Breakfast Special, eleventh helping, “Connecting”, #11


True to his word, Sarge didn’t waste any time in the shower. It took him longer to shave the itching stubble from his face with the little pink women’s plastic shaver he found in an open package, than it did to wash the basement dust and dirt off his feet and arms. After a childhood with Nora he cleaned up after himself automatically. While finishing dressing in the bedroom, he listened carefully to Lily’s voice and that of a young man in the other room. By the time he’d finished straightening the quilt he’d heard enough of the conversation to know not to interrupt them when he returned to the room of red velvet and books.

When he walked past the table couch combination, Lily handed him the transistor radio without looking up from the open book the elegantly handsome, ebony skinned man sitting next to her on the couch was reading from a hardback book carefully sounding out words. Sarge remained politely quiet as he searched the shelves for the copy of Ben Jonson’s plays he’d noticed during his first exploration of books. Upon finding it, he took himself into the kitchen where he discovered a pot of coffee on the stove and a short note propped against the salt and pepper shakers telling him to eat whatever he wanted. She’d be busy with Anton until 5:30 pm.

For the moment, Sarge settled for a slice of the rye bread with butter and a cup of coffee. At 4:45 the only news reported was all related to the severe weather conditions wrecking havoc with everything from roads to power lines in several counties. When the weather update ended, he shut off the radio and concluded that it sounded as if he might be stuck in Lily’s apartment for longer than he’d speculated upon before hearing the state things himself. Realizing there was nothing he could do about the ongoing snowstorm he decided to make the best of the situation and simply settled in with a new play to read. Within minutes he was unaware of anything other the world the words on the page were creating in his mind.

Forty minutes later it was only when Lily lightly tapped him on the shoulder that he realized she and Anton had come into the kitchen. “Hey Lily.”

“Sarge this is my good friend, Anton. Anton, this Sarge.”

Immediately Sarge stood up and extended a hand to the man eyeing him intently. “Hello Anton.”

“Hey Sarge.” Anton lightly took hold of Sarge’s hand, nodded, let his hand fall away.

Lily poured coffee into two cups and handed one to Anton where he stood next to the stove. “Please tell Sarge about the weather news you saw earlier on Mr. and Mrs. Ranoli’s television.”

Anton took a long drink of his coffee then launched into a thorough recounting of the content of the emergency weather news broadcast, including his understandings of the weather maps and his own opinions regarding the people crazy enough to try driving on roads even the snowplows were having trouble with due to white-out conditions. When he finished talking, Lily smiled at him. “That was great, Anton.”

“I pronounced everything correctly?” His expression dared her to be less than truthful about his verbal performance.

“Everything.” Lily turned to Sarge. “Did you understand everything Anton said?”

“Absolutely every word,  Anton. Thanks for the news. That was considerably more than I caught on the radio. Have you been outside?”

“Just to walk here from across the street that is presently not a street. It’s a snow mountain. Wind is damn mean out there, man. It’s got a wicked cut like none other.” Anton drank the rest of his coffee and set the empty cup in the sink. “I have got to get back home. Esther and me are doing up fried fish and taters, I mean potatoes, with the Ranolis for supper. Thank you for the coffee, Lily.”

“You’re welcome, Anton. Give Esther a hug from me.”

A brilliant smile light up Anton’s angular face. “Oh I do that for sure, Lily.”

“I’ll walk with you to the front door, if you don’t mind, Anton. I want to get a look at the snow mountain.”  Sarge glanced at Lily as she refilled her cup. It was quite clear to him that via Anton’s speech practice effort she’d made certain they both had the same information regarding the extreme weather conditions.

“Why would I mind? Just come on along, man.” Anton gestured for Sarge to follow him. As they went exited Lily’s rooms, Anton grabbed his coat from a hook on the door and put it on. Once in the hallway he slid his stocking feet into a pair of insulated rubber boots. They walked in silence down the hall while taking each other’s measure in the way common to street fighters and bar brawlers whenever they encounter their kin urban warriors. Without Lily’s presence to run interference each man subtly inventoried the other’s energy vibes, confidence quotient, and potential fight character and filed all the information for future reference.

When they reached the front door, Anton turned to Sarge and spoke quietly using language he wouldn’t use in Lily or Esther’s presence. “Look here, Sarge, this door is one mo’ f’er to get shut right on a nice day. You know if it’s f’d up if the bolts don’t slide in right. You read me?” When Sarge nodded that he understood, Anton continued his instructions. “When I go out, I’m gonna yank this f’n knob harder than usual cause of the wind doing its mean thing. Now you one big f’r so we both know you got some serious f’n weight to throw at it from this side so don’t hold nothing back. Otherwise we both gonna be fighting this mean bitch more than you or me care for. We good?”

“Yeah, we’re good.” Just standing next to the front entrance, Sarge could feel that the temperature outside was at least a good ten degrees colder than it had been when he’d arrived last night.

“Let’s do this.” Anton took hold of the door knob then looked hard at Sarge again. “One more thing, Sarge.”

“I’m listening, Anton.” Curious what was coming next, Sarge met Anton’s direct gaze head on.

“Treat Lily sweet or you, me and the whole damn Watch gonna dance f’n wicked hard. You read me?” The fact that Anton made no effort to make any show of his ability to indeed dance wickedly hard underscored both his firm intention and willingness to do so according to Sarge’s understanding of their mutual common ground concerning masculine dynamics.

Relishing this new experience as probably only he could, no one had ever before warned him to treat any woman right or there’d be consequences, Sarge grinned. “I read you perfectly. Anton, I got nothing but sweet on my mind when it comes to Lily.”

“That’s what I needed to hear, man. Now let’s do this door.” Anton yanked the door open then quickly took hold of the outer doorknob with his free hand while Sarge grabbed the inner knob. As soon as Anton cleared the doorway to the porch outside, Sarge slammed his shoulder against the door forcing it to close with a loud wallop that shook the wall.

When the dead bolts slid into place without trouble, Sarge laughed then stopped when he looked out the door’s small window and saw that Anton had quite correctly called the street a snow mountain. He watched the slim man fight his way through the snow and against the wind streaking over the drifts hiding every car and truck parked on the street currently buried under several feet of snow. Noticing how long it was taking Anton to get to the buildings on the other side, Sarge waited until he finally disappeared from sight behind a bright yellow door  before  turning  to walk slowly back to Lily’s apartment. Taking into consideration the state of things right outside the house’s front door, what he’d heard on the radio and Anton’s review of the televised news, he knew he needed to promptly discuss his possible prolonged presence with Lily.

Stepping back into the warm apartment, Sarge stood looking at the woman at the windows watching the wind drive the snow. Her loose black hair falling like a smooth thick wide ribbon down the length and width of her back drew and held his attention like no other woman’s hair ever had before.  Sensing his presence, Lily turned towards him. “Did Anton get back okay?”

“Yeah. It didn’t look easy though. Hey, Lily, I know this isn’t exactly an ideal situation with the weather being what it is and me being here in your space like this. And considering what I told you last night it might seem like I don’t know how to respect other people’s boundaries. But I am aware of them and if I screw up just let me know right away. I’ll do my best to stay on the correct side of the line. Okay?”

“Okay Sarge. I’ll let you know right away. Just so you know, it wouldn’t have made any difference if you had awoken early this morning.” She gestured towards the view the windows offered of the snow drifts outside. “It was already too bad out there for you to have left then either. This probably doesn’t seem like a lot of space, but there’s enough for both of us to be fairly comfortable with the situation as long as we communicate. So please let me know if I cross any of your lines. Fair enough?”

“Plenty fair enough, Lily. I generally don’t have a problem communicating. It’s usually the opposite that creates problems, in that I say too much or what I shouldn’t.” Sarge gestured towards the wall of books. “You’ve got plenty of books right there to keep me occupied and out of your way. I’d be reading if I was at home. I’ll just do the same here. Unless there’s another problem with the pipes or something else that needs fixing. Just let me know. I don’t mind working on such things at all.”

“Careful or you’ll wind up with a long list of things to fix and no time to read.” Lily smiled then hesitated. “Can we talk about what you told me last night?”

“Yeah. I’m not sure what else to say about it though.” Uncomfortable as the subject was, he made and maintained eye contact while waiting for her to say whatever was on her mind.

“Well, what I want to say is that from my perspective, it’s not you who doesn’t respect boundaries. It’s them. Your parents.”

Unable to refrain from giving voice to what had prompted him to raise the subject of boundaries he sheepishly said, “Except when I throw women into taxis.”

Lily shook her head and moved a few steps towards him without realizing she was doing so. “All things considered, Sarge, the whole throwing me into the taxi thing is not even in the same universe. That was you exercising some serious common sense as best you could at the time, and me just, well, being me.”

Keeping his eyes on her Sarge ran his left hand through his hair a few times as he considered what she’d said. “Just you being you means; what, Lily? You knew how bad it was last night and how far you had to walk to get home. Do I really strike you as the kind of guy who expects a woman he’s asked out on a date to pay for a ride home afterwards?  Or who’d get himself a taxi home and leave her to walk home alone at night especially in weather like that?”

“No. Not really. Certainly not now you don’t, Sarge.” She looked away from him and stared out the windows when she said, “But a lot of guys, most guys, expect something, certain things, in return, especially when it’s not exactly a cheap taxi ride home. Last night, at the time, I wasn’t sure if you were that kind or not. I just didn’t want to be in a position of owing you something.” She forced herself to look him in the face as she finished speaking.

When his hand started to reach for his hair again, Sarge caught himself and resisted the nervous action. Once he had that under control he focused on keeping his voice calm and quiet. “Is that why you invited me in, Lily? Because you felt like you owed me something?”

Surprise instantly appeared on Lily’s face. She shook her head in adamant denial and gestured with her hands as she replied. “No! God, no Sarge. I invited you in because we had a good time at the play, at least I know I did.  After the hauling and throwing, when you didn’t start grabbing or feeling me up, I definitely appreciated it. I realize that probably didn’t come across when I kept at you about the beard. I’m sorry. I was working through being really embarrassed. When you said what you did about the razor and your mother, I felt like a total shit for pushing you to say it there in the taxi. Then I realized you were probably as tired as I was and as hungry. I had a fresh pot of soup waiting. It was awful outside.  You looked absolutely miserable. It just felt wrong to send off you alone like that. So I took a chance and let you in.” She offered a nervous small smile as she attempted to lighten the tone of the exchange saying, “That turned out to be a really good move because, well, now, for one thing, because you’re like Hard Core Plumber Guy the water pipe downstairs isn’t leaking anymore. You have no idea how many times Rosa and I have wrenched that joint seal.”

Sarge laughed. “It definitely is not leaking now. At least it’s not for the time being.”  Appreciating her honesty and willingness to get right to what mattered most he made a conscious effort to do so in kind. “For the record, I certainly have pissed off quite a lot of women in my time. No doubt about it. Actually one could say I have a certain flare for pissing women off.  But I swear to God, Lily, it has never, not once ever, been for grabbing them or demanding sex they didn’t want or expecting any sort of payback for anything. Nor do I make a habit of forcing women into taxis. That was a one time deal. At least I hope it was. Last night it was just too damn cold to stand out there arguing about the cost of a taxi when I knew I had it covered even if it was all way to M- and back. I simply took the most expedient route of action on the spur of the moment. I swear I didn’t mean to strong-arm you just for the hell of it. I’d never do that, Lily.  I just wanted to get you home safe and sound. That’s all. So, have we got that much squared?”

Lily nodded as she pushed her long hair behind her ears. “Yes. I think we do.” Momentarily she considered pointing out the differences between the taxi scenario and that involving his beard then thought the better of it. Moving forward seemed the best way to go. “So, well, Rosa invited us up for dinner. It’s nothing fancy. Just the usual: beans, rice, tamales, and a real killer red sauce. You game for that?”

“I am forever game for a killer red sauce.” His hand momentarily got the better of him and proceeded to smooth his hair away from his face several times before he put a stop to it.

“Okay.” Feeling like she’d just asked him out on their second date, Lily resisted the temptation to needle him about his taste for hot sauce. “Well, I think it’s about time we go upstairs and catch some of whatever is on the table.”

“One thing first.” Sarge looked around the room. “Can I use your phone to make a quick call? I don’t want my friend Kozy getting any crazy ideas about me being lost in a snow drift. He really is crazy enough to go out looking for me, if I don’t let him know I’m okay.”

“Of course you can use the phone. It’s upstairs.” She slipped on a pair of well-worn brown flats and gestured for him to follow suit with his boots.

Lily went out the door with Sarge following her up the stairs to the second floor and into a world of flying tortillas, soft chatter in several languages, and gently flowing small mobs of curious children amusing themselves with whatever was at hand. As he stood in Rosa’s bright orange kitchen waiting for Kozy to answer his phone, Sarge took in the bundles of dried chilis, herbs and flowers hanging from the ceiling in clusters out of the sun’s reach. “Hey Kozy. Yeah, I’m indoors. Everything good at your end? What? No. I am not in a slaughterhouse. No one is killing any pigs here. It’s a little girl laughing. Yeah, I’m sure. I’m looking right at her. Well I was. She’s out of sight now. I think she’s under the table.” Sarge bent his knees and looked under the kitchen table for the little girl who’d answered him in rapid fire Spanish at the door to the basement steps earlier. “Yeah, she’s playing under the table. No, she doesn’t have a pig with her. Quit with the pigs already, Kozy.  I’m pretty damn sure I’d know a pig if I saw one. Okay. No, just the let the tape run out. Wait. You didn’t cut up those really long rebar rods yet, did you? Good. Yeah, I have an idea what to do with them. Yeah, I figured they’d be under a lot of snow by now. All of them probably. I’ll find out. What? I’m not sure. Hold on, I’ll ask her.” Sarge bent down and waved at the girl under the table. “Cuantos anos, nina? She’s six. Yeah, well that’s how many fingers she’s holding up. I’ll see if she’ll come to the phone. Give me a sec. Venga aqui, por favor.” Sarge waited while the girl rolled out from under the table. When she came over to him he handed the phone to her. She listened intently to the voice on the other end then bursting into hysterical laughter she ran off into the next room. Sarge picked the phone up. “Yeah. Stay indoors yourself. Bye, Kozy.”

Sarge hung up the phone and walked into what presently served as a very informal dining room where the lilac colored walls were profusely decorated with children’s drawings on paper and directly on one the wall. He quickly realized that Rosa had an eat-your-food-in-this-room-only rule since no child left the room with any food.  They sat with their plates and cups on rectangles of former carpet samples on the floor in small groups in an orderly fashion along the walls  A round table was full of large platters offering not just tamales, tacos, beans, tortillas, and rice but entrees Sarge had never seen before. A green bowl half filled with a dark red sauce sat in the very center with a little ladle. A heavily muscled middle-aged man gave him a plate, introduced himself as Rosa’s brother, Ricardo and then led him around the table quietly informing him about the unfamiliar foods like the goat stew.  After filling their plates, the two men joined Rosa and Lily sitting on metal folding chairs at a small card table next to the windows. “I see you found the sauce,” said Lily when he set down his plate.

“I certainly have.” Sarge dipped a tortilla into the sauce, tasted it and grinned. “Rosa, Rosa where has your sauce been all my life?”

“You like? Not too hot?” Rosa’s eyes shone with pleasure as Sarge took another bite and shook his head.

“No, it’s not too hot. It’s perfect. It’s got some great kick and a backup touch of sweetness. Muy bien.”

As they ate, the conversation quickly turned to the situation with the pipes. As soon as Sarge and Ricardo had finished eating and cleaned their plates they disappeared to the basement together with several curious children trailing along with them.


Breakfast Special, twelfth helping,  “Equations” —>>


  1. July 19, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Keeps getting better…well done Eva!

  2. slpmartin said,

    July 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    I saved this post until after coffee and errands so I could savor every word…what a wonderful treat to read…excellent IMHO.

    • July 16, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      🙂 So you feel you’ve been “treated”? Why thank you very much, charles. Merci.

  3. Jenell said,

    July 12, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    wow if only

    • July 12, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Why not? Hmm? Somewhere, some time, some people must have or will do such. Hi.

  4. penpusherpen said,

    July 10, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Eva, Eva, Amazing how at home I feel at Lily’s place, with Sarge and Rosa, Ricardo and the kids. I even feel stuffed to the gills with Tortillas. rice and beans and that wonderful tasting hot sauce. You write a mean story my friend, and I shall return to see what happens next. I shall bring a wrench just in case the pipe leaks again! 🙂 xPenx

    • July 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      Don’t forget the duct tape!
      Do make yourself at home whenever you come to Lily’s pad, Lady Pen. Teaser: bread will be baked. And plenty of it!
      Thank you so much for your kind reading eyes.

      • penpusherpen said,

        July 10, 2013 at 3:36 pm

        Strewth, how could I have forgotten, any colour duct tape? I have some black, grey or silver? Many, many uses you know! 😉 xxx

      • July 12, 2013 at 1:56 pm

        Sounds like you need at least some red duct tape for your collection, Lady Penxxx. O yes! Many Many uses for duct tape indeed. It’s the ultimate all purpose binder deluxe.

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