Mary Richards leaned back in her chair, sipping on a daiquiri. Everyone gets lost in her eyes. God, they’re like paradise. But mostly I stare at her throat. So soft. The skin. And Mary has a such a delicate and small neck. You could put your hands right around it. Vulnerability is so… attractive.
Frank has just finished serving their drinks. He stood behind Mary. Transfixed, or so it seemed. He looked like the Scare Crow from the Wizard of Oz. Hung up there on his cross. Waiting for the Romans to take him down. I had to laugh. Not just the expression on Frank’s face. But the whole table. They think that Frank has been mesmerized by Mary’s beauty. I knew better. He was waiting for his tip.
Sue Ann Nivens, a middle aged dyed blonde. Make-up applied with a trowel. If she sat still long enough, someone would put her in a park. Sue Ann noticed Frank’s behavior and nudged Lou Grant in the ribs. That was me. I’m at the bar having a drink. But that was me alright.
“Gosh,” Lou gargled with embarrassment and handed the waiter a tip. Lou recognized the expression on Frank’s face. He’d been in enough bars.
Frank nodded in appreciation and returned to the bar.
“Fuck me, if I’d let them get away without tipping me.” Frank was pissed. And it took something to get Frank pissed. (I don’t know why I know that.) Frank placed his tray on the bar.
“Intellectuals! You can tell every time.” Frank had been unaware that he was talking out loud. A businessman sitting down the bar looked on with a puzzled expression on his face. Frank turned to him.
“What are you looking at?”
Frank turned back to me.
“They can hear you,” I said. The table wasn’t far from the bar. I glanced back at the table.
“Did you see that?” Sue Ann whispered to the others as if they were sharing some state secret. “They just can’t keep their eyes off Mary!”
Lou (the Lou at the table) looked at Sue Ann with a puzzled expression.
I turned to Frank.
“You noticed anything odd about anyone at that table?”
Frank thought for a moment.
“Doesn’t the bald headed fat guy look like someone you know?” I asked.
Frank looked at me and then back at the table. And then back at me.
“Were you going to say something, Lou?” Sue Ann asked.
I turned. We had met somewhere before. Me and Sue Ann. I started to thumb nail through her thoughts, I couldn’t find one thought that fit reality. Was there ever a moment in her life when she saw the world as it is? Never depressed. Except for the cold shoulder she received every day from Lou. She’d been sleeping with Bozo. The clown on the kid’s show. And she’s been testing the dating sights. She likes long walks on the beach. During mid-afternoon. With the entire Sable Beach male volleyball team. She likes the warm feeling of fresh liver in her hands. She’s as comfortable in an expensive evening gown as cut-offs. She dreams about confetti in her hair. And wearing the pajamas of a man with a barrel chest. Her mind is like a purse that no one but her as ever bothered to steal from.
I shook my head. What did I say about smell?
“What?” Frank asked.
“Something I ate,” I responded.
Lou turned to Mary. “When you pay for a round, Mary, you’re supposed to tip as well.”
Mary smiled quixotically. “Really? Are you sure, Mr. Grant?”
“Make a note of it, Mary.” Lou pointed at Mary, then conscious of his stubby finger withdrew it. “You never know when you’ll need a waiter. I remember a time when I was doing a piece for San Diego Tribune… but, that’s not important.” Lou snorted with delight as he proceeded into his next thought. “It was so thoughtful of you, Mary, to invite us all to this…” Lou cleared his throat as he gestured to the room. “… establishment. The last time I was in a place like this I had more hair, less belly, and the appreciated charms of two professional… mature young women.”
Back at the bar Frank spoke.
“You’ve been eating a lot of those pickled eggs.”
My attention had been focused on the table. It took me a moment to sort out what Frank had said.
“I missed lunch.”
“All that vinegar can’t be good for you.” Frank picked up a glass and began to wipe it. The glass hadn’t been used.
“I’ll have clean bowels,” I responded.
“That’s a thought we can do without.” Frank looked at me and smirked.