but started to speak too soon and began to want to cough though she tried to hold it back with a smile, however the urge was too hard to resist and she ended up spitting water all over him.

He immediately started laughing and said, “I hope everyone is safe in Nevada because the Hoover dam just broke.”  Amber’s cough turned effortlessly into a laugh.  With one covering her mouth trying to block whatever may expel from her mouth she held out her other hand and was able to take the clean napkin, the chef had grabbed from the unused place setting opposite her in the booth and said, “Here let me help.” even though he was mostly covered.

Completely embarrassed Amber grabbed her unused napkin and giving it to him  saying, “I am so sorry.”  Simultaneously they begin cleaning the shower of water over each other the table and her food.  When they seemed to have cleaned the entire booth the chef started to grab her plate.

“Let me get you a new plate”, he said generously.

“No it was my fault, really I think I got it over mostly us or you I should say anyway.  I like the food so much, I think I just swallowed it too quickly”, Amber said trying to recover from embarrassment.

“I am glad, I thought my chicken pot pie had a feather I forgot to pluck.  Saddest thing really when the customers start laughing because they are tickled from the inside.”  He said with a smile.

“No, no not at all.”  Amber was continuing trying to make the situation better.

“Well that pleases me.”  Seeing that she was sorry and didn’t mean anything by it plus knowing that he had a habit of asking people about his food when they were in mid bite, he began to continue the conversation just as he wanted to in the beginning, “Do you like the food?”

“Yes, I come here quite often.”  Amber was pleased to be able to say without being embarrassed because she could tell he wasn’t harboring any hard feelings.

“I haven’t seen you yet, when do you normally come here?” The chef was curious how often she had eaten the food.

“I am usually come during the dinner hour.” replied Amber graciously.

In a mocking way the chef said, “Ah, so you come at my busiest time of the day just so you can avoid me.”

Amber could see he was making another joke so she played along, “Completely my intention, I heard the chef was a real tyrant.”

“You throw one batch of spaghetti sauce in the garbage and all respect is lost. If I told them once, I told them a thousand times the parsley goes in at the end of the cooking process.”  They both laughed when he said this.

Amber couldn’t resist she was enjoying their conversation, “Isn’t there some a law against that.”

Seeing through the corner of his eye that another person from the kitchen was motioning for him to come, “I think there is, well I hope to see you here again sometime, let me at least warm your food.”

“Ok, thank you and he left for the kitchen.”  Amber seeing him walk away with her barely touched food was pleased that she had picked this restaurant even more as one of her favorites.