At the post office.
“OOOOO!” she said, as I bought a sheet of Janis Joplin stamps. “I didn’t think you’d like Janis Joplin.”
“Sure. I like Janis Joplin.”
“You know, when I was in the band, I did my hair just like Janis Joplin. I can still pull a strand across like this.” She pulled the strand.
“Nice. You sang in a band? What kind of band?”
“A rock band. But then when I got married, I quit it. I didn’t think it would be right to sing in the band when I was married.”
“Ever think of going back?”
“No. I’m married now. And it wouldn’t be right. But I used to have my hair like Janis Joplin!” She tapped the sheet of stamps. “Just like that.!”
At a seafood restaurant in a neighboring town. Sunday night.
“Take him to Sheila’s section. It’s her turn.”
“Okay, bud. Follow me. How’s it goin’?”
“Here we are. This booth all right for you, bud?”
“Sheila’s your server. She’ll be right with you.”
I looked around. At the booth across the way was a couple, both in t-shirts and cut-off jeans, talking loudly and eating with their mouths open. In the booth one down from me was a couple with a squalling baby. I wondered if I should have said, “Sure.”
“What are you havin’ to drink, sugar pie? I’m Sheila.”
I gave the order.
“All right, sweetie. Be right back.”
She went to the squalling baby. “Oh, poor thing! It must be time to eat! I’ll bring you all’s food right out,” she belted.
Sheila was short, thick, peroxided blond, loud. She managed her section well, calling everyone by some kind of sweetness. Listening to her was like hearing a talking thesaurus. And you could not help but hear her.
Background noise was a blaring local radio station, complete with advertisements. But soon I could not hear it.
My new bud brought in another couple and gave them a booth across the way, behind the couple talking loudly and chewing with their mouths open. The man was gray-haired and dressed conservatively in long pants, dress shoes, and dress shirt. The woman was wearing sandals, a tight-fitting skirt, and a top, which was a large cloth wrapped around her neck. She wore no bra, and her breasts hung like pendulums, the large nipples pushing against the cloth. I thought, “Bon appetit. And then I smiled, thinking of how “appetit” would spell and sound if pronounced in English.
“Be right with you, sweeties,” bellowed Sheila.
A man and two women entered to be seated in the booth in front of me. They were well-dressed, soft-spoken, and well-mannered. The man asked for a beer. “Honey, we don’t serve alcohol here. It’s not that kind of a place.” He ordered tea and soon the trio was onto high tech adventures. One woman continually passed to the couple some kind of high-tech device (smart phone? tablet?) and told what was going on somewhere else as, photos, I think, came in.
Now Sheila was really busy. She barged through carrying drinks and appetizers and meals. And she was louder than ever, as were the diners and the squalling baby.
I tried to focus on an article I was reading in The New Yorker.
“Here you are, honey pie,” Sheila said as she put down the platter of fried seafood in front of me. “Do you think you’ll need more than eight of these here containers of tartar sauce?” She dumped them in a pile behind the platter. I looked at the six pieces of seafood on the mound of fries and said, “I don’t think so.” She said, “Well, if you do, just let me know, sugar.”
The couple with the squalling baby had been served, but nothing was helping with the baby’s loud crying. As I put away The New Yorker, I read that Nina Simone, when she heard about the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in 1963, wanted “to make a zip gun with tools from her garage.” She wanted, she said, “to go out and kill someone. . . . I didn’t yet know who, but someone I could identify as being in the way of my people.”
Yep. That’s enough. Time to eat while I’m far from the feeling of wanting to kill someone. I thought of Ferguson. And I found that I had lost my appetite. I could not eat half of the food.
“Filled up all ready, darling? Want a box? A tea or water to go?”
“Yep, I’m filled up all right. No, thanks. Just my check, please.”
“It’s under some of that tartar sauce you didn’t eat. You want to take that home?
“Well, you come back soon, sweetness. Ask for Sheila!”
I was glad to arrive home, to sit in quiet in a comfortable chair, and meditate, completely clearing my mind for about half an hour.
Reading. Fiction. Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger. Riverhead Books, 2009. This is a long, leisurely, interesting novel, a variation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, with added poltergeist activity. We are never certain whether the ghosts in the James story or the evil spirit in this novel is there are not. Perhaps it’s just a manifestation or evidence of the characters’ emotional states. The characters are well-drawn, intriguing, sometimes mysterious. There are an impressionable and imaginative young teen-aged servant girl, a part-time, suspicious cleaning woman, a bachelor physician narrator, and the family: an unhappy mother, an eligible but plain daughter, and a psychologically and physically damaged war veteran son. Set in a mansion, rapidly deteriorating because of lack of repair, in the countryside of England, the novel gives good insight into the state of post-World War II cultural changes in England and their effects on the British aristocracy. I was hoping that when the last family member dies, the house would fall, as in the Poe story, but Waters doesn’t want to make that connection.
Reading. Nonfiction. Miles Morland, A Walk Across France. Fawcett Columbine, 1992. I enjoyed my re-reading of this book, the first time in a couple of decades. Moreland and his wife decide to walk across France, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The book is a celebration of the countryside, French food and wine, positive and negative traits of the French character, and the simplification of life. It’s also a good endorsement for Mephisto walking shoes. Less interesting are the author’s thoughts about ending his job in corporate finance and his superficial comments on military history of the areas through which they pass. I found myself referring many times to the well-drawn map of their walk at the opening pages of the book.
That’s some of the things that have been going on with me this week. Thank you for reading.