by Natasha Reed
Getting ready for work this morning, I realized it'd been ages since I'd seen the Pepto Pink walls of the froofed up gym I belong to, so decided to pack my bag and go after work. On the way to the gym a Waffle House loomed in sight, and after a two second heated debate between my ass and my mouth . . . well. This title's not "Tales from the Pepto Gym," is it?
I'd changed into my exercise clothes before leaving work--real gym clothes, a ragged t-shirt and extremely baggy once-blue-now-gray-from-washings shorts, and crammed my hair into one of those ponytails where it looks as though the ponytail didn't make it through that last loop. Real horror show to join the ol' ultraviolents, hm?
Pulling into the parking lot, I noticed five other cars--rather shocking to see so many with the sun, watery though it was, still in the sky, and other restaurants still open. I walked inside and quickly scanned for a spot to sit. A youngish Asian couple was squished into one side of a booth for two in the back corner, a lone coffee drinker who is part of the Waffle House decor held up the end of the counter, and two older ladies sat at the booth that hooked on to the counter in the middle, sipping coffee and sucking idly on cigarettes.
I sat down at the counter, two seats down from the ladies' booth. The waitress came over and I gave her my only Waffle House order--grilled cheese, hashbrowns abused three ways, and a Diet Coke. After bringing my Diet Coke, she went back to cleaning a row of coffee pots lined up on the counter. I waited, watching the cook do that voodoo he do so well with ze potatoes. The waitress swirling salted ice in the pots over the baked-on stains. The coffee drinker long enough to earn a nod and smile. The couple kiss -- and felt like a sourpuss for actually thinking, Geez, it's still daylight.
"Did'ju see that in the paper today?"
I turned my head and saw the woman sitting with her back to me shifting around in her seat, causing the limp brown locks hanging down her back to slither over the raspy material of a blue windbreaker. She turned a bit more, looking for the waitress, and her profile came into view, showing the right half of a thin, lined face, with a cigarette hanging out of a lipless mouth. Her heavily sprayed bangs had matted in the afternoon drizzle, and I remembered that AquaNet advice about combing hairsprayed hair with a wet comb, to maintain the style.
"See what? I didn't read it, but I heard Jimmy an'em talkin' about sumthin' in it earlier this mornin'," the waitress answered, not taking her eyes away from the pair of pots she was swirling the scouring ice in.
"You know, about that body," chimed in the woman sitting opposite Windbreaker, whose face was blocked not only from my periphereal, but even an easy sideways glance. I thought about leaning back and looking around Windbreaker to get a gander at her, and was about to do just that when the waitress responded with, "What? That one down in Rockdale?"
"Yeah," Windbreaker sighed slowly, and I watched the exhaled smoke swirl and curl upwards. "Shot in the chest and thrown on the side a'the road. Like some dawg."
"Chopped his hands off, too," chimed in the Voice.
"They do that so they don't figger out who he is," offered the waitress, and set the pots down on the counter to walk over and pick up my order. She dropped it off with a quizzical silent smile to see if there was anything else I needed, and went to stand by the edge of the booth to talk to the two women. I watched as she took the cigarette from Windbreaker, sucked deep and fast, and handed it back to her.
"I wonder what he did," mused the Voice. "The dead guy. Cheatin' on'is wife, most likely."
"Ain't nooo-body gonna saw off two hands after catchin' sumbody cheatin', girl!" Windbreaker argued heatedly. "Naw, sumbody done planned on killin' that man, and knew jest what to do--they ain't released 'is name yet!"
"I'll tell you what he wasn't doing," the waitress said, sliding her hips to one side and resting her fists on them, smiling knowingly. "He didn't get killed while he was washin' the dishes."
"Washin' the dishes?" Windbreaker repeated, and I paused, fork full of voodooed potatoes mid-way to my mouth, waiting to hear that answer.
"Mmmhm. It's like that country song says. 'You never seen a man get shot while he was washing the dishes.' Now have ya? Who would shoot a man washing the dishes?"
The women laughed, and the Voice said, "Nope, ner washing the clothes, neither."
"Ner cuttin' the grass, fixin' the car, or cleaning the toilet, either," added Windbreaker.
They laughed again for a few minutes, until it died on a simultaneous sigh.
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Write Natasha Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Natasha comments: "I recently relocated to Seattle, but call home to Alabama for weekly reports of the goings on about town."
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