Odds? What odds? Oh the odds of probability. Yeah, those odds.
Standing outside the entrance to the Orpheum Theatre on Friday night, Lily decided she’d really had about as much of this particular brand of winter weather as she cared to experience for the rest of her life. She looked again at the little watch she usually carried in her pants pocket but was now occupying space in her mitten and groaned as another ice-cold blast of wind whipped its way across the building and everyone in its path, including her. Okay, since I said seven I’ll give him until seven to show up. One minute after seven and my silly ass is inside. Taking advantage of being able to shove her mittened hands inside the openings of the Hudson Bay coat’s sleeves she did just that while constantly shifting her weight from one foot to the other in an effort to keep her blood circulating. From inside the deep hood her eyes scanned the steady stream of people entering the theatre as quickly as they could for relief from the wind assaulting them as they made their way from the parking garage down the street.
Impatient to get out of the cold, Lily again pulled the mitten off the hand holding the pocket watch. Seeing it was only 6:55 she swore at herself for waiting for someone who was, in all probability, a no-show. Then, seeing a city bus drive past, she turned around to check the bus stop at the corner and found her line of sight blocked, along with the wind, by a mass of grey wool. Lily looked up when a large gloved hand closed around her arm and tried to turn her towards the entrance. Quickly shaking off the unfamiliar hand, Lily backed away from the clean-shaven young man standing in front of her. Not until he raised his voice to be heard against the wind, urging her to get inside, did she recognize him as Sarge from Big Bob’s. Eager to get indoors she turned and led the way.
Once through the double doors, Lily moved to the right out-of-the-way of the rest of the incoming people. Pulling down her hood, she found Sarge standing next to her already shoving his gloves into his coat pockets. “Sorry. I didn’t realize you were behind me.”
“No problem. I’d just gotten off the bus and was making a dash for the entrance when I spotted your coat. I thought you’d be inside, considering this freakin’ cold wind.” Rubbing his hands on his wind chilled cheeks, Sarge saw the confusion in Lily’s eyes and realized she was reconciling her memory of his appearance when they’d been face to face on the sidewalk last Friday morning and his current image.
“Do you need to get a ticket?” Folding her coat over her arm, she glanced at the unexpected line at the ticket window.
Sarge shook his head. “No. Got them the other day. It’s all general admission seating for everyone.” He offered her one of the two tickets he pulled from the inside pocket of his coat.
Lily hesitated to take the bright white ticket from his hand then thought the better of telling him she already had her own and accepted it. “Usually is for this kind of production. It’s probably warmer in there than here.” She nodded at the open double doors to the seating area where two red-coated ushers stood taking tickets.
“Hell yeah, lead the way.” Taking advantage of following her, Sarge tried and failed to get a sense of her figure under the long sleek black hair that flowed over her shoulders and down to where he guessed her waist should be. Straight black hair merged with a big, loose-fitting black sweater long enough to cover her thighs which were wearing black pants roomy enough to allow more than enough space for a sensible pair of long underwear or two. Feeling oddly intrigued by her totally unrevealing all black ensemble, he found it amusing when he glanced down at her feet and saw she was wearing the same black leather boots he’d followed along the one way street last week. Noticing that the toes of her boots had rounded toes rather than the usual sharp-pointed ends of much of women’s footwear, he decided that her choice of sensible boots which allowed her toes room to move freely inside was in keeping with the rest of her clothing choices. If nothing else, the woman leading him along the carpet way seemed very consistent in her practical approach to dressing appropriately for the weather rather than in keeping with any popular notions regarding fashion and style. It also decreased the odds of her being offended by the fact that he’d worn his heavy, warm work boots instead of the more occasion appropriate black loafers, the traction of which had not improved much despite his efforts to eradicate the soles’ slickness with rough sandpaper.
“How about here? Can you see okay from here?” Lily gestured towards several seats set off a little apart from the main seating and at an angle to the stage.
Sarge smiled. “The real question is, can you see okay from here? I can see just fine from about anywhere.”
“I bet you can,” said Lily looking up at him before taking the seat that appealed to her. When he sat next to her, she quipped, “Chairs, the great equalizers.”
“Well, sort of.” Sarge sat up straight so that he was still looking down at her, then he slid down in his seat until their eyes were nearly level. “Hi Lily.”
“Hello Sarge. Come here often?”
“Every now and then. How about you?”
“Not nearly often enough.” Lily looked out at the gradually filling seats for a moment then turned sideways to face him. “I didn’t recognize you outside without the beard. What happened? Stan come searching with scissors for a bottle of Tabasco sauce you stashed in it?”
“Don’t I wish.” Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Sarge covered his bare chin with one hand while recalling the feel of the straight razor against his skin and then that of the much smaller disposable blade he’d used this morning after he and Kozy agreed that the patchy uneven new growth since Saturday evening definitely looked much worse than his overgrown beard had. He had needed to shave again in order to look presentable for tonight.
“Okay, touchy subject apparently.”Lily leaned back in her seat.
Realizing she’d taken his reply as a rebuff, Sarge shifted to lean sideways towards her and lowered his voice to a level just above a whisper. “It’s just not the sort of thing a guy wants to tell a girl right off the bat on a first date. You’re right. I am still more than a little raw about the whole thing. Haven’t quite adjusted, if you know what I mean.” Certain he didn’t want to see her expression, no matter what it was; he stared at the empty stage as he spoke and continued staring at it in the ensuing silence.
Lily waited until the people moving into the seats in front of theirs had settled down and commenced their own conversation before turning just enough to be able to see Sarge’s now beardless profile. “Good to know that you’re not one of those ‘I’ll share my traumas if you’ll share yours first’ kind of guys.” Even though he continued looking at the stage, he laughed quietly. Pleased with herself, Lily relaxed into a slouch and stretched out her legs as far as the seats allowed.
Seeing the lights flash on and off signaling five minutes until show time, Sarge managed to slide further down in his seat to be closer to Lily’s slouching level. “Naw, I’m definitely not one of those guys. But I am the ‘I’ll take any and all the help I can get for exacting revenge kind of guy.’” With a wicked gleam in his hazel eyes, Sarge looked expectantly at Lily. “Considering the fact that I’m outnumbered twelve to one, maybe one and a half if a Kozy counts, I do mean all the help I can get.”
Lily rubbed her bottom lip with her index finger as he spoke. “What’s a kozy?”
“A Kozy is the welder who owns the building I live in. He’s pretty much in a class all his own. It’s best not to expect too much of him regarding anything that doesn’t involve a blowtorch and heavy metals.”
“Ah ha. I see. So what form of revenge are you plotting?”
“That is still to be determined.”
“Maybe you’ll get some ideas from the play.”
“Oh I already have. But those are pretty much unfeasible in this day and age; unless I want to spend the rest of my life in solitary confinement at some nasty maximum security prison. Which, I certainly do not wish to do.” Seeing he was amusing her in some way and knowing the lights were about to go, he added, “Unless, of course, a very pretty woman with long black hair was sharing my cell.”
“Then it wouldn’t be solitary confinement, would it?”
“Indeed, it would not, far from it; cell or no cell.” Sarge relished the hint of a blush suddenly streaking across her sharp cheekbones just before the theatre went dark.
For the next hour and half they each split their attention between the performance and frequent quick looks at each other, usually when the observed was focused on the stage. When the lights came on for the intermission Sarge, being in serious need of stretching his long legs, promptly stood for relief. As the volume of the audience chatter quickly increased to a mild roar, Lily stood and tapped on Sarge’s shoulder to get his attention. In order to try to hear her required him bending down and turning his ear towards her mouth. Unable to catch more than the words “chocolate” and “Russian” he waved for her to follow him and headed for the lobby area.
Once beyond the core source of the voices echoing out into the theatre lobby, he promptly turned to face her. “Okay, that takes ‘turning up the volume’ to a whole new level.” Sarge gestured toward the noisy audience now milling in and out of the theatre galleries.
“Definitely.” Lily nodded towards the refreshment tables. “Pick your poison, hot chocolate or Russian tea?”
“Russian tea all the way.” Sarge walked with her to a serving area where a young woman was taking drink and dessert orders. When he pulled out money to pay, Lily lightly laid a hand on his.
“I got this. Okay?” When he shrugged in curious acquiescence, she turned towards the waiting woman. “Hey, Char, great show tonight. Two Russians, please.”
Char grinned as she pulled the tureen lever to start filling a cup. “Coming right up, Lil. Hey, I scored a full C on my Algebra test this week. Yay!”
“Good news. I have no doubt you can pull a B for the semester,” said Lily as she handed the first full cup to Sarge.
“You’re joking, Lil. That’s not going to happen unless you start taking my tests for me. A nice fat C will get me done with that requirement.” Char handed Lily the second cup of Russian tea and pointed to the small plates of tiny cupcakes and cookies to her left. “The Red Velvets are divine. Take a plate.” Lily shook her head. Char picked up one of the dishes and thrust it at her. “Oh go on. A cupcake for you and one for the big dude.” When Lily set down a ten-dollar bill in payment, Char picked it up and shoved it down the front of Lily’s sweater. “Don’t even think about it, Lil.” Making eye contact with the next person in line, Char cut off any argument with a crisp, “Yes, sir, what would you like?”
Lily moved to where Sarge stood inhaling the spice scent of the steaming hot tea. She offered the plate of tiny cupcakes to him. “Help me out here. The word is they’re ‘divine’.”
“So I hear. Thanks.” Sarge took one of the dainty cupcakes and popped it whole into his mouth then took the plate from Lily to free her hand. She quickly followed his example. “So, Lil, what variety of college student are you?
“Variety? Do I detect a certain disdain for those who pursue higher education?”
“Disdain? Not at all. A touch of cynicism, busted. As for variety, well, for starters the standard garden variety upper crust student seldom enjoys Big Bob’s breakfast specials because there’s no lack of breakfast goodies right on campus. Big Bob’s half price pitchers of beer is another story entirely. Local home-grown students have no need to venture to Big Bob’s for breakfast because their mas are ready, willing and able to dish it up for them. Then there’s the–”
“Okay, I see where you’re going with this.” Lily sipped her tea. “I’m, ‘the rent and food is cheaper off campus living on my own,’ variety. As in: for the price of room and board on campus for one semester I can live off campus for nearly a full year.”
Sarge took a large drink of his tea and held it in his mouth savoring the rich flavors then swallowed slowly. “So you’re a woman who wants the most bang for her buck. I get that. Now what specific part of higher education does the bottom line conscious Lily, pursue?”
Lily smiled for a moment. “Not so fast. You now know a solid piece of info about me. I need something solid about you in return before I give up another solid.”
“Sure. What ‘solid’ would you like? Just steer clear of the disappeared beard for now, okay?”
“Yeah, I got the whole ‘evade the beard questions’ thing earlier. Okay.” Lily took a step away from him and looked him over slowly. “What’s with ‘Sarge’ as a name? A nickname? Short version of what?”
He laughed. “Is that all? You really want to know to why I’m called ‘Sarge’?”
“Yep. I do indeed. What’s the story of ‘Sarge’? Better make it quick, because this intermission is almost over and we’re not going back in until you pay what you owe me, Sarge.”
“So simple. You’re way too easy to please, Lily. Okay, Sarge is short for Sargent, which no one calls me except my mother who named me after the painter John Singer Sargent.”
Lily considered this as she drank the rest of her tea. “He’s the one who painted Madame X, right?”
“And a lot of other people.”
“Why? I mean why did she pick that name?”
Sarge shook a finger at her. “Ahh, now that is a solid which requires an entire evening of pizza and beer to deliver.” He nodded towards the people starting to return to their seats.”No time for that right now. Shall we?”
“We shall,” said Lily gently taking the arm he offered as he escorted her back to their seats. “You haven’t said anything about liking the play or not so far.”
“Neither have you.”
“I’ve read it. I know what’s coming.”
“So do I. It’s going to be a blast if they play it right.” He felt her appreciative laughter flow from her fingertips onto his arm.
“Would this pizza have any little fishies swimming in its cheese, by any chance?”
“In the cheese, under the cheese, laid flat-out on in-house roasted red peppers, and in their own bowl on the side. We are talking anchovies here, aren’t we, Lily?”
“Actually I was hoping for herring.” She winked at him and tried not to laugh.
Sarge looked down at her and grinned. “Oh yeah? I’ve never had those on pizza. But they’re great cold out of a jar.”
Breakfast Special, eighth helping: Do You Dig Pink Flamingoes Dancing in the Snow and Blue Lights? —>> https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/breakfast-special-eighth-helping-do-you-dig-pink-flamingoes-dancing-in-the-snow-and-blue-lights/