Just in case the idea of FREE isn’t enough to entice you…here’s a little something to tickle your tastebuds ~
Chapter 7 I Thought You Wanted Pancakes…
It was closing time at the bar that Noah worked at, the same bar I, myself, had spent so many years in, night after night, mixing drinks and trying to study by the dim light of the beer cooler, every chance I got. It was early Sunday morning as I walked in to find the cocktails busy clearing glasses and wiping down tables, while the bouncers were sluggishly moving past them dragging the trash cans and mopping the floors. In the midst of everyone, were the two bar backs, buzzing back and forth between the bars with filled glass racks and empty ice buckets, hastily trying to get everything restocked and cleaned up, so things would be ready to go the next night.
Not wanting to get in the way, I strolled back over towards the front door and made a sharp right at the coat check. Right behind it, tucked away in a quiet corner, was a tiny office. As expected, I found the owner, Darnell Jacobs, sitting behind his desk counting the cash and finishing up the closing paperwork. He looked up from his pile when he heard me.
“Lucky!” He exclaimed, happy to see me. Then his smirk stretched into a smile, “Are you here to save your boy?”
“Oh no, which one of my boys needs saving?” I asked, rolling my eyes and already knowing the answer.
“Noah, who else? He worked the hell out of this lady tonight. She ran up a huge tab and left an even bigger tip. Now, she’s insisting on getting what she paid for.” He was leaning back in his chair and rocking it back and forth as he spoke.
“Well, that shouldn’t be a problem for Noah. He’s usually more than happy to provide his services.” It didn’t sound to me like a problem he wouldn’t be happy to fix all by himself.
“I don’t think he’s too happy about it, this time. Take a look.” As he was talking, he stood up from his chair and walked around the desk to where I was standing. Then he craned his neck as far as he could, leaning so far into me, I had no choice but to do the same. There, all the way in the back at the corner bar, was Noah. And just a few feet over to the right was the woman D. had been talking about. I let out a loud snort at the sight of her. She was considerably older than him, which normally he wasn’t necessarily opposed to. This woman however, brought to mind the term, “rode hard and put up wet”. Her thin hair had been dyed so many times, the different strands could no longer agree on one joint color. She was wearing a red dress, which had likely been intended as a sixteen year old’s prom dress, and if that weren’t bad enough, she had purchased it at least three sizes too small. It was as though both ends of the dress were playing a game of tug of war with each other every time she moved. It was frightening to watch, and yet I couldn’t dare look away. I was far too intrigued by the mystery and in a sick way, I simply had to know which end would win. When I caught both a glimpse of her ass cheek as well as a nipple, I called it a tie.
Furthermore, this woman’s skin made me seriously consider cancelling the tanning appointment I had just made, as it seemed to be as dark as it was thick, with deep creases that were less like wrinkles and more like canyons that had been weathered into her skin over the hundreds of years she had clearly been walking this earth. On the off chance that it was actually do to the heavy smoking and drinking she seemed to be quite fond off, I made a mental note to steer clear of alcohol from now on. It just wasn’t worth it. Although I still wasn’t convinced that Noah wasn’t fully responsible for his own messes and should certainly be left to his own devices when dealing with the Crypt Keeper, I decided to give the situation one more look, just to be sure.
From what I could tell, this lady, while somewhat lacking in an ability to hold her liquor gracefully, certainly wasn’t short on gumption. Intending to seduce a guy like Noah at her age was something I was not only impressed by, but in a weird way, kind of respected. And in that moment, I decided, she had earned a roll in the sheets with him just as much as he deserved one with her. I shrugged my shoulders and looked at D., “Well, it was bound to backfire on him sooner or later. I say, ‘pay up’!” No sooner had I come to this conclusion, that I saw her laugh. She let out the loudest cackle I had ever heard in my life, and as her mouth opened, I swear, I saw dust come out. That was the game changer. I could tell by the look on D.’s face that he had seen it too.
“Uh-huh. How much longer are you going to make him suffer?”
I looked over at him and then back out at Noah. “Just a minute or two.”
I took a few more steps into D’s office to be sure I couldn’t be seen from the main bar. Then I pulled a ring from my right hand and moved it over to my left. I held out my hand to try and get a more objective look at the gold band on my ring finger. When I was certain that it would do the trick, I smiled at D. and walked out of the office as though I was marching out to battle. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a bit scared, but Noah was my friend after all, so it had to be done.
“Hey, Handsome!” I called over to him as I was walking across the room. He looked up, surprised to hear my voice. When he saw me, his face lit up and I could see the relief in his sparkly, blue eyes. The Crypt Keeper however, seemed far less happy to see me as she slid down from her stool and began to waddle over in my direction.
“Back off, honey! I saw him first!” She was making a small fist and waving it at me as she got closer. I didn’t know whether to laugh or run for my life, so I did neither. Instead, I lifted my hand as well and waved it back in forth in front of her face, making sure she got a good look at the ring on my finger.
“Oh, I seriously doubt that…honey!” I said, taking another step toward her.
Her expression went from anger to shock and then back to anger before finally settling on full-out pissed, as she stomped back over to her stool, yanked her purse off of the counter and then marched out of the room, kicking an empty trash can along the way.
The second she was gone, Noah came running around the front of the bar to give me an enthusiastic hug, which not only caused me to be airborne, but had various limbs of mine flying about in different directions. When he finally set me back down he said, “I love you! Thank you!” In what had been perhaps, the most sincere tone I had ever heard him use.
“Yeah. Don’t thank me, thank D. I was going to let you suffer!” I replied with as little sincerity as I could muster. Noah just grinned and walked back to where he had been standing when I came in. As he continued wiping down bottles, he nodded his head at my hand and asked,
“So, since when do you wear a wedding band?”
I looked down at my ring and began to move it back over to the other hand. “I always wear it…just usually on the other hand. It was Grandma Pearl’s.” He looked at me for a moment and then turned his focus back on his cleaning.
“Oh good, I was worried I might have missed something.”
While we had been talking, D. had begun making his final rounds, checking to make sure everything that needed to get done was getting done and getting done properly. He stopped by to check on Noah.
“You almost done here? I’m just waiting on you, now.”
Noah looked around at his bar to assess the situation and then looked back at D.
“Almost, I still have to restock and then count my money.” He pointed over at an open cash register and a large stack of credit card receipts. D. shook his head.
“Lucky count the man’s money. It’s been a long night and I want to go home.”
“You got it.” As D. walked back to his office, I climbed up onto a bar stool and pulled the cash and receipts in my direction.
“Thanks.” Noah winked at me as he walked by on his way to the walk-in cooler to grab the beer he needed to restock. I just waved at him dismissively and started pulling out the bills to count the cash. By the time Noah returned, I had already counted all the money and had moved on to the credit cards. We both worked quickly and silently as he was putting away bottles in the cooler and I was sorting through the receipts until I found the Crypt Keeper’s tab.
“Holy shit! Is this that lady’s tab?!” It had escaped my mouth a few octaves higher than I had intended. Noah glanced over at the receipt I was holding up.
“Yup, that’s the one.”
“Man, now I feel kinda guilty I didn’t make you sleep with her. She clearly paid for more than her drinks!” I was still shaking my head in disbelief as I was putting the receipt back in the pile and working my way through the rest.
“Hey! I never said I was going to sleep with her.” Noah quickly interjected.
“I’m sure you didn’t, but I bet your smile did…You forget how many years I spent working right beside you, I’ve seen you in action.” I shot him a knowing grin.
“I guess. So, what are you doing here, anyway?” He asked, clearly trying to change the subject.
“Couldn’t sleep,” I shrugged. “Thought you might want to go get some pancakes.”
Noah threw the last of the empty cardboard boxes into the trash and said, “Well, you’re in luck, because I am starving!”
I paused mid-count to stop and look at him. “I’m in luck?”
“Yeah, I mean you could have gotten here and I could have been busy and then what?”
I couldn’t tell if he was trying to make me feel important or point out how low I ranked amongst the women in his life. “Why would you have been busy?” I countered.
“Because I am busy most nights…with the ladies…you know?!” If he had thrown in a ‘duh’ at the end of that statement, I might have just thrown the contents of his register at him. Since he refrained, so did I.
“It’s Saturday,” I replied flatly. Noah looked confused.
I could see I was going to have to spell it out for him. It had been unspoken for so long, I just assumed he knew I knew, but apparently he didn’t. “So, you never hook up on Saturdays.”
“How do you know that?” He actually looked stunned.
“Because I know you.” The corners of my mouth had curled up in a most satisfied way.
“Fine, but do you know why I don’t hook up on Saturdays?” Now Noah was just testing me. That was fine, I was prepared.
“Because technically, it’s already Sunday and your catholic upbringing kicks in and you feel overcome with guilt and shame at the mere thought of having premarital sex. Mostly because you will get up and go to church with your mom in the morning and you are secretly scared that you will get struck by lightning if God can smell the sex on you.” What had started out as a sly smirk was now growing into a cocky grin that simply could not be contained. Noah was clearly taken aback by all of this.
“Wow, it sounds pretty stupid when you say it out loud.” He admitted.
I cocked my head to the side and said, “Really? It never seemed stupid to you before?” Noah attempted to throw a bar rag at me, but I managed to duck in time.
“It’s not that stupid when you think it’s your own little reasoning and nobody else knows about it…everything is different now that I know you know!” He looked at me in a way that was supposed to suggest that he was outraged but the incessant twinkling in his eyes told me otherwise. So, I continued.
“Well, I’m glad we are finally talking about it ’cause I’ve always wondered how that works when you are in a relationship. I mean, I know it doesn’t happen often, but what happens when you date a girl for a week or more and Saturday rolls around and suddenly you don’t put out?”
“Good question. If we can make it happen before midnight, it’s not a problem.” He had finally finished and was walking back around to the front of the bar where I was sitting.
“And if you can’t?” I asked, growing more curious.
“A lot of my relationships end on Saturdays.” He said, as he plopped down in the seat beside me.
“Huh, I’m surprised I never noticed that.”
He grinned, “Yeah, me too.” We sat there for a moment, grinning at each other without saying anything. When I realized what we were doing, I quickly jumped off of my bar stool.
“Ok, well I’m all done here. How about you?”
Noah looked back at one last trash can. “I just need to take this trash out, but I’ll meet you up front at the office.”
“K.” I nodded and took the register drawer and all its contents over to D. who was still sitting in the office waiting for us to get done. I hadn’t even realized it, but everyone else has slowly trickled out of the building, leaving only the three of us behind.
D. was busy talking on the phone when I walked in. He looked up and waved me over as he was talking. I quietly set everything down on his desk and began to walk back out. “Yeah, I should be outta here in about five minutes. Lucky just handed me the money. No, she’s not working, just stopped in to see Noah. Baby, I told you, they’re just roommates. Ok, I’ll see you soon.” I had just reached the doorway when D. hung up the phone.
“What was that about?” I realized I was bordering on rude, but since the conversation had suddenly included me, I felt I was well within my right to ask. D. laughed.
“Lisa is convinced that the two of you are a couple.”
“What?” No one had ever thought that before. Not anyone that knew us anyway.
“Yeah, even back in the day, she’d come up to me and be like – you know those two are dating.” He was still chuckling as he started pulling apart the neatly stacked bills and receipts I had just handed him.
“No way.” I wasn’t sure what I found more surprising, knowing that she had thought that or the fact that in all the years I’d known her she hadn’t ever mentioned it to me.
“Yup. So, is he all done now or what?” He was referring to Noah of course.
“Just taking out the trash and then we are out of here…What?” I suddenly noticed that D. had stopped what he was doing and was just looking at me as though he had more to say, but wasn’t sure if he should or not.
“Nothing, I guess I just see what Lisa sees.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that.
“What does that mean?” Where was all of this coming from? And why now?
D. had no intention of elaborating. Instead, he returned to what he was doing and plainly stated, “You’ll know when you see it too.” I would have pressed the issue more had Noah not entered the office right then.
“The money all good?” He asked, suddenly eager to get done.
“Yes. Let’s lock up and go home.” D. dropped the last money bag into his safe and shut the door. Then he followed the two of us out of the office and out through to the front door, where we waited for a moment as he turned off the last of the lights and set the alarm before we all walked outside together. Noah and I watched as D. locked the doors and then we all said “good night” and went our separate ways. D. home to his lovely wife, Lisa and Noah and I to the nearest diner to satisfy our need for pancakes.
Noah and I had been going to the same diner for years. It was a small 24 hour hole-in-the-wall, that you would never think to go to, unless someone else told you about it. In our case, it had been one of the regulars at the bar. For months he invited us to breakfast on Saturday nights after closing, and every time we drove past the place without stopping. Until one Tuesday night after a concert, we both found ourselves too drunk to make the drive home. The diner was the only thing remotely within walking distance, so we linked arms and turned a five minute trek into a twenty-minute waltz as we zigzagged our way down the empty sidewalks. It had taken us so long to get there that the cold night air had begun to sober us up already by the time we got there. Still, we braved the rather frightening outer exterior and went inside, only to be greeted by the most delicious aroma I had ever smelled in my entire life. From then on, we were there nearly every night after work. Over the years, the late night breakfasts dwindled away as I graduated college and began working days, as a teacher. However, the cravings still hit me from time to time, and when they did, I was glad I knew where to go and who to go with.
I was elated to learn that nothing had changed as we walked in the doors and encountered that same delicious scent we had fallen in love with all those years ago. The air was filled with pancakes and sausage, fresh brewed coffee came wafting through, as well as, the slightest hint of cinnamon. Absolutely enticing, to say the least. It was reassuring to know that even though the diner had nearly cleared out at this hour, the kitchen hadn’t stopped.
We made our way through the empty aisles of booths and wandered all the way to the back, to sit in our usual spot away from the bulk of the tables. Noah and I had barely sat down, when a familiar face approached the table.
“Haven’t seen the two of you in while!” It was Terry. She had been our waitress from that very first night. Seeing her was like seeing an old aunt you never made the time to see and always planned to make more time for after being around her.
“Hey, Terry.” I fought the urge to stand back up and give her a hug.
“You two kids know what you want?” We knew the menu inside and out and yet I always felt compelled to read through it front to back before I ordered.
“You order, then I’ll decide.” I said to Noah, who hadn’t even opened his menu.
“Ok, I’ll have the scrambled egg combo, please.” The words shot out of his mouth in an instant and he turned back to me, now rolling his eyes at my need to read a menu I had already memorized. However, hearing his order had helped me decide.
“Perfect. Then I will have the egg and ham sandwich with half fries and half onion rings. Oh, and can I please get a side of mayo, BBQ and ketchup too?”
“Sure thing, hon’.” Terry was scribbling down notes on a little pad with paper so old and worn, it was almost shredding at the ends.
Noah looked at me with a confused expression on his face. “I thought you wanted pancakes?!” It was more of a statement than a question.
“I do.” I replied happily.
Then, without looking up from her pad of paper, Terry said, “The combo comes with pancakes, honey. She’s going to eat yours.” When she was done writing she looked up and winked at Noah.
“Of course, she is.” He muttered as he handed the menus back to Terry and she scurried off to put our orders in to the kitchen.
To Be Continued…