Breakfast Special, #36, Szechuan Shrimp Lo Mein

“Szechuan Shrimp Lo Mein”

“Hey, Sarge.”  Lily leaned against the fridge wondering how to tell him he was welcome to stay without it coming across as if she was expecting a great deal more than either of them was ready for at the moment. She asked herself just what exactly she was really ready for, but before she could reply to herself, Sarge was in the kitchen holding a large round hot pink Tupperware container and grinning like a little kid who’d just found the best prize ever inside a box of cracker jack.

“Guess what this is, Lily.” He repeatedly flipped the container over and over showing his complete confidence in its ability to remain fully sealed while in motion.

Lily looked at his happy-as-all-get-out-hazel eyes and sighed. She grabbed hold of the container to stop its motion and peered at the milky white bowl. “Hmm. Looks like lo mein noodles.” She looked closer. “Is that shrimp I see? Open it! Open it!”  Sarge set the container on the table and obliged her. Lily leaned in close and sniffed. “Oh hot damn, Sarge. Is this Mrs. Ling’s Szechuan shrimp lo mein?!”

“Indeed it is, Lily. Guess what’s for dinner, unless you were planning on poaching some eggs, of course.” He winked at her, stood with his hands behind his back, rocking from one foot to the other clearly excited with having brought this delicious dish home.

Lily shook her head hard enough to send her hair flying. “No. Oh no. Mrs. Ling’s Szechuan shrimp trumps everything including eggs. How did you get this?”

“Unscheduled basement flood emergency complete with blown fuse box. Yeah. It was worth wading around in that damn cold water for this.” He held up the Tupperware lid. “And this too: her coconut cookie recipe.  Is this a major score or what, Lily?”

Lily took the lid from him and read the recipe. “O yeah, you scored big time, Sarge. No one makes better coconut cookies than Mrs. Ling.  I’ve never had any better even in that fancy bakery in M- or anywhere else for that matter.  Wow.”

Sarge sniffed the air. “Is that dinner I smell?”

“Yes, I think dinner is set. You hungry?”

“Starving.  If you’ll warm it up, I’ll get cleaned up. “

“Go! Go! Go! Hurry up! I’m dying for some spicy shrimp.”

Walking backwards towards the bathroom, he said, “You have chopsticks, right? Eating lo mein with forks is just plain wrong in my book.”

“Do you really have to ask?”  Lily laughed as she pulled out a pan for gently warming up the shrimp lo mein.

Five minutes later they were spearing shrimp and twirling noodles and playing with their food on the way to their mouths.  “Is everything Mrs. Ling makes this good?”

Lily nodded. “Everything she’s brought to a potluck has always been good, but this and the coconut cookies are her best as far as my taste buds are concerned. I think she’s got some secret with the shrimp.  Anton has been trying to figure it out, but so far he can’t pin it down. Mrs. Ling likes having her food mysteries, so she’s not saying.”

“When I tried this at that first potluck, I couldn’t get enough. It disappeared really fast too.  Oh hell this is so good.” Sarge ate a shrimp and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, she’s doing something with these little beasties all her own. I wonder what else needs fixing in that building.”

Lily laughed and pointed at the list on the fridge. “It’ll be interesting to see what other top choice meal deals you bring home as you work through those repairs requests.”

“Mmm. I wonder if I could work out some regular meal trades for bread. What do you think?”

Lily stuffed a bunch of lo mein into her mouth and nodded as she chewed. “Worth a try. Everyone seems to like one kind of bread or another.” She speared a shrimp and offered it to him. Sarge promptly accepted it. “Yeah, bread deals for sczechy shrimpies, oh Gloria’s pierogies, maybe some of Harold’s buffalo sausages. Hmm. O yeah, Sarge, there are plenty of primo meal choices around the Flats for trading bread.”

“Mrs. Ranoli’s turkey cherry lasagna.”

“O yeah.” Lily laughed and they both dug into their bowls. She looked over at the list on the fridge again then back at the man enjoying his shrimp lo mien score.

Sarge caught her eye action and leaned back in his chair. He waited to speak until he’d swallowed and had a sip of tea. “What’s on your mind, Lily? Hmm?”

She sucked on the ends of her chopsticks for a moment and looked at the list then back at Sarge.  With a little shrug she said, “There’s a lot of work on that list of yours. More on the main one that you’ve written your name by. That one on the fridge alone must be about thirty hours of full-time work all by itself.”

Sarge looked at the list and nodded. “Yeah, more or less depending on what I find when I actually get into seeing what’s messed up.  A lot of that needs some serious attention as soon as possible. That’s why I took them. If there’s something electrical I can’t handle then Ricardo probably can. Anything like that at least I’ll save him the time and trouble of finding the problems.”

Lily set her chopsticks across the top of her bowl then pushed her hair behind her ears and mentally jumped. “Sounds like a good working plan. But how are you going to do all that and work full-time dock hours too?”

“I have that worked out with Oscar already. Starting from whenever he can open up the docks for freight as usual I’m taking two weeks vacation. That should let me get through the really bad stuff and anything else that decides to blow in that time.” Sarge suddenly realized he hadn’t discussed any of this with Lily. “Um, that is if it’s okay with you that I’m still hanging around here, of course.” He held his breath while watching her intently and bracing for negative impact verbally and/or physically for his oversight.

Lightly tapping her fingertips on the sides of her bowl she nodded. “Yes, it’s okay with me, as long as you still want to be hanging around here. That vacation time plan sounds good. Though it’s not much of a vacation for you, is it? Not exactly a trip to the Caribbean to get away from the snow and cold for a fun time.” Lily watched for any reaction from him regarding the indirect reference to the travel receipt in his coat pocket. He offered none that she could discern via direct observation nor her home people vibes and a certain small tight knot eased in her stomach.

“Oh I beg to differ, Lily. I’m having great fun with the whole shebang.” Unconsciously he lowered his head enough so that he was looking at her through the hair covering his eyes like a sheepdog who thought he’d narrowly escaped permanent banishment from its chosen human’s company forever. “Nasty garbarge disposal tricks aside, of course. But even those have their upsides, like baths and Lily swirlies.”

“Are you really enjoying everything, Sarge?” she said softly while glancing down into her bowl then at him then into the bowl again. “Even pushy Lily swirlies?”

Realizing she was talking about more than the work concerning the repair list, Sarge leaned slightly forward over the table. Wondering if a solid chance with Lily was now coming his way, he said, “Yes, I really am, Lily. I’m having a great time with you here in the Flats.” Seeing her sharp cheekbones suddenly flush brightly, he pushed his hair away from his eyes to keep from reaching out and touching her red streaked cheeks and said softly, “Lily, I don’t want any of it to stop: not the sharing breakfasts; not the dancing with you; not the bread baking; not the crazy repair work or minding Marianna on a tough day.”

Lily nervously twisted her fingers in her hair and smiled. “That’s good, because I’ve been having a great time having you here with me in the Flats. I don’t want any of it to stop either, Sarge.” She glanced at the list on the fridge again. “Since everything is working for both of us, then it doesn’t seem to make any sense to change things that don’t need changing, at least not to me.”

“Not to me either.” Hoping she couldn’t hear how hard his heart was pounding as he waited for her to share the rest of her thoughts, Sarge moved his hands under the table and tightly gripped his knees. “This is your home so it’s entirely your call when I stay or go.”

“You’re very welcome to keep staying here as long as we’re both agreeing with each other.” She shrugged a little and listened to her home people vibes murmuring softly. “Or whatever combination of here and your place makes sense when your vacation is over.”

“Okay, thanks, that sounds good to me.” Feeling awkward in spite of their mutual agreement, Sarge tried to find a way to create a more concrete and literal balance in the scenario.  “My place isn’t nearly as . . .  comfortable . .  as yours.  But it is a lot closer to the college. Maybe it could be useful to you somehow. There’s plenty of room for a study space all your own. Usually it’s pretty damn quiet too, even when Kozy is working on something downstairs. He won’t mind at all if you wolf howl your lungs out. Might rattle some of the guys on the docks, but hey, it would give them something different to talk about.” Sarge thought for a moment, searching for something else to offer her very practical sensibilities, he added, “There’s a bus stop close by for the long route that goes from the west end of Falls direct to M- and back. It’s easy to make a transfer connection to and from the Flats in several places.”

Understanding the balance Sarge was trying to create with the sharing of their individual spaces that he was offering her, Lily hummed with internal excitement while managing to respond calmly with quickly growing real interest. “Your place is near a bus stop for the long West-East route on the south side? That is very handy.” She tried, and uncharacteristically failed, to pin-point the stop location-based on her knowledge of the city bus system.

Encouraged by her tone and the gleam of genuine interest in her black eyes, Sarge did what he’d never dared to do in the five years he’d lived in the freight district on the second floor of Walter  Kozy’s warehouse, he invited another person, this particular woman, directly into what amounted to as his personally sacred for its highly prized privacy, living space. “When the bus routes are back on track, how about we take a ride to the freight district so you can have a look around my place? We could brainstorm some other ideas. Let’s see what works for both of us.”

Feeling suddenly oddly shy and disconcerted about this development regarding sharing his living space, Lily’s voice was hardly above a whisper when she said, “I’d like that. It’ll be like figuring out how to pool our resources with our different locations in the city.”

“Exactly.” Trying to contain his own nervous excitement, Sarge took a deep breath. “We can work things out as we go along. Switch it up until we find out what suits us both.” He waited for her to make eye contact again. “I’m game for keeping things working for both of us, if you are, Lily.”

“I am too. I’m in, Sarge.” She partly hid her smile with her hand for a few moments while quickly considering the doors that had unexpectedly opened between them. “I guess that’s settled then.”

Picking up on the fact that her voice had become quiet and soft and correctly interpreting it as an indicator of her excited yet very nervous state of mind regarding the content of their conversation and its implications for each of them, Sarge tried to put her, and himself, at ease before one or both of them began back pedaling for any number of rational reasons. “If you say it’s settled, Lily, then it is as far as I’m concerned. I meant what I said about it all working for me. Truly it is. If something isn’t working for you, just say the word and I’ll do my best to set it right.”

“Same here, Sarge. Two way street.” She walked the fingers of each hand in opposite directions towards and past each other across the table.

Sarge watched her finger action and laughed. “A two way street, eh? Do we need a stop sign or a traffic light for getting from one side to the other? I doubt either would stop you from jaywalking at will.”

Feigning innocence, Lily pointed at herself. “Me jaywalking? Never. Ah ha. You’re a very funny man, Sarge.” She pointed to the teapot nearer him for a refill of her cup.

“Apparently I have my moments according to your sense of humor.” He grinned while pouring more tea into her cup and then his own and caught sight of Mrs. Ling’s cookie recipe. “Do you think Rosa has any coconut stashed somewhere so we can try out these cookies tonight?”

“Probably. But we don’t need hers, not yet anyway, when we’ve got coconut aplenty right here, Sarge.” She pointed backwards towards the storage cabinets.

Sarge glanced at the cabinet then at the recipe. “What are we waiting for then, Lily? Let’s make some cookies.”

She got up, opened a cabinet, pulled out a large bag of shredded coconut and tossed it to him. “How about some Benny Goodman on the side? That work for you?”

“That definitely works for me, Lily.” He watched her leave the kitchen for the record player in the bookroom. When she was out of his sight, he stood up and spun around on the balls of his feet in a quick silent celebration of their agreement to continue living together and working on their evolving relationship.  Hearing static from the other room signifying the record player was now in action, Sarge froze with the realization that at this point in time he was already far beyond netting his former goal of getting to see Lily for a third or fourth time. He’d passed that goal weeks ago after the snow had first begun falling in earnest. Music came from the bookroom, but Sarge paid it no mind as Lily sauntered back into the kitchen with a preoccupied little smile on her lips. Catching his more than slightly stunned facial expression, she cocked her head to one side and came to a halt in front of him.

“You look like you’ve been hit with a dozen snowballs all at once, Sarge. What’s the matter? Shrimp lo mein, coconut cookies, Benny, and Lily more than you can handle at one time?”

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Sarge looked down at the black eyes shining up at him and gave her a wicked grin. “Careful, Missy, or you’ll find out real fast just how much I can handle all at one time.”

“Ooooo that sounds like a dare.” Lily grabbed the bag of coconut from the table and tossed it at him then followed it up with the empty Tupperware container. She was reaching for the cookie tin when he gently stayed her hand with his. Lily turned towards him and he quickly stole a light brush of a kiss on the lips then shyly backed away like a skittish deer retreating from the bright lights on a road at night. Tempted as she was to hedge him in between the kitchen window, table and sink counter with a chair to stand on in order to soundly return the favor of his affection, she paid heed to the sudden warning turn of her home people vibes and refrained from taking such an approach. Instead she smiled and blew him a kiss. “I like you too, Funny Man.” She winked and began dancing to the music while gathering the ingredients for Mrs. Ling’s cookies. A moment later he joined her efforts.

Lily smiled to herself happy in knowing that she’d read him well enough that, in spite of his verbal daring and spontaneous kiss theft, he clearly couldn’t handle more at the moment. Backing off from physically returning the kiss and letting him return from his retreat on his own was plainly the right plan of action as his quick, unhesitant jump into the cookie making preparations signified. As they moved into sync for baking and dancing, her home people vibes humming along with the music, she felt him edge a little closer physically like a wary stray cat getting comfortable with the notion of proximity to a human setting out clean water and food for it. Treating him as if he were indeed such a cat, she kept to the program with which they were both familiar and comfortable and refrained from making any sudden movements of her own, tempting as that was considering their new mutual agreement to keep doing what was working for both of them, namely living together, and expanding their domain by venturing into his living space on the other side of the city.

As she gradually added coconut to the dough Sarge was steadily mixing with a wooden spoon, Lily reflected on the information he’d shared piecemeal about his home on the second floor of the warehouse in the freight district. The main thing that came to mind was a sense of it being far enough off the city’s well beaten paths to offer privacy and peace, trains aside, yet close enough for easy access with some foresight regarding public transportation schedules. She considered the comparative lack of both privacy and peace here in the Flats and gave him credit for adapting as well he had without complaint to the local environment. Having done more than her fair share of adapting, which seemed never-ending for her, she knew how the stress of it could manifest in unexpected ways. It wouldn’t surprise her at all if that alone was responsible for his starts and stops when it came to physical closeness when they weren’t dancing or sharing a task. She factored in the intense and focused way he read, as if his mental space was his most prized possession, and thought she had a fairly good explanation for his behavior. If they ventured into deeper emotional and physical waters now, and if they had a falling out, his as well as her options for literal private physical escape from the situation in the current context were practically nil. He might sleep in the front room occupied by the back-up generator and Ricardo’s in-home warehouse of food and other supplies deemed necessary for survival in the winter months in this climate, but it was no place for him or anyone else to spend their days waiting for the city to return to enough normalcy to enable a return home. The ready rooms over at “sun rise” didn’t offer any better solution all things people context considered.

Unconsciously they leaned into and against each other while together carefully reading Mrs. Ling’s surprisingly fluent English translation of the instructions for the next steps in the recipe. After placing the cookie dough in the fridge then setting the timer, they gave their full attention to the music and put the waiting time to good use dancing.

Ray Adams

Lily gave herself up to the music Priest had shared with her in an effort to create for her a potential social bridge into another culture. Gran and her aging friends had joined in the music and dance efforts in order to encourage Lily and to get some sense of what Priest was trying to convey to her granddaughter. Now her home people vibes hummed with glee as Sarge, who held nothing back as a dance partner, twirled, whirled and spun her around the apartment as if this was the very best thing in the world to be doing right here and now.

Only after the coconut cookies had been baked and deemed satisfactory for first efforts with a new recipe, after they’d cleaned the kitchen, after they’d danced to the last song on the record and Sarge laid claim to the bathroom for a shower while Lily sprawled over the red velvet couch enjoying the view of the winter sky, only then did either of them take more than a moment to pause in order to reflect on their conversation over Mrs. Ling’s shrimp lo mien.

~~~

Breakfast Special, #1  ->  https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/breakfast-special/

Breakfast Special, #35, “Lily Muses”

“Lily Muses”

Lily stood at the gas stove waiting for the water to boil for tea. Outside the kitchen window the sky was grey but cloud and snow free as it had been for the last two days. Listening to the local radio report that several main transportation routes were now open and nearly a third of the mainline buses were running somewhat regularly through and in Falls, she wondered how long it would be before Sarge took his leave of her and the Flats and returned to his home in the freight district.  Sooner or later there’d be trucks arriving at the freight docks and, as she understood his description of the location, his place on the second floor of a converted warehouse was only a five-minute walk from work. The college was reopening in three days for daytime classes. Her own regular daily schedule would soon resume. Life in Falls was on the verge of returning to its usual urban ebb and flow after several weeks of extreme weather conditions and a number of events involving fatalities as a result. Lily was not looking forward to a return to the usual scheme of things in Falls, the Flats or most especially in her private life. Having never been other than completely candid with herself, she didn’t have any problems figuring out why. The reason was as direct and unpretentious as the man she didn’t want disappearing from her apartment and daily life. When Sarge departed for his home in the freight district, there would be no more dancing at all hours of the day and night; no more off the cuff conversations about books and personal mysteries; no more Funny Man spreading around home people land scents everywhere he went because he liked them; and a host of all the other no mores of things that were currently a direct result of his presence in her personal space; including the fact that there would be no more human heater quietly warming up the space between the down quilt and flannel cotton sheets night after night, a something which made her home people vibes happily hum with contentment.

Being well attuned to her inner self, Lily knew her emotions concerning Sarge had come a long way from unexpectedly enjoying his company at the theatre and hoping he’d feel the same enough to want to meet again.  She’d taken a giant leap forward simply as a result of his behavior regarding the taxi cab and everything up to and including sharing her down quilt. Sarge presuming nothing and making no demands upon her person had gone a long way with her from the start. Living in close quarters for the last few weeks a relationship had developed to a degree between them that Lily knew from past experiences under normal circumstance would have required at least six months of concentrated effort on her part to build. She was also painfully aware of the reasons for the failures of her previous serious relationships, even if they didn’t all quite make sense to her. Personal incompatibilities were one thing, cultural incompatibilities were another and double standard gender behavior expectations yet another; all, with a few unpleasant surprise of other sorts, had quite effectively motivated her to call a halt to engaging in any relationship for nearly two years until she got a firmer handle on the cultural mentalities at play in what for her was a very serious hunt for a suitable life partner. In her own culture she’d have been settled with a mate years ago. With good health and a little luck, she’d have been a mother at least twice by her current age. She’d known this entire field of the life game had changed for her prior to even arriving in Falls. Awareness of the change had been a large factor in agreeing to travel this path into unknown geographical and cultural landscapes. Quite simply, there was no one of a suitable age remaining for a life partner even by sheer default. Her choices had seemed clear enough at the time: remain with her rapidly dwindling cultural group until they all passed on or venture into another world and take her chances making a life for herself with the option of finding someone suitable to share it with.  She’d chosen this adventure after playing with the numbers of probability in her head for several days. Afterwards she’d simply said to Priest and Gran that she thought it would be fun looking for a needle in a haystack, even though she had no idea whatsoever what a haystack really was. But she was well acquainted with several bone and metal needles and thought that finding one ought to be easy enough even in a very messy place with some patience and persistence. Since then she’d learned about real haystacks, a few things about men, and women, in this culture and a great deal about herself while keeping her senses on red alert for what had become a very elusive needle indeed.

*

*

Though she’d not admitted or discussed with Rosa or Esther, her two closest friends, anything regarding her still evolving emotions concerning the man keeping her company in her apartment, and very little regarding her personal views of him, she’d been keeping up a steady discourse with herself and her home people vibes all along. A few times she’d given serious consideration to discussing Sarge with Anton, but she’d decided against that knowing full well just close he was with Esther and that the only way to keep him from sharing something with his wife was to either not tell him the information at all, or to have it be something he considered so negative that he’d not want to share it of his own accord in order to not upset Esther unless it was absolutely necessary to do so. In addition, there was the matter of his current notions of proper masculine behavior that had inadvertently created issues for her with other men while trying to be helpful. Though in hindsight, those issues had probably kept her from wasting more time and effort on the wrong men.

Lily sighed, glanced at the repair request list and poked her home people vibes into stirring.  Gran, I’m way past liking his smile. I’m to the point of knowing I’ll miss not seeing it when he’s not around. For starters, I feel good knowing he’s coming back here after he goes off to fix something for someone in the Flats and that he’ll be here when I come back from doing something of my own. I’m not sure exactly how he’d deal with caribou, but he’s good at keeping the water, heat and electricity running here. That counts for a lot in this crazy place. He gets along with Rosa’s kids, even Marianna. You know what a terror she can be. He likes being around them. I don’t have to explain to you why that’s a big relief. I sure wish I’d asked Priest a lot more questions about guys from where he came from. But, Priest being Priest that might not have been much use where I am now. This one though, I can almost talk with him like I could talk with Priest. He’s curious and smart in ways Priest would understand better than you because of the books. There’s not much point in talking about having fun with him, we both know having fun with these guys doesn’t always mean what we think it does. So far though, he hasn’t tried to push me in a corner because of it. Not once. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions about that yet though. 

There’s something about him though that gets women’s attention. It’s something like the attraction John has as a musician.  With Sarge though, it’s something else. Obviously, because he’s not a musician, at least not as far as I know. But there’s something I can’t put into words yet. No, it’s not like me being attracted to him. If it was, I’d understand it already.  Esther has noticed it too. It makes her watch him with her hard eyes when there’s a potluck and lots of people around. I think she’s waiting for him to do something. Whatever it is, he hasn’t done it yet. I know she’d tell me right off if he had. It’s as if she’s holding her breath. She likes him. I know she does by the way she talks with him. That’s a good sign. Esther doesn’t like everyone. She’ll be very polite to people she doesn’t like and they’ll never know she doesn’t like them unless she says so to their face. I’m sure she’s not doing that with Sarge. I’ve tried to get her to talk about it, but her eyes go hard then and she shakes her head and won’t say what’s on her mind. Rosa just says it’s not what the women do to try to get his attention that’s important, it’s what he’s not doing in return that matters. As long as he’s “not chasing the tails” as she says, there’s not a problem. My best guess at this point is that this has to do with their notions about sex in some way. That might be my ideas and theirs about that little book influencing my thoughts though.

 Rosa and I have gone through the copy she made of it a couple more times. Now I know the handwriting isn’t his. Anton says the book isn’t Sarge’s and I believe him. Anton knows lying would hurt me more than whatever the truth is about why he has that book with all those women’s names and numbers in it. Oh yeah, he and Anton seem to be becoming good friends. That’s a first. I mean they actually spend time together talking about books and ideas even when they’re not working on someone’s house or doing something else with the rest of the Watch guys. We’ve had a couple of good conversations as a group with Esther joining in too. Priest would consider this a good sign, I think.

  I should tell you, Gran, that not too many people manage to get past what Anton calls his “ghost life” in order to feel really comfortable with him.  I think that’s because they can sense he is dangerous if he’s provoked and they don’t want to take a chance on provoking him. Sarge isn’t afraid of Anton. I can see Anton likes that he isn’t. Hmm. Yes, it’s clear to me that Sarge isn’t afraid because he is a dangerous man too. It’s like them each being dangerous cancels out either of them being scared of the other. It’s odd thinking of Sarge as being dangerous though.  He never behaves in ways that bring it to my attention or anyone else’s for that matter. When he’s with the Watch guys he doesn’t act threatening or intimidating like many of the street guys do. He doesn’t seem to have anything to prove in that way. Maybe it’s because he’s already proved it with other men and the others know this somehow? I wonder if they can smell it? Can I smell it? Hmm. Yes, I think I do, Gran. Oh, I understand what you mean. I can be dangerous too. Yes, I can. It’s like this, Gran, Sarge reminds me of a polar bear who knows exactly how big and strong he is and that he won’t ever go hungry because he’s hunted seals so many times he’s got absolute confidence in his ability to get one whenever he wants to eat. I know, I know, men and bears are not the same creatures. Like I said, I sure wish I’d grilled Priest about guys.

    Where does that put things? That’s exactly what I’m wondering.  I don’t want him to go, but I don’t know if he wants to stay.  I mean, I don’t know if he’d want to stay for the same reasons I don’t want him to leave. For all I know for sure, he’s just into fixing things, like Ricardo. He never says no to anyone who asks for his help. Lily stared at the list. You’re right I’ve got to say more than simply drop vague hints in order to find out what he’s thinking.  Let’s take a look at this list of his and see what comes to mind. Feel free to help out.

The water boiled. Lily spooned loose orange blossom tea into the teapot then filled it with the water.  While it steeped she walked over to the fridge and read the list of home repair requests that Sarge had prioritized as his own from the main list over in the Info Hub.  Based on what she’d learned about how he worked on his own, she calculated that there was a good solid week’s worth of work on this list alone with plenty more on the main list. She stood tapping her fingers on the paper and wondering how he intended to do all this work and return to his full-time job at the docks at about the same time.  Is he planning on not doing anything else but working constantly with a few hours sleep thrown in whenever possible between night shifts on the freight docks and day shifts making house repairs in the Flats? Why on earth would he do that? Or, maybe he isn’t planning on leaving as completely as I thought he would? Maybe he plans on sticking around at least long enough to work his way through the list? As if on cue, the apartment door opened and Sarge came through it with a wave and a very happy to find her at home smile greeting before sitting down and removing his boots out of her sight. “Hi, Lily.”

~~~

Breakfast Special #1 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/breakfast-special/

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Breakfast Special #36 ->  https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/breakfast-special-36-szechuan-shrimp-lo-mein/

Breakfast Special, #34, “You Can Do Anything You Want”

“You Can Do Anything You Want”

JJ, aka Joyce Jankowski, dialed the third number on her list as she leaned against the wall in the little “sunrise” call room. While waiting for an answer, she watched the girls and women gathering for a session fo Esther’s course in basic self-defense. On her way into the front room where the girls were rolling out the well-worn floor mats, Esther stopped and looked questioningly at JJ. “Any luck at all?”

“Not yet. I’ll let you know when we have a real contact. Go on with the class. Good sized group in there already.”

Esther glanced at the women in the room across the hall from where JJ was sitting on the floor. “Something to do on a slow snow lockdown night is better than nothin’ probably the why. But I’m not complaining. They’re here. I’ll take advantage of presence. Thanks for working the phone, JJ.”

“No problem, Esther. I live for phone work these days.” She grinned as Esther waved and went to greet the group.  A voice came on the other end of the phone and JJ launched into her script for the phone call. In between a series of stops and starts on hold and off, she listened to Esther talking with the women and girls.

When JJ thought she just might be making some headway with the person on the other end of the phone line, Esther made a quick exit from the front room in response to the appearance of Antonio, one of the Watch making the early evening rounds. JJ watched them disappear together in the direction of the basement stairs. For a moment she thought of switching her position in order to have a clear view of the hallway simply for the sake of having Antonio in her sights for a few seconds. Deciding not to encourage what she’d come to consider absolutely hopeless behavior, she settled in for the long on off hold game. Encouraged just enough to keep holding instead of hanging up, JJ waited with one ear to the phone and the other paying partial attention to random snatches of conversations in the room across the hall.

Hanging her head in resignation while a new voice went through their required spiel, JJ closed her eyes for a few moments. When she opened them a movement in the hall caused her to lean forward enough for a better view. As she was put on hold yet again, she frowned at the sight of an unfamiliar tall man in blue jeans, a grey thermal top and heavy work boots standing in the hall talking to someone in the self-defense class. A greeting from the phone informed her that she was off hold again and JJ gave the live voice her full attention.  When she looked into the hall again the tall young man was nowhere in sight. Knowing that he’d been seen by and spoken with someone in the roomful of women and girls, she relaxed thinking even though he was a complete stranger to her, he was a known entity to someone.

As her phone call finally began bearing fruit for her labors in patience and understanding, a trio of teenage boys came through the yellow door and stood in the hall looking into the self-defense class in the front room. Recognizing Thomas when he pulled off his hat and opened his coat, JJ began waiting for an opening in the conversation where she could return the favor of being put on hold in order to caution the teenagers to adhere to the house rules for proper behavior or to leave the premises. When he disappeared into the front room, she groaned in dismay expecting trouble at any moment. When all remained calm and quiet on the sound waves from the hall and front room, JJ remained on the line hoping for the best from the unpredictable mix of women and teenage street machismo.

A few minutes later she knew she been lulled into a false sense of all-is-well when the thuds and thumping sounds from the other room were loud enough to carry over the phone and cause the person on the other end to ask if JJ was okay and what was going on at her end. Glad for their refusal to hang up in case she needed some help via another phone line that they could provide, JJ yanked the length of the  phone jack cord out of the small box that its lay coiled inside to keep from being tripped over. Standing up with the phone in her hand, she walked across the hall to stand between the two teenage boys watching intently what was going on in the room.

JJ froze at the sight of Thomas being held in a headlock by Julianna who was intently listening to the unfamiliar tall man she’d seen earlier in the hall. Hearing the person on the other line demanding to know if she was alright, JJ raised the phone receiver and whispered. “I’m okay. No, it’s a self-defense class dealing with a guy. Listen for yourself.” JJ held the phone towards the room so that the person on the other end could hear what was going on.

“Go ahead, squeeze like I showed you, Julianna.”

“What’s that gonna do to him?” demanded one of the older women watching intently.

Sarge turned to her and grinned. “It’ll cut off the blood flow to his brain and make him pass out for a short time. As long as she doesn’t apply any hard twists, he’ll be fine when he wakes up.”

Someone in the group said, “Hard twist and turn give him some bad break neck action.”

The teenage boy standing to her left yelled, “Come on, little girl, give it what you got.”

Finding herself oddly fascinated by the atmosphere in the room, her work as a trauma nurse which gave her a certain perspective on the physical grief people doled out to each other on a daily basis , JJ watched Julianna grab hold of her arm hooked under Thomas’ neck and pull it closer together with his neck in the v between her upper and lower arm until she applied the pressure required to render him unconscious. When he fell limp at her feet, she looked up at Sarge. “What do I do now?”

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heartsumind

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“You can do anything you want. But don’t take too long doing it. If you’re going to make a run for it, then run smart to where people can see you. He’s not going to stay down.” Sarge walked over to Thomas’ feet. “One of my favorite moves is taking their shoes. Definitely slows down most guys. Running barefoot on asphalt or cement is not their forte.” He yanked off Thomas’s boots and tossed them towards the women and girls watching closely. “Just throw the suckers somewhere out of his sight and reach. If there’s a street nearby toss them in the traffic lanes. Then, if they’re wearing long socks or tube socks like he is,” Sarge yanked off a sock and tied it around Thomas’ ankles. He yanked off the other one and quickly tied his wrists together, “you can play this game. You’ve got to be fast though. You can’t hesitate or have second thoughts about things. You just go with the flow. Let your imagination run the show.”

“What if he comes around before you’re done?” said a young woman who’d stepped up to get a closer look at the unconscious Thomas.

Sarge pointed at Julianna for her to put a knee into Thomas’ solar plexus then adjusted her position so she was putting all her weight into the correct pressure spot. “You don’t have to be big or heavy to mess up his air this way. It’s all about finding the right places and focusing your attention on them. If he comes to and he can’t breathe right, then he’s going nowhere.” Sarge saw Esther come to stand next to JJ.  He smiled and waved at her. “Hi Esther.”

Esther looked at Thomas on the floor. “What’s going on in here?”

“Self defense,” said everyone in the room at the same time.

Esther pointed at Thomas. “Looks more like assault from where I’m standing.”

Sarge shook his head. “It was not. He volunteered all the way. Right guys?” He looked at the teenage boys in the hall for confirmation.

Amidst a chorus of feminine voices offering verification of Thomas’s willing participation in the demonstration, they nodded and turned to Esther saying with quiet whispers of: “Thomas stepped right up for show and tell. He did it cuz of that little witch.” And, “No harm. No foul. He knew what he was steppin’ into, Mrs. DeWitt.”

JJ spoke into the phone receiver while shrugging at Esther who looked at her in disbelief at the sound of her voice. “You catch it all? Sure, he’s still out. Yeah. Um,..I will…” JJ backed away from Esther and the teenage boys and collided with Antonio who’d been standing behind her. Blushing brightly she regained her balance with his help then slipped back towards the phone room to see what Esther was going to do next. She did not hang up the phone.

“Untie that boy, right now.”

“Can we finish this first, Esther?” said Julianna.

“He looks plenty finished to me.”

Thomas stirred and lay blinking up at Julianna and Sarge who were still standing over him. He smiled at Julianna. “What’s next? I’m game.”

Julianna pointed at Thomas. “You hear that, Esther? Thomas said it himself, he’s game for the next move.” With that she untied his hands, grabbed his middle finger and bent it backwards. Using the finger as leverage, she forced him to turn onto his side so she could twist his arm behind his back and settle her knee between his shoulders. Her audience clapped and cheered when she held up her free hand clenched in a fist.

Seeing the worried look on Esther’s face, Sarge walked over to her and the teenage boys. “It’s all good, Esther.” He looked at Thomas’ two companions in turn. “Right guys? We’re all cool.” He was gratified with the respectful way the teenagers nodded and backed away from him and Esther. “Now I’m going to go find that circuit breaker we salvaged the other day. Any time you want some help with the class, Esther, just let me know. They can practice with me all they need. Won’t hurt me none.”  With a little wave at the women and girls, he walked off down the hall to the basement stairs.

Esther looked at the group excitedly talking amongst themselves. She watched Thomas put his socks and boots back on then exit the room strutting as if he was the biggest, loudest rooster on the block. The trio politely made their way out of the house and to the street without giving her any of their usual back talk. Antonio, carrying the tools she’d helped him find, followed in their wake with an eye to making sure they didn’t do an about-face. Esther turned and saw JJ watching her.

“Who is that, Esther? Where did he come from?” demanded JJ, un-hung up phone still in hand.

Esther glanced at the closed basement door then stepped closer to JJ. “That’s Sarge. He belongs to Lily.”

JJ’s stared at Esther. “Lily? Our Lily?” She looked towards the basement door than back at Esther. “You’re kidding. Since when?”

“Since the big snow hit Friday night. Anton went for his lesson and a visit on Saturday and there he was right smack dab in Lily’s pad.”

“You’re sure he’s like hers hers? She’s actually owning him?”

“Oh he’s hers hers all right. Whether she admits she owns him or not, he’s definitely hers. Whatever else he is, he’s all Lily’s from the bottom of those steel toed construction industry boots to the top of that hair mess on his head.”

“What do you mean by ‘whatever else he is’? Where’d Lily meet him?”

Esther glanced over her shoulder at the class now practicing on each other what they’d learned. She stood next to JJ and whispered. “He’s the guy from the breakfast bar. Remember the one she said asked her out?”

JJ pointed with the phone receiver towards the basement steps. She swallowed hard and shook her cloud of short blonde hair. “What? That’s the guy from the bar?”

“Mmm. I just said so.” Esther elbowed JJ as Sarge came through the basement door and down the hall towards the front door. As he neared them on his way out, Esther nodded at the circuit breaker in his hand. “I see you found what you were looking for.”

“Indeed I did, Esther. I meant what I said about helping out with your class.”

“Esther will give that notion consideration, Sarge.” She made a point of looking him over as he walked past. “They beat back some on a man your size they might not think twice about beating on anyone else. Give you and them a workout. Maybe you get more than you bargain for.”

Sarge laughed. “Don’t worry, I can take a workout from them easy. I better get a move on now. Bye, Esther.”

“Good-bye, Sarge.” Esther looked at JJ who had moved out of sight inside the call room. “What you hiding in there for, JJ?”

“I’m not hiding. I’m on hold, again. Is he gone?”

“Yes. But not forgotten. He got them all wired up.” She shook her head at the laughter and cheering going on in the other room.

JJ looked to the room across the hall. “Maybe that’s what they need. They sure were paying attention for a change.”

“No doubt his fine face and ass got their attention very focused. Not to mention the rest of him.”

JJ frowned. “Didn’t Lily say the guy from the bar had a beard?”

“She did. She also said he was an older guy.”

“She said he had trouble talking and that he was real shy.” JJ looked pointedly at the noisy front room. “He does not have a beard. He is not an old dude. He has no problem talking. He is definitely not shy. What is going on with Lily? It’s not like her to all of a sudden bring a guy home out of nowhere. She didn’t let John or Mark inside her apartment for months.”

“I do not know. Anton does not have a sure clue. Rosa says it’s all this snow messing with her. Rosa probably has something on that count. What Rosa and I do know is that when that man is not out with Anton and the Watch doing repair work, he is right there at Lily’s place. When the work is done he don’t hang out with the guys drinking beer. He don’t smoke no dope either. He don’t roam around looking for some random lady action.  Oh he chat with Anton for a time, but otherwise, when crew work over and done, he makes tracks straight back to Lily’s pad.”

“Is he like living there with her?”

Esther’s opened her eyes wide and nodded. “Exactly like. Rosa told Lily she could send him to sleep in the generator room at night so she have some privacy. So far he is not sleeping in the generator room.”

“Whoa.” JJ backed up against the wall, listened to the on hold music for a moment, then hung up the phone. “She can call back. She’s got this number.” JJ set the phone on its small table between two folding chairs. “Are you telling me that after, what is it, nearly two years of ‘I don’t need no damn man’, Lily has done a one-eighty with this guy?”

“One eighty, double three sixty, whatever, she done broke her cold shoulder for sure.”

“You’re not looking too happy about this, Esther. This should be a good thing. You don’t like him? Why not?”

“Problem is I do like him. Other problem is,” she jerked her thumb towards the still full front room, “they all like him too. You saw him. Don’t tell me the only man you pay any attention to is the one you won’t get next to. Antonio on the same floorboards at the same time or not, that man is not the sort of eye candy any woman with her lady senses in proper working order ignores.”

Despite feeling uncomfortable at the mention of Antonio, JJ nodded her agreement. “By that line of reasoning, then Lily’s lady senses are in proper working order. Maybe this is her breaking the cold shoulder to all guys statement. Why not? Why shouldn’t she have a good time with a hot guy she picked up in a bar, albeit a breakfast bar, but a real bar nonetheless? Hmm? Why shouldn’t she? Guys do it all the time. Find themselves a woman looking for a good time, take her home and have a good time together. Why shouldn’t she?”

“Not saying she shouldn’t. As long as she and the man on the same page respecting that good time.”

“What are you saying now, Esther? What’s wrong with him on that page? He looks like a perfect candidate for that page.”

Esther pinched the bridge of her nose. “Sarge ain’t on that page, JJ. First time I met him at our door and he say he looking for Anton who he met at Lily’s, hell, just the way he say her name tell me right off he got a heartbeat for her. Everything follow confirm that heart action. I’m not talking about some mindless crush like that fool Thomas got for little Julianna. I’m talking, she got him hook, line and sinker and he happy as all get out about it. He don’t give a damn. He just wallowing in it like a pig in shit.”

“Oh. That could get messy. If Lily is just…” JJ glanced at the front room. “That would not be good for her or him.” JJ came away from the wall. “Wait a minute, Esther. This is Lily we’re talking about here. One night stand is not part of her personal vocabulary regarding men.”

“One night isn’t, but one night, night after night sure seems to be a new addition to her dictionary from the looks of things so far. When Anton showed Sarge around here he made a point of directing his attention to the spare bedrooms and making him welcome to one. Very politely Sarge say, thank you very much but he doing fine under Lily’s down quilt. I kid you not. I was setting out boxes up and down the hallway as usual for loading when he said that. I nearly loaded myself into a couple of boxes right then and there. He ain’t sleeping on that red couch. He ain’t sleeping on the floor. And he sure as hell ain’t sleeping in her bathtub unless he part frog. He sleeping in her bed and if he’s sleeping in her bed, he is not sleeping there alone, cause you know damn well Lily is not sleeping on her couch, floor or in her bathtub.”

“What’s Lily saying about him?”

“Not much since we went through his coat pockets looking for clues. All that turned up was a little grey address book. Lot of women’s numbers in it. What else going to be in such a man’s book? It got Lily’s attention.”

“All things John considered, of course it would.”

“Hmm. That’s why I tried to put her off it. Pointed out the fact names and numbers are just names and numbers. None of those women are anywhere in sight here and now. That seemed to do the trick at the time.  Only problem is that since then, she not sharing much intel about him and her.”

“Maybe that’s because it’s working out, whatever it is. At least for now.” JJ gestured towards the windows. “If the snow is making her homesick, having someone else around right there with her for company is probably good for her.”

“You got a point there, JJ. Anton says Sarge is pretty easy-going with the guys. You saw for yourself how he is with the other team. Having him around during this snow lockdown could be a lot like having a big friendly dog come for a visit.”

JJ laughed. “A big sled dog just for Lily. I say we keep our noses out of it unless invited to do otherwise.  But considering we don’t know anything about him, we keep an eye on him. Otherwise, who cares what they’re doing together?  If he gets on her nerves, well, you heard him, he said he could take a workout. He looks solid enough that he could take one or two wallops from Lily without any serious damage.”

“My ears don’t believe this coming direct from Florence Nightingale herself.” Esther stepped back and looked her friend up and down. “You don’t mean that, JJ.”

“Oh yes I do, Esther. Judging from him playing substitute teacher across the hall, I think the man can probably take whatever Lily dishes out and a whole lot more when he crosses one of her lines. The way he was talking in there, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d enjoy it too. That aside, who among us is going to tell Lily to do other than what she’s doing? There’s nobody I know of that wouldn’t get a dish of their own behavior thrown right smack back at them. She’d be totally within the rights of fair play to do that too. I will be there if she needs me. Hell, I’ll even be there for him if she does him some damage that needs medical attention. But as of right now, I am not going to stick my nose in what’s going on with her and . . .and that fine-looking piece of ass, or whatever he is, that has gotten through her front door. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open, but unless I get wind of something definite that makes him big bad news for her, I am not going to mess around with what’s going on in Lily’s pad. I suggest you do the same.”

“JJ, I grant you got the right end of the stick with most of that.  It’s just . . ..” Esther hugged her arms and shrugged. “Oh I don’t know. I guess I don’t like the idea of any dog getting beat with any stick, especially not heart-wise.”

“Heart-wise? You’re concerned for his emotional well-being? Don’t be, Esther. A guy with his looks got the heart-breaker game down pat long ago. If Lily shoots him down, he’ll be right back up and back in the game in no time flat.”

Esther pursed her lips as she watched the women still practicing moves on each other across the hall. “Maybe and maybe not. No one ever quite what their image put out. All you got to do is look in the mirror to know that truth.”

JJ ruffled her hair with both hands and sighed. “Yes, well, nothing’s happened yet, so there’s point in you worrying about what might happen. Knowing you, you’ll worry plenty when something does happen. Though for Lily’s sake, I hope this, . . this, well, whatever she’s doing with Mr. Self Defense, turns out better than her last two close encounters. Even if it goes nowhere, having it end on a positive note would be a good start for future such adventures with man-kind. Okay, I’m going to get back to dialing and whiling away my time.”

Esther turned towards the front room. “I guess I better find out what else Sarge tried to put in their skill set besides tying Thomas up with his own socks. Why he even give them an idea like that?” Shaking herself a little she exchanged a quick light hand hold with JJ before they went to their self assigned tasks.

~~~

Breakfast Special #35, “Lily Muses” https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/12/22/breakfast-special-35-lily-muses/

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Breakfast Special #1 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/breakfast-special/

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Clip from The Long Kiss Goodnight wherein Geena Davis illustrates how to put a pie to use for self defence–or offence as the case may be.  Warning this is funny but violent.

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Women’s self defense using damn near anything.. He’s not slick, he’s not fancy, he’s just a guy,  he gets winded. but he makes a very vaild point–ANY thing can be used for self defence.

DavidCaines100

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More of everything…

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Women’s Self Defense  Soft Targets —

Uploaded on Oct 16, 2011

Brutal street techniques that could save your life, These techniques are for self defense purposes only!

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Funny but motivating

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Please feel free to share your favorite self defense videos–serious, silly, educational et. al.

Breakfast Special, #33, “Ma Bell Intel”

“Ma Bell Intel”

Esther propped her feet up on the little green pillow that served no other purpose than that of being the favorite cushion of her heels. Unlike Anton who stood out of sight as far as the phone cord allowed, when she wanted privacy on the kitchen phone, she seated herself within direct line of sight of the main hallway so that she could immediately see anyone coming in her direction from any of the first floor rooms and the front door. At this time of night about the only foreseeable source of interference with her phone conversation with Rosa would be some member of the Neighborhood Watch coming through the door to report an emergency beyond the night’s crew’s ability to address on their own. Considering the extreme unlikely hood of that happening since Anton was already out with the crew making the rounds, Esther was looking forward to an uninterrupted intel sharing chat with Rosa about the tall man who for all intents and purposes was currently living in their Lily’s home space—and about whom Lily wasn’t sharing much intel at the moment.

A quick glance to make sure their agreed upon time had arrived, Esther dialed the number listed in the white pages under Ricardo’s name, and patiently waited for Rosa’s soft, “Hello.”

“Hey there, Rosa. Oh yeah, nice and quiet here too.  All your little house guests doing okay?  Oh heck yes, Julianna and the other girls did a fine job sorting all those clothes. Tomorrow I’ll give them some needle and thread action on some jeans. Boys too, if any are so inclined. So how are things on the first floor? Hmm? That tall man still behavin’ like a gentleman? Ricardo share any intel? He what? The whole day?  Maybe they both on the same wavelength. Hell yes, you make the most of that child care action. That girl got a whole litter of cat curiosity inside her just waiting to jump on the unsuspecting rest of us. Lily say anything about all that? Ahh ha. Oh yeah, dancin’ in the hallway again? Tonight? Well, that’s one form of sweet touch action, I guess. Nope. All intel Anton share be about that Zinn history book he and Sarge both read some time back and been having some serious hard talk about. Anton says it solid evidence Big Man got a mind can play on the same field with Lily. Her numbers action aside, of course. Yes, you’re right about that, Rosa. Esther hear you loud and clear. . . mmmmm.

When Esther and Rosa hung up their phones twenty minutes later, they each gave some serious thought to what they considered the most important things they’d learned via direct experiences about the males of the species over time. Rosa quietly wandered down to the second floor landing midway to the first floor and listened to the sound of music still coming from Lily’s home space. Sitting down on the step to the second floor landing, she lost track of the music while thinking about her little niece’s behavior with the tall gringo and wondering what to make of it. Ricardo wasn’t just unconcerned, he was downright thankful that there was now an extra mind and pair of hands to help deal with Marianna and her mischief, especially on days like today. Rosa couldn’t fault him on that point. It was clear Marianna needed more one to one attention than she or Ricardo had been able to spare under the current circumstances.  Yet with all the people moving through her world every day, Marianna had zeroed in on the very newest and most unknown adult available.  Lily had told her that aside from reading a book with her and making sure Marianna didn’t con Sarge into preparing more food than her little stomach could possibly hold, no matter what the six-year-old claimed, the girl had indeed spent the majority of the time downstairs constantly interacting with him even after she’d returned from helping Esther with “sun rise” projects. It wasn’t lost upon Rosa that this seemed to please Lily in some sense that she hadn’t divulged to Rosa.

Meanwhile, at exactly the same time, Esther made her way to the dark bay window seat that faced Rosa’s house across the snow buried street. Making herself comfortable, she contemplated the fact that her Anton was actually putting forth efforts to develop more than a causal passing acquaintance with a man from a side of the tracks he generally had no interest in visiting. She’d overheard enough of their conversations to realize they were both enjoying being able discuss ideas and books without having to worry about their manner of doing so in regards to proper language usage or any other intellectual formality. Sarge was not put off by Anton’s lapses into what he  called his ‘street chimes’.  She had even heard him occasionally use some of the lingo himself when in the company of certain groups of the neighborhood men. As for Anton, he’d told her outright that he honestly didn’t mind listening to what he called Sarge’s occasional monologues because it was clear the man wasn’trying to play ego games, but just really needed to get his thoughts out of his brain-space. Plus, he always welcomed Anton’s reactions and thoughts with an openness and lack of bias that was prompting Anton to share a great deal more of his own thinking than he generally did with anyone besides Esther and a few other people. Her husband felt like they’d created a certain sort of safe space for speaking their minds without any control or dominance issues—and that was feeling good to Anton especially under the circumstances created by the current weather lockdown.

At about the same moment in time, both women thought along the same lines of: forget whatever Karen’s cat might have dragged into Rosa’s house in the Flats, the important thing now was, what kind of man had their Lily hauled directly into her home and life with no apparent intention of sending him any further on his way.

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Music Notes: Snoozer Quinn, Snoozer’s Telephone Blues

upload by lupine22

The legendary guitarist Ed ‘Snoozer’ Quinn (1907-1949) performing ‘Snoozer’s Telephone Blues.’ Recorded by his friend, the cornetist Johnny Wiggs, at the Charity Hospital, New Orleans, in 1948.

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Breakfast Special, #34  https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/breakfast-special-34-you-can-do-anything-you-want/

Breakfast Special #1 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/breakfast-special/

Breakfast Special, #32, “Hidden Talents”

Hidden Talents

Ricardo knew it was one of those days when having a television might be useful if it could possibly attract and hold Marianna’s attention just long enough for him to deal with her latest mess while she was busy creating the next. He was unhappily aware that he was currently at least three mess steps behind his daughter. There was no help coming from her older brother, Jose, who just shook his head refusing his father’s request for at least an attempt on his part to engage her in some sort of game playing. Even the usually resourceful and patient Julianna gave him a definite no way glare when he tried to enlist her aid. Rosa was currently tolerating Marianna’s decidedly less than helpful presence in the kitchen while Ricardo cleaned her toothpaste drawings off the cold windows in the front room. He was painfully aware of the fact that the electric hand drill that he’d been fixing remained in pieces on the newspaper covered card table by the window at the other end of the second floor. It was the reason Rosa had drawn Marianna into her cooking domain at first sight of her standing on the empty folding chair taking a very intrigued look at the pieces of metal, plastic and the little screws and tools  laid out so enticingly, apparently just for her entertainment. So it was clear Marianna thought judging from the delight on her pretty little face at the time that Rosa caught sight of her.

It was with no small relief, and no lack of surprise, to Ricardo when he went to relieve Rosa of Marianna and found Sarge in the kitchen, having deposited four loaves of cinnamon bread on the counter, currently conducting a calm conversation with his daughter regarding the pros and cons of adding dish-washing liquid to the large pan of refried beans on the stove while gently, yet effectively, removing the plastic bottle from her two-handed grasp. Meanwhile, Rosa, making tortillas at the table, was watching Sarge contend with her niece’s latest unwelcome creative effort. Catching sight of her brother, Rosa shrugged and pointed with a tortilla at the ongoing exchange between the man and child. Nearly at the end of his own considerable patience, Ricardo was stunned into grateful silence when Sarge turned to Rosa and himself and said, “Is it okay if she comes downstairs to help me make some cookies? Lily is busy working on ‘sunrise’ projects with Esther and I wouldn’t mind some company.”

Thinking even a five-minute reprieve from Marianna would do his nerves a world of good, Ricardo vigorously nodded his assent. Rosa smirked and laughed darkly. “You want her help. You got it, Sarge. Deal best way you can.”

Sarge smiled and plucked Marianna off the folding chair she was standing on peering into the pot of beans. Setting her on her feet, he looked down at her while she stared up at him. “Are you up for mixing some cookie dough or not? If you are, then let’s make tracks, little Missy.” Without waiting for Marianna’s reply, Sarge walked away and proceeded directly out of the second floor home.  Marianna looked at Rosa and then at her father before turning on her toes  and running off to follow Sarge down the stairs to Lily’s apartment.

Only after mixing and baking several batches of oatmeal, sugar and snicker-doodle cookies; noisily slurping down two cups of chicken soup for a snack; taking a spontaneous brief nap on the velvet couch; getting a peek inside Lily’s little transistor radio; having some milk and warm straight out of the oven cookies; completing a thorough practical investigation of the workings of Sarge’s boot-lacings; making from memory a very detailed pencil drawing of Karen’s still MIA cat on the inside of an empty paper flour bag: listening intently to two readings of The Stinky Cheese Man, and her very first lessons learning a simple waltz box step did Marianna reappear on the second floor.  After reluctantly following Lily up the stairs, with Sarge bringing up the rear to insure her compliance with upward motion, she demurely followed Ricardo around the table of dinner foods as he filled a plate for her. While still not quite her usual pleasantly friendly self with the other children, she did join their ranks on her own rust colored carpet sample to eat her dinner. After dinner she laid siege to a corner of the lilac wall with a pencil and a few crayons.

About an hour later, Marianna tossed her crayons and pencil into their designated boxes. She stood watching the various activities of the rest of the children for a few minutes then turned around and made tracks to where the adults were talking quietly and sipping small cups of strong coffee at the little card table. She patted her father’s hand until Ricardo slipped an arm around her for a hug and she deposited a quick peck on his check. Then she surprised everyone, especially Sarge, by silently demanding to sit in his lap under pretense of needing to yet again investigate the contents of his shirt pockets. Finding nothing of interest in either pocket, she simply sprawled out across his chest and promptly fell asleep.

As this was something none of his nephews or nieces had ever done with him, Sarge sat stock still at a complete loss regarding this novel experience. Looking at Ricardo for help, he found the older man trying not to laugh as he whispered, “Go with the flow, hombre. Don’t wake her. Por favor, whatever you do, do not wake her up.”

Seeing that Rosa and Lily were in agreement with Ricardo, Sarge slid a little further down on his chair in order to decrease the angle of his chest being used as a bed and to keep Marianna’s slight form from slipping off of him. There she stayed for nearly ten minutes until Ricardo was satisfied that she was indeed sleeping soundly enough that Sarge could get up without waking her and carry her to the small room she shared with Julianna. After Sarge carefully laid her down on the twin bed, he stood aside watching Ricardo remove her soft soled indoors shoes and socks, cover her first with a cotton thermal blanket then a thicker comforter.

Upon returning to the card table with a very relieved Ricardo, Sarge caught Lily looking at him in a manner he had no way to interpret since no woman had ever looked at him in such a way before. Nor could he recall seeing his mother or his sisters-in-laws ever sending such a look towards his father or brothers. Unsure of how to even question her about it, he simply sent her a silent ‘what’ look of his own, in case he’d done a boundary crossing without any clue of there even being a boundary to cross. He relaxed when she responded with a slight shake of her head and one of her winking  eye smiles. Taking this as an indication that he’d not committed some indiscretion that she’d inform him about later, he settled back into his prior conversation with Rosa about spices.

Later that night when they stood together at her apartment windows watching the moonlight flickering among the falling snowflakes, needing some reassurance, Sarge could not help but ask Lily if he’d done something out-of-order by letting little Marianna basically do as she pleased when she’d decided to use him as her mattress. Lily responded with a soft laugh. “No, you didn’t do anything wrong, Funny Man. You did just right. Marianna can be hard to handle on such days. You helped Ricardo and Rosa out a lot by giving her the kind of attention she needed today.”

Reading the compliment via her tone and words, Sarge barely managed a very quiet reply. “Any time. She’s a lot more fun than any of my brothers’ kids. She’s way smarter too.  That’s probably why she acts up like she does.”

“Probably.” Lily watched the snowflakes piling on top of one another. “Hey, are you up for a little soft shoe or some swing before we both hit the books again?”

“Definitely. It’s your turn to pick the music.” Sarge watched her reflection in the windows as she went to the record player on the table along the red velvet couch.

Lily picked a record from the cardboard box, put it on the player then held up the album cover and caught his reflection watching hers. Grinning, she waved her fingers.  “You ready for some Stomp time, Funny Man?”

“Absolutely, Lily.”

Unexpected Dance from Fanfan, Alexandre Jardin, 1993

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Breakfast Special #1 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/breakfast-special/

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Breakfast Special #33 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/breakfast-special-33-ma-bell-intel/

Breakfast Special, #31, “Mrs. Ling’s Office Supply Salvage Service at Your Disposal”

“Mrs. Ling’s Office Supply Salvage Service at Your Disposal”

*

*

DeeDee Ling was having another bonanza night regarding the treasures she was finding in nearly each and every office desk trash can on her floor this cleaning shift. This was her third red-letter trash find work shift this week. Usually the pickings were this good just maybe twice a month when payday rolled around for half the office workers. The neon green plastic recycle bag on her cart was overflowing with an abundance of reuseable office supplies running the gamut from several sheets of expensive high quality photography paper to a quarter full box of mini staples to the opened but full box of letter sized envelopes discarded, according to the writing on the box, since it could not be returned for a box of the desired envelopes because it was now a discontinued item.

DeeDee figured this was the universe’s way of repaying her for doing Rosa a good turn by letting her use the office machine she’d salvaged from the trash in order to make copies of the pages of a little grey book. Her own little home office supply shelves had been in serious need of replenishing on the day Rosa had come round asking about what her machine could do. Every work shift since Rosa’s visit had bought all sorts of excellent goodies DeeDee’s way. Her home office shelves were not only fully restocked with items salvaged from the office building’s trash bins, but there was overflow as well, an heretofore unknown state of affairs in her little workroom.

To insure more of this good fortune, DeeDee was giving serious consideration to the notion that it might be a good idea to inform Rosa that she was quite willing to provide any typing or other office service, including the use of the very versatile machine, for Rosa at no charge whenever she had need of it.  Finding not one, but two nearly full postage stamp dispensers, in the trash cans of two different offices, clinched the free deals for Rosa idea. Discovering unused stamps in the trash was as good as finding money straight up in DeeDee Ling’s mind. Two nearly full rolls inside two dispensers, one whose plastic casing had cracked in such a manner that prevented easy dispensing and removal of the roll, and the other one perfectly sound, giving DeeDee reason to think that it might simply have been the causality of some mindless autopilot desk cleaning, sealed the deal for her decision to provide Rosa with unlimited services and supplies. After all, there were nearly two hundred dollars in postage stamps sitting snug and neatly rolled inside a couple of cheap plastic holders. If this treasure find wasn’t a direct result of kindly sharing salvaged resources with neighborhood friends, then DeeDee Ling didn’t know what was.

*

*

Little did DeeDee know that this line of reasoning was not only going to bring her considerably more good fortune in diverse and unexpected forms, but would also provide her with a great deal of personal entertainment and vindication while doing Rosa a favor. She would have the means to create what she deemed an appropriate vehichle for exacting more than a tad of personal revenge for a certain sort of rampant bigotry expressed via questionable humor running amok amongst the people who occupied the offices from nine to five pm daily Monday through Friday. While it was clear to Mrs. Ling that not everyone on the fifth floor found the crass stereotypical Asian cartoons and jokes amusing, she deduced from the prominent display for sharing and commentary in many offices that the majority of the employees were indeed heartily amused at the expense of her own cultural heritage. Her offended sensibilities would soon prompt her to quite willingly join Rosa in a little spontaneous brainstorming session involving more than the trash can resources at her fingertips five nights a week: copy machines, bulk postage mail codes, access to the outgoing mail depository, typewriters, and a few other handy office gadgets that were no worse for the wear after a little night shift break time employment.

In return, one of the boys in Rosa’s care drew a cartoon in line with DeeDee’s thinking regarding the base nature of bigots everywhere. DeeDee supplied the cutting satiric caption herself after receiving Miguel’s more than adequate artistic interpretation of her desired images.  Another sort of payload arrived on the day the fusebox in her building blew thereby alerting everyone to the presence of over a foot of icy cold water in the basement. Not only had the very tall white man Rosa sent to deal with the blown fusebox fixed that longstanding problem, but he’d put the leaking water pipes to rights and then managed to get the water draining out of the basement using several garden hoses Mr. Ling borrowed from the neighbors. All he requested in return for his time and labor was the recipe for her favorite cookie. Mrs. Ling made him a copy in under ten seconds then taped it to the Tupperware container stuffed full of her very own special Szechuan Shrimp Lo Mein which he accepted with a surprised smile and a rather becoming streak of blush on his cheeks. Mrs. Ling did not waste any time debating about sharing the information that the services of a new gringo handyman in the neighborhood could be had for a very modest trade fee of shrimp and a recipe song.

TheDinerMusicLibrary

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Breakfast Special #32 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/breakfast-special-32-hidden-talents-2/

Breakfast Special, #30, “Good Wifey Drops A Dot”

“Good Wifey Drops a Dot”

Dylan moved from room to room on the second floor taking an inventory of his grandchildren while they played after having their dinner before the adults sat down for their evening meal. If Nora had asked him what was on his mind, he’d have simply shrugged and taken himself downstairs without a word. He knew it didn’t make any sense, but it felt like, if he kept at it, he’d find Sarge among them, glaring up at him. Nor did he need a head doctor to tell him that his present desire to have his family all gathered under one roof was a direct result of his ongoing inability to find his eldest son and that his compulsion to literally keep the others close at hand reflected a deep fear of losing track of them as well. Hearing the stove timer ring signaling readiness for dinner he went downstairs.

As he took his seat he noticed that Nora was passing the serving platters even though Denise, Patrick’s wife, was not in her place. Catching Nora’s eye. he shrugged his question about her tolerating this break in her way of conducting dinner service. Nora nodded towards the kitchen. Denise was on the phone nodding along as she listened. Hoping she was getting a lead on Sarge, Dylan accepted the breach of meal protocol which usually demanded that everyone be seated before anything being served.  Finally Denise took her place.

“Sorry about that, Nora. But I just couldn’t get Suzy to let me off the phone or get a word in edgeways to tell her I’d call her back after dinner. She just wouldn’t stop talking once she got started.”

“Don’t worry about it, Denise.  It would have been rude to just hang up on her especially when she’s keeping an eye out for Sargent at St. Syms,” said Nora with a reassuring little smile.

“That’s how I figured it too. “

Unable to restrain himself any longer, Dylan spoke rougher than he intended. “So did she have any news worth sharing?”

Denise slumped a little in her chair. “Just that she did check with her friend at the temporary morgue set up at the high school.  That’s where they’ve been taking the bodies of the people being dug out of their homes and such. As she put it, there was no man there tall enough to be Sarge.”

“Oh that’s a relief,” said Nora as she chose a roll for herself and glanced at her husband.

“Is that all? What she did keep you on the phone for long then?” demanded Dylan.

Denise decided to bite the bullet and be done with it. “I made the mistake of getting her started talking about the National Guard being there at the hospital. Before I knew it, she got going good and strong about how things got even crazier than they already were the other day when some woman got into a fight with the Guards at the hospital.”

“Oh yeah?” Not ready to let Denise off the hook just yet, Dylan kept her from even looking at the food on the table by keeping her attention focused on himself. “So what was that about?”

An uncomfortable look settled on Denise’s face. “Are you sure you want to hear about that, Dyl? It’s a long story that has nothing to do with finding Sarge.”

Dylan nodded, partly out of boredom and partly to put Denise through another hoop as payback for not finding a polite way off the phone and calling Suzy back after dinner. “Why not? Dinner just started. Sounds like some off the cuff entertainment for the rest of us. So come on, what kept your ear glued to that phone for the past hour? Hmm? Share and share alike, Denise.”

Denise looked worriedly at Patrick who nodded for her to comply with Dylan no matter what the content of the story. He’d step up and run interference for her if his father didn’t like hearing what she had to say.  She toyed with her fork for a few seconds.  “Well, you asked for it. Just say when you’ve heard enough and I’ll stop talking.”

Dylan smiled and shook his head. “You haven’t started yet.” He passed the butter to Irene.

Denise pushed down her own discomfort regarding having to relate Suzy’s story which had taken up the bulk of the time she had spent on the phone with her. “Like I said earlier, a few days ago this woman came into St.Syms to pick up a ton of drugs for people from the Flats. Suzy said the nurses knew all about her coming for all this medication ahead of time because the doctors had been getting all sorts of calls from people who wouldn’t get their medication unless she came and got it for them.  Last thing anyone needed after that nursing home disaster was another bunch of diabetic shock emergencies or worse, so the doctors agreed to give the meds to this woman as long as she had written authority from all the people the prescriptions were for. That way they’d have a record of what went out the door with her. Anyway, she comes in and loads up some backpack with all this stuff. Suzy and another nurse check all the names and papers. Everything matches up. But when the woman tries to leave the hospital and go back to the Flats then the Guards say they can’t let her go there because there’s no road for them to drive her back.

That’s when things got crazy. This woman starts in on them being a bunch of idiots since she knew damn well-,” Denise looked around at everyone else at the table eating their food and listening to her talk.  “I’m toning this way down from what Suzy said. Anyway. She knew damn well that they’d watched her come down that damn hill to St. Syms wearing snowshoes and that’s how she was going back up that damn hill. She didn’t want any goddamn truck ride from them. She wouldn’t take it even if there was an open road.

Well, these three Guards weren’t going to take that kind of attitude from her and pretty soon they were all swearing up a storm and getting in each other’s faces.  The shit really hit the fan when one of the Guards called her a fucking squaw. Excuse me. But there’s just no way around that one. When that Guard said that, Suzy said the whole place went quiet for about a full minute. She could hear the clock on the wall at the triage desk ticking. Now the lobby and waiting room were full of people waiting to be seen. All sorts of folks were in there watching this woman go at it with these three armed Guards. Suzy said, after it all went quiet then suddenly everyone in there blew up at the Guards. She said there were old folks, some black guys, a bunch of white women with kids, even a couple of biker guys. They all tore into the Guards like there was no tomorrow until they had the Guards backed up to the entrance doors. Suzy said it was like a standoff for a time. Then one of the orderlies, some older big black guy, got between the people and the guards and yelled, ‘Lily goes where Lily wants to go. Either you let her out that door or you will have to deal with me and everyone else here. What are you going to do? Shoot us all? Well, then you better get to shootin’, assholes, because I’m going to open that door for Lily if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

About this time some priest from St. Teresa’s shows up and gets into the mix. He manages to get everyone calmed down somehow. Which Suzy says is no small feat because this Father Timothy can barely talk straight himself. All of a sudden the priest just walks out the door with this Lily and the Guards don’t try to stop either one of them. Suzy had a whole lot more to say about it. That’s what I’ve been listening to from her for the past hour.”

Patrick stared at his wife, shot a glance at Benj then asked, “Did Suzy say anything about what this Lily looked like?”

Denise shrugged. “All Suzy said was that she had snowshoes that looked really old. They weren’t like the ones the sports guys use. They were made out of some kind of wood. Oh, and she was wearing a Hudson Bay Blanket coat.”

Benj sat back in his chair and looked at his brother Patrick who looked back at him. Together they turned to look at Dylan. “You want to tell him or should I, Patrick?”

Dylan frowned. “Tell me what?”

“You can do the honors, Benj. I just put two and two together and I am not liking what I’m thinking.” He caught Denise’s eye and nodded to indicate his approval for her forbearance in dealing with his father.

“Alright already. Tell me what?” Dylan set down his fork and knife and leaned back in his chair with his hands resting on the table.

“Well, you know when we said Stan handed us a load of crap the other morning. I’m beginning to think maybe it wasn’t all bullshit after hearing this Suzy story. He did say that Sarge and a Lily who wears a Hudson Bay coat were both chowing down at the same time at Bob’s about a week before the snow hit. Now Stan made no claim for Sarge actually being hooked up with this crazy broad. What he did say was that Sarge hot footed it out of Bob’s right after she left and in her general direction. That’s all he had on Sarge and her. But you would not believe what he told us about this Lily. Patrick and I weren’t buying a word of it. But now I’m thinking that if this broad is crazy enough to get into it with three National Guards carrying guns, maybe she is crazy enough to get into it with Father Richard about Father John and some other priests. I’m thinking maybe Stan told us some truth while making it sound like shit.”

Staring at some invisible point on the table, Dylan slowly nodded. “Funny thing about all this is that I thought Sarge was handing Nora and me a load of bullshit too when he used this Lily character to get out of here the day after Nora’s birthday dinner. Maybe if we run this Lily down, maybe, just maybe she knows something about Sarge. Or maybe not. She does not sound like a dish he would eat. But it might be worth taking a serious shot at her. Just in case. What else did Stan say about her?”

Patrick laughed. “Said she eats like a pig”

Benj shook his head. “No. He said she eats like a starving pig.”

Patrick, “There’s a difference between how a pig and a starving pig eat?”

“Yeah, there is, jackass, the starving pig is way more hungry than a pig that ain’t starving. If it’s starving enough it gets crazy and eats anything and everything it can, even its piglets.”

“I stand corrected then.”

“Keeping all this in perspective, Stan did say that Sarge was checking this Lily out. And, she was checking him out. So maybe there is a whole lot Stan don’t know about after they both left Bob’s.

Dylan rubbed his forehead. “Could be. You mentioned Father Richard. What’s that all about? Maybe he can give us a lead on this Lily—if, as you say, Stan was telling some truth.”

Patrick looked at Nora then at Dylan. “You sure you want to hear this?”

“Would I ask if I didn’t, Patrick?”

“No. But, I’m pretty sure you’re not going to like it.”

“You don’t want to get in deep shit for telling me what I don’t like. I get it. Okay. Fair enough. With everyone here as my witness, I swear not to dump on the bearer of bad news—whatever it may be. Okay?”

Nora, “Dyl, I’m going to make you keep to what you just said. If you don’t, you’re going to be sleeping alone for a month. Are we clear?”

“Perfectly, Nora. Okay let it rip already.”

**

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Breakfast Special #31  https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/breakfast-special-31-mrs-lings-office-supply-salvage-service-at-your-disposal/

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videos:

Ziyi Zhang – train station fight from The Grandmasters   upload by  bgblindninja

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Eric Burdon – The Animals – “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” upload by TangerineSequel

Breakfast Special, #29, “Treats and Tricks”

“Treats and Tricks”

Esther poured the hot golden tea into their cups. The older children in the next room were occupied with the large books containing high gloss photos of wild animals that Lily had brought upstairs with her. The younger children were down for a nap in the darkened front room area. Rosa sniffed the applesauce spice bread she had sliced up, tasted a piece and  nodded. “Muy bueno. This batch best one yet.”

“Esther, did you get it?”

“Oh I got it alright. I’m becoming a regular pick pocket queen. It’s almost too damn easy lifting things from that man’s coat even when he’s in it. Maybe it’s a sign he got nothing to hide. Or he don’t care who find what. I don’t know which yet.” Esther glanced warily at the children nearby then quickly handed the little grey book to Rosa. “I don’t get why Anton won’t say anything about it except that it’s not Sarge’s. If it’s not Big Man’s book then what’s the problem, so I’m thinking.” Esther dipped her slice of bread into her tea and ate while she and Lily watched Rosa explore the book’s contents.

After a few minutes of intense study, Rosa waved the little book at Esther and Lily. “This a pimp book. That what this is.” Setting it down on the table she took another bite of bread.

“How you know that for sure, huh, Rosa? What in there tell you that?” Esther looked at Lily who was frowning as she looked at the book over her cup of tea.

Rosa opened the book with the fingers of one hand while keeping it flat on the little table. “See the marks for the names. Like code. One mark for cost. One mark for what do. One mark for something else. I don’t remember todo. But I see this kind book before Juan die. Juan amigo steal from pimp. Make him pay mucho dinero get back. Risky business Juan say when pimp book got legs. You know what I mean. When it open for others see how he work his women.” Rosa shook her head in frustration with speaking only English.

*

*

“I read what you’re getting’ at, Rosa. I read loud and clear. Pimp man got all his prime real estate in his book. That intel he don’t want shared with anyone.”

“Anton told you to tell me this is not Sarge’s book. Okay. Why does he have it at all then?” Lily looked at Rosa. “I think maybe Juan’s friend was blackmailing the pimp he stole the book from. Maybe selling it back to him a little at a time?”

“Si. Yes. That’s the word, Lily. Black mail. Very risky.”

“Dangerous way to raise the rent.  Those folks are not people anyone want to piss off unless you willing to take a lot of major heat.” Esther sipped her tea. “Now I know why Anton don’t want to talk about what he figure after he see book with his own eyes. Pimp work is some evil nasty shit. He know I ain’t gonna like hearing that tune.”

Lily rubbed the edge of her cup against her chin. “What is Sarge doing with a pimp book?” She looked at Rosa then at Esther. “Sarge seem like a pimp to either of you? I’ve never met a pimp. I don’t know how you would know if a man is one or not.”

“Pimp a sly nasty piece of man work, Lily. Some got plenty of sweet talk to get a woman in their nest. Some just use their fists to make women mind. Some use drugs to keep a woman on their line. They all about control. Mind, body, soul. They eat it all. Keep a woman in a box tight. Women good for just one thing—sex. That’s how they raise their rent and the rest. Now your Sarge like that? I don’t think so, ladyfriend. Do you? He been actin’ different when we all out of sight? He been a mean boy? Hmm? He sweet talk you into doin’ what you got no interest in doin? That bread he been baking got something extra in it we don’t know about?  If so, then you better kick his ass to the curb right fast.”

Lily looked from Esther to Rosa then shook her head sending her loose hair waving down her back like a fish tail. “Nope. I have no reason to kick Sarge’s ass to the curb, fast or slow based on that intel. What else can you lay on the table?”

“Esther got it all. Si. Maybe Sarge do risky business. Maybe that why he got pimp book. He play hard ball game. But I kick my ass, if Sarge be a pimp. That take a special kind of man. He not that kind. He a funny man, sometimes little loco, but that not the same. No way, Rosa say. He don’t got that look in his eyes.”

Lily picked up the book and flipped through the pages. “Sarge said he throws freight for a living. I know that pays well because some guys from school do it part-time whenever they can for extra cash.  So I don’t think Sarge needs to blackmail some pimp for money.”

Esther leaned forward and put her elbows on the table as she drank her tea. “Why Sarge throw freight when he got all these mad serious skills with electricity, plumbing and such, that he been putting to work since he been hanging in your space? All that pay a hell of a lot more than even throwing freight.” She exchanged looks with Rosa as they both waited for an answer from the woman whose black eyes were slowly narrowing to thin slits as she stared into the open space of the rooms beyond.

“Sarge throws freight because he can make money working and stay out of his father’s reach. Rosa, where’s that big fat white pages phone book?”

“Wait. I think I know where Ricardo put it.”

“What you want more addresses for, Lily? Ain’t we got enough of them right there?”

Lily tapped her fingers on a page. “These are the names of women who work for the pimp, right?”

“Yeah, and?”

“Well, where is the address for the pimp? Where does he live? Doesn’t a pimp need a phone to do this business like any other business?”

“I see where you at. But, there’s no pimp name in that book that I can tell. We don’t know who the pimp be. Now, Sarge knows the pimp’s name. Got to, I think. You want that name for sure. You ask Sarge. He tell you if he dare.”

Lily took the white pages from Rosa then leaned back in her chair to put the phone book on her lap while starting to look through it. “I think he already has, Esther.”

“Oh yeah? Why do you say that?”

Lily looked up from the phone book. “What kind of man beats his son for telling the truth? Would that kind of man be the right kind to be a pimp?”

Rosa and Esther looked at Lily and stared. “Could be. Could be not. Depends on what that truth be.  But that could be a place to start looking.”

“Lily, be careful. Family be tricky business like Ricardo say.”

“That’s a funny thing to say, Rosa.”

“What is? I not laughing. Esther not laughing. How that funny, Lily?”

“I think it’s funny because prostitutes turn tricks for a living. You used the word tricky with family and business. Now my mind finds that ‘funny’. Not like, ha, ha funny. To me it’s more like, now that’s an interesting combination of English words because it makes me think all sorts of things.  I am freely associating random ideas in order to make connections I might not see any other way.”

Esther laughed. “Damn Lily. You got way too much goin’ on in your head when you talk like that.  But I think I read.”

“The universe operates in strange and wonderful ways, Esther. Let your mind play and you never know what you might see.” Lily found the page she wanted in the phone book, put her hand on it then looked from Esther to Rosa and smiled. “That’s one reason why I gave Sarge just a little chance when he followed me from Big Bob’s to ask for a date.  I saw the book he was reading while we were inside at the counter. Priest and I read it for fun and for the ideas in it. I figured if this big man is reading that book, maybe this is a sign I should not just give him a total brush off. So I gave him a chance to meet me at the Orpheum when I was already going to see Volpone with the ticket from Jake. When he showed up I figured that’s another sign. See? What are the odds of that happening?’

Esther shook her head and laughed a little. “You said that was just one reason why. What others were there? ”

Lily started searching through the names on a specific page. She replied without looking up, “My Gran would put it another way, but Anton’s way works just about as well. My bones started humming a certain way as soon as he sat down next to me. That does not happen very often as you both know. So that was another sign. Every little thing added up when we were outside looking at each other with the snow falling.  Oh my my, what have I found here.”

Rosa leaned to get a look at the page Lily was reading. “What you find?”

“O’Mara home and business addresses. Let’s see what’s in the yellow pages.”

Esther went and took the yellow phone book out from under the boy who had been sitting on it. “Okay what business we looking for in the yellow?”

“Try ‘construction business’ for a start, Esther. Let’s use Sarge’s skills for clues. Look for anything with O’Mara.”

“Now this kind of funny, Rosa see fine. Man use one thing to hide another thing. Play shell game. Tell you what. You two read books here with ninos. Rosa take a walk with pimp book. Get me some air.”

“Okay, Rosa. Why you takin’ the pimp book with you? You plan’ set up some red light work on the corner?”

“I got idea. You see. Adios amigas.”

Thirty-five minutes later, Rosa returned looking so very pleased with herself that Esther swore she was surrounded by a halo like that of the image of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe a street artist known only by his tag “got2” had painted on the side of a building.  “Hola amigas. Que tal?”

“What’s up yourself, Rosa? What are you so bright and shining about?”

Rosa walked very daintily and primly to the small table and laid the pimp book down on it. “No more pocket picking, Esther.” Rosa hugged a large envelope to her chest and smiled at Lily and Esther. Rosa giggled as she waved the envelope in the air. “We got our very own pimp libro.” She opened the envelope and showed them photocopies of every page from the little grey book. “Mrs. Ling found machine in trash at office building where she clean nights. She figure; there so many like it there that no one care if she bring broken machine home. So she did.  Mr. Ling fixed it. One thing machine do is make copies.”

Lily was laughing and clapping her appreciation of Rosa’s “idea” while Esther was looking at Rosa with new-found admiration. “Rosa, you never cease to amaze me. What else you got tucked up behind your mind sleeves? Hmm?”

While she said, “Nothing much,” her sweet little smirk said otherwise. “Your turn. What you do while Rosa play with Ling machine? Any luck with yellow book?”

Esther shook her head. “Not really.” She shot a warning glance at Lily to not laugh. “We got kids their cookies and tea. Now they all making pictures, writin’ notes and such for their moms and pops. We dead ended in yellow pages.”

Rosa’s face fell. “How can be? No O’Mara shell game?” She looked around at the children busy with their fresh number two pencils and paper torn from the Big Chief tablet. “Okay. No problem. We go another way.” She looked expectantly at Esther and Lily who were fighting hard to keep straight faces and failing. “OOOO you two she devils. What you got?”

Lily snickered. “Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Check this out, Rosa.” Lily opened the yellow pages to a full-page ad for  ‘O’Mara Construction and Consulting Services Available twenty-four hours, seven days a week. No job too big or too small. Our business is pleasing you.”

Rosa moved her chair to sit right next to Lily. “Dios mio! Jack Pot!”

“Wait until you see the rest. Esther has got some serious show and tell for you.”

“Come on already, Esther. Show and tell me!”

~~~

Breakfast Special #30 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/breakfast-special-30-good-wifey-drops-a-dot/

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Video info:

Moulin Rouge: El Tango de Roxanne

official music video upload by

Breakfast Special, #27, “Lily’s Coat”

Lily’s Coat

“Well, I’ll be damned. Hells’ bells! We’re not open for ten minutes and look who comes through Big Bob’s new door. Good to see you, Benj. You too, Patrick. How’s Nora? Your Dad? Everything good with the clan?” Stanley set up three cups of coffee, one for himself and the two men who were the first to come inside and currently the only people in Big Bob’s.

“Hey Stanley. You’re looking good.” Benj kicked the snow and rock salt from his shoes as he held the door open for Patrick doing the same behind him before crossing the threshold.

“What can we do for you two fine young fine men? Whatever you want. It’s on the house considering you’re the first folks back in here.” Stanley waved a hand indicating that the bar was empty of customers except for the two O’Mara brothers.

“Just a couple of coffees and sweet rolls,” said Patrick. He took a bar stool next to Benj and began toying with the salt and pepper shakers.

“Oh come on, you two can do better than that. You got a stomach bug or what? Huh?” Stanley poured steaming coffee into the cups.

“Nora stuffed us before we headed for Falls. Preventive breakfast I call it. In case we get stuck in a snow-bank along the way, at least we’ll be stuck with full stomachs.” Benj knocked shoulders with Patrick next to him as they laughed.

Stanley set two sweet rolls on plates for them. “That’s Nora alright. So what brings you two to our National Guard Disaster area?  Don’t you dare say it’s because you enjoy the scenery on the ride here. That would be a whole lot of snow-shit anyone can see anywhere.”

His fingers dancing around the rim of his coffee cup, Benj said, “Actually we came in thinking we might meet up with Sarge.”

“Well, he has not been here this morning. He usually comes around every so often after a shift for the breakfast special and a sweet roll. With the docks still closed, I wouldn’t expect him though.” Stanley nodded at the window view of the shoulder-high mounds of snow all along the street with only one lane cleared for traffic. “If Reggie Dawson hadn’t taken it into his head to clear the street that much on his own, I wouldn’t be open either.”

Patrick followed the direction of Stanley’s glance and nodded in understanding. “When was Sarge last in for a special?”

Stanley sipped his coffee. “Let’s see. Pretty sure it was the Friday of the week before the snow really became a bitch. Yep. It was. I remember now. He sat there right at the end. Came in at the end of us getting slammed. Had his usual over-easys.”

“He seem okay to you then?” Benj dipped his sweet roll into his coffee.

“Oh hell yeah. Right as rain. Had a book as usual. Gave me a little lip for fun.”

“You ain’t seen him since then?” said Patrick.

“No.” Stanley shook his head. “Last I saw of Sarge he was high-tailing it out the door in hot pursuit of Lily. Have no idea if he caught up with her, but he sure put a leg on after she left.”

Benj and Patrick looked at each other, then at Stanley. Patrick leaned over his coffee expectantly. “How long has Sarge been seeing this Lily?”

Stanley shrugged his shoulders. “Never saw them together before that Friday. All I can say is that he sat down next to her. They gave each other a little grief. She ate like a starving pig as usual. He ate. She left. He grabbed his sweet roll and left right after. What more can I tell you?”

Benj grinned. “So what do you know about this Lily? Besides she eats like a pig.”

Stanley shook his head. “Oh that Lily, she’s something else, Benj.”

“What? She like some hot to trot firecracker?”

“Hot to trot firecracker? Lily? Hell no, Patrick. Atomic bomb is more like it.”

Mistaking Stanley’s line of thinking, Benj and Patrick laughed with glee. “So she’s like, what, stacked to the max?”

“How’s her ass action? She got a cute little wiggle in her walk?” Patrick shook his sweet roll to illustrate this notion.

Stanley laughed. “I hate to disappoint you guys, but you got it all wrong.”

“Awww Stanley. You’re such a tease,” said Patrick before eating half his sweet roll.

“You’re just yanking our chains with the atomic bombshell bit?” Patrick slumped dejectedly on his stool for a few moments.

“No. I’m not. I meant it. Only not like you two are thinking.”

Patrick punched Benj in the shoulder while keeping eye contact with the barkeeper. “Okay. Okay. So how did you mean it, Stanley?”

“Wait a minute.” Stanley glanced at the door and out the window. “I don’t want to start something I can’t finish. Let me lock the door. Fifteen minutes more of being closed won’t hurt anyone.”

“What the hell, Stanley?” Benj swirled on the bar stool while watching Stanley lock the entrance door. “You got FBI secrets to share or what?”

Returning to his place behind the bar, Stanley got comfortable on a stool, topped off everyone’s coffee, then looked from Benj to Patrick. “Remember when the shit hit the fan big time at St. Luke’s Church in the Flats a couple of years back?”

“You mean all that about Father John being a pedophile?”

“That’s it, Benj. That’s what I’m thinking of.”

“Oh I remember that. That was one storm that just wouldn’t blow over. So what’s this Lily got to do with that?”

“So—Lily started that shit-storm and kept it blowing for as long as it did.”

“I don’t recall reading about any Lily in the papers.” Patrick shook his head as he wiped his hands on a napkin. “I think I’d remember if Father Joseph had said anything about a Lily during Sunday Mass when he talked about St.Luke’s and Father John.”

“That’s because Holy Mother Church didn’t want it getting out who was really calling the shots in the Flats. Church didn’t want anyone finding out about what Lily knew any more than necessary. Lily knew a hell of a lot about what Father John did, when, where, who and how many times. Last thing the Church wanted was some reporter getting in deep with Lily. And they sure as hell didn’t want their own giving anyone any ideas about chatting her up. The parents were another thing. The Holy Fathers couldn’t care less about how they were carrying on. They just came across as clowns in the papers and on television because of how they looked and talked. Church could deal with the parents. Or so it thought at the time.” Stanley drank his coffee and waited for a response from either of the two men.

“But this Lily could have just gone to the papers herself. Why didn’t she?”

Stanley grimaced. “Lily wasn’t interested in getting press. What she wanted was Father John out of the Flats and out of the priesthood. She wanted him listed as a sex offender with the police and that was just for starters. She wanted him prosecuted to the full extent of the law. On top of that she had other priest fish to fry. And they weren’t in Falls. Now the only reason I know this is because my cousin Pauline manages Father Richard’s office in M-. She’s been there for two decades. She types up all the top line letters herself to keep things quiet and contained. According to Pauline, Lily and Father Richard had a meeting in person, right there in Father Richard’s office for about an entire day.  Right after that, Father Richard got busy and put some serious hurt on a priest in Minnesota, another one in Texas, and one in Washington State. Pauline doesn’t know what happened after that because only those letters went out. Nothing came in reply. Nothing in writing anyway. Everything else Father Richard did was either on the phone or face to face behind closed doors.”

Patrick hunched his shoulders and leaned over his coffee. “You’re saying he didn’t want any records or a paper trail.”

“Exactly.”  Stanley topped off his own cup of coffee and then Benj and Patrick’s. “But that didn’t put an end to what was going on in the Flats. When Father Richard’s hands were tied by higher-ups in regard to Father John, it was Lily who organized those folks to drive Father John out of business and basically shut down St. Luke’s on their own. The Sunday donations stopped. The tithes stopped coming in. The people stopped coming to mass. There were even carpools for getting people who wanted mass over to St. Teresa’s or any other church. Till this day, if anyone wants to go to confession they go to St. Teresa’s. Baby needs a christening; it’s done at St. Teresa’s. Someone needs last rites; they get the priest from St. Teresa’s to the Flats for them.  All of that is still going on. There may be a priest in residence at St. Luke’s, but only God Almighty hears him say mass. That church is a tomb.”

“Ahh ha. And this Lily is behind all that?” Benj exchanged looks and shrugs with Patrick before they both turned doubtful eyes back on the older man.

“Obviously none of that would have happened if people hadn’t paid attention to her. But she’s the one who light their fuses. No doubt about it.” He watched the two brothers smirk while remaining good-naturedly attentive to him. Deciding to take advantage of their interest and the lack of anyone walking or driving down the one lane street, Stanley warmed further to his subject. “As if that wasn’t enough, after those people got a taste of what they could do, they started doing other things. They formed what they call the Neighborhood Watch out there. It’s got ex-gang bangers, retired cops, blue-collar guys, white-collar guys, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Indians, Asians, the whole nine yards. You name it, if it lives in the Flats; they got it in the Watch. Falls PD may ignore 911 calls from the Flats, but the Watch doesn’t.”

Benj stretched his arms and locked his hands behind his head. “How you know all this, Stanley? Is there a Flats newsletter going around or some such?”

“How do I know all this?” Stanley’s eyebrows arched high as he met Benj’s eyes. “I know all this because my sister’s daughter, Joyce, she’s a nurse at St.Syms, lives in the Flats. Joyce bought a house god awful cheap there some time back because she wanted something close to work. As Joyce tells it, Lily pulled all those people together when she went after Father John for those kids he was messing around with. She really put the hurt on St. Luke’s when she got up at some community meeting and made some speech about if people still wanted to go to church and listen to some priest tell them how to live their lives after what Father John had done to their children, then they needed to go find a good man, because that’s what makes a good priest. So some people started visiting the other churches to check out the priests.”

Patrick laughed. “That’s funny, Stanley. Sounds like she sent them shopping for a better deal.”

Pointing his cup at Patrick, Stanley nodded. “That’s about what it boiled down to, Patrick. Now, lots of folks had been dishing some priest at St. Teresa’s ever since he arrived because he stuttered so much. They didn’t like listening to him trying to talk right. You know how that goes, especially with the old timers who want everything just perfect. They figured the Church had given them a lemon priest. Some of the Flats people go to St. Teresa’s to check out this priest anyway. When they show up out of nowhere to have a little chat, he stops what he’s doing and gives them his undivided attention until they’re good and ready to say bye-bye. Those folks didn’t give a damn about his stuttering. They just wanted a priest who flew right and played by the rules. They wanted a good man.  Joyce said that when the people from the Flats showed up at St. Teresa’s for Sunday Mass for the first time it was like a people bomb had exploded. Church was packed from the first pew to the last and out the doors. Guess which priest was saying Mass that Sunday. After checking out all their options in Falls and M- and everywhere in between, they chose the lemon priest. Now every time the lemon priest says Sunday Mass, St. Teresa’s is stuffed to the gills. That priest doesn’t even have a chance to ask for help. Roof needs patching. It’s done. Window needs fixing. It’s done. His funny little scooter needs a repair. It’s done. St. Teresa’s food pantry needs filling. It’s filled. Why? Because when the people from the Flats call him, he answers without any bullshit.  And he doesn’t mess with their kids.” Stanley drank the rest of his coffee.   “Ever see a picture of an atomic bomb exploding?”

“With the mushroom cloud and all spreading out.” Benj illustrated with his hands. “Oh yeah.”

“Same thing with Lily.” The barkeeper spun his empty cup in its saucer. “When she delivers a payload there’s a big bang, mushroom cloud goes up and down. Ripples just keep on spreading out wider and wider.”

Scratching his head, Patrick sat up straight and frowned at his brother and Stanley. “This does not sound like a woman who’d be up Sarge’s alley.”

“Anything but. Way too labor intensive.”

“You fellas are probably right. You’re his brothers.” Seeing a certain sort of opportunity in the situation, Stanley decided to make the most of it. “But if you saw how they were checking each other out here at the counter, both of them being sly about it, you might be singing a different tune.”

Not at all buying Stanley’s line, Patrick said, “If Sarge was giving this Lily the once over, then she must have something to grab his eyes. What does she look like anyway, Stan?”

Benj backed up his older brother. “Come on Stan. Give us something besides a yarn about the freak show in the Flats.”

“Alright already. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, you two are a couple of Peter Pan Pests today. Tell you what. Next time you see a Hudson Bay Blanket coat hoofing it in Falls, that’s Lily. “

“You got to be kidding. Oh Stan. I don’t know about Patrick, but you’re killing me with your bullshit. I’m thinking I’m going to take you up on that freebie breakfast just to make up for doing you the favor of listening to all this shit.”

“I’m serious. You want to know what Lily looks like and if she might trip Sarge’s trap, then go find the Hudson Bay Blanket coat. You do know what one of those looks like, don’t you?”

“What do you take us for? A couple of morons? We know what a Hudson Bay coat looks like. She can’t have the only one in Falls.”

“True. But she’s the only person I’ve seen in the last, what four or five years wearing one all winter long. If I see the coat on the street, I think, ‘there goes Lily.’ What do you know, every time I drive past that coat and see a face, it is Lily. Never yet have I been wrong about who is wearing that coat here in Falls. Not once. Okay. Now, let’s fire up the grill and have us all some eggs because I don’t think anyone else is coming through that new door until some more folks are dug out.”

Patrick and Benj banged their palms on the bar-counter in agreement. “Hell yeah, fill us up for the return trip with sunny-siders and some burnt pig, Stanley.”

After Patrick and Benj departed, Big Bob’s grill man, Murray, came out from behind the grill blind. Joining Stan in another cup of coffee at the empty counter he pulled apart a cinnamon roll and ate it piece by piece. “Stan, are you sure that was a good idea, telling those two about Lily and her coat? They might do that and give her grief she don’t need. ”

“Ah they’re harmless as far Lily is concerned. They won’t lay rough hands on a woman. A man, now that’s an entirely different story. They’ll fight any guy dumb enough to swing a dick in their direction. They don’t care who or how big in any sense of the word.  I think Sarge has given them the slip again and they’re trying to pick up his trail anyway they can. Telling them to look for Lily when who they really want to find is Sarge, is like sending them on a wild goose chase. If they’re looking for her coat, then they’re not looking for Sarge. And in my book, them not finding Sarge for as long as possible is a damn good thing all by itself.”

“No argument on that score from me. Why they don’t just let Sarge do his own thing is beyond me.”

“It’s all about control, Murray. All about control. I’ve known Dylan and Nora for years. They always held their boys pretty damn tight when they were just kids. Now they hold the boys and their families tight too. Seems like they all want it that way. Except for Sarge who has been fighting that tight hold ever since he was a little kid. Unlike his brothers, Sarge was born with a mind of his own. That’s why Sarge and crazy Kozy get along so well.”

“Stan was that legit what you told them about Lily and Father Richard or were you just blowin’ smoke up their asses?

“Oh it’s legit all right. I could tell by the looks on their faces they weren’t buying one word of it even though I was telling them the gospel truth according to Pauline. I figure, hey, truth is stranger than fiction. My conscience is clear. I didn’t lie to them. They think I did though. So they won’t be wasting any time sharing that story. They forgot it before they even went out our new door.” Stanley looked at Murray. “Probably best you forget it too.”

Murray popped the last of the cinnamon roll into his mouth. “What? You say something Stanley?”

~~

Breakfast Special, #28, Fair Trade Creed Reads, part 1, Les Mis:

https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/09/26/breakfast-special-28-fair-trade-creed-reads-pt-1-les-mis/

~~

Breakfast Special, #28, Fair Trade Creed Reads, part 2, Stealth:

https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/breakfast-special-28-fair-trade-creed-reads-pt-2-stealth/

~~

Breakfast Special #28,  Fair Trade Creed Reads, part 3, Two Guys On a Roof:  https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/breakfast-special-28-fair-trade-creed-reads-pt-3-just-two-guys-on-a-roof/

Breakfast Special, #26, “Fishing Lines and Irish Lace”

Fishing Lines and Irish Lace

Anton set aside his book and waited while Sarge adjusted the racks and closed the oven door on the two baking pans of banana bread he’d arrived with a few minutes ago.  He and Esther had already placed new bets with Mr. Ranoli on how long, how many ovens and how far along the street the bread baking spree, now in the middle of its third day of spilling out of Lily’s apartment might extend. Whenever Sarge wasn’t out clearing snow off rooftops with Anton and the rest of the Watch snow crew, he and Lily went to town mixing up breads then farming them out for baking in any available empty oven someone was willing to open for them. According to Ricardo, Rosa had skewed the betting odds of when all this bread making action would have to end due to a lack of ingredient resources by giving the pair free and easy access to her flour reserves stored in one of the large freezers in the front room. And she wasn’t the only one funneling baking supplies into Lily’s kitchen. The first batch of loaves had tasted pretty good and the second batch better. Now anyone who had an odd bag of yeast on a cabinet shelf or nuts, fruit, flour, sugar, anything else suitable for tossing into a mixing bowl was dropping it off and volunteering their oven.

Sarge set the stove’s oven timer, then grinned at Anton. “All set. Now what did you want to ask me?”

“I see you got a serious game plan going with the loaves. I don’t want to mess it. But, hey, how about you take a load off for a few tic tocs?”

“No problem. The game plan is in no rush, Anton.” Sarge sat down at the kitchen table hoping to set the clearly nervous Anton at ease. “You’re looking a little tight, Anton.  What’s winding you up?”

Anton listened to the voices in the hallway for a time then leaned towards Sarge and lowered his voice.  “Here’s what I’m stressing. Got a call back from this place in M-  where I dropped an app for a place on their kitchen line a while back. Main Cook Man says if I’m still fishing for a place on a line, to come round soon as the road open again. No sweat when, cuz he know the score in Falls. Just fill him in when feet can travel. That’s all sweet as far as I can read.”

“Sounds good so far. So what’s got you stressed?”

“It lay like this, Sarge. I worked a lot of kitchens in my time. But I never worked any kitchen line this high up before. Main Cook Man say he call me back cuz that boxed cod I plated up for him was best he ever put a fork to. I made it taste like fresh wild caught. See, I got my ways with the swimmers. I did this job pitch cause the funds so damn sweet. Cover travel and everything and still plenty cash to stash. No more need for Esther to do two part-times.  Hours reg too. Big sweet that. Most times I catch a job line in a place with folks I know. But not this place. I got no intel to fill me in. No eyes, no ears. No one ever done  more than hit the bar in this place for a treat. Now, I don’t mean no offence here, I just reading the book as it is. But, you being you, with roots in M-, maybe you know this place some. You read?”

“I get it. No offence taken. You want to know what you’re walking into up front.”

Anton relaxed and nodded vigorously. “Exactly.”

“Okay. What’s the name of this place?”

“Irish Lace on Lincoln Street. Sweet dining area up front.  Major kick-ass bar. Some tables in back. Live piano nights.”

Sarge nodded. “I know the place.” He looked at Anton. “You want it straight up, right?”

“Oh yeah, Big Man. Lay it on me.”

“Up front, I hope you know me well enough by now to know I mean no offence. Like you said, I’m just reading the book as it is. I’m trying to make sure I don’t put your back up. I like you, Anton. I don’t want any trouble for giving you what you’ve asked for.  You read me?

“I do. No blowback coming for sharing intel best can do. ”

“Good.” Sarge brushed some flour out of his hair then did his own check of the people in the hallway. Satisfied that they still had some privacy for their conversation but wishing for more, he gestured for Anton to lean in closer to him.  “If you’re working the kitchen, then stay in the kitchen. Not because you’re black.  Just because the kitchen is Mack’s turf.  He rules his turf. Kitchen staff are his people. If you were working the bar, you’d stay at the bar. That’s Charlies’s turf. He rules his turf. Bartenders are his people. Same goes for the tables and Tony. Everyone runs their own turf.  Unless you’re told to visit the bar to help out, you stay away from the bar. Otherwise you run the risk of setting off a turf war between three guys who have trouble implementing the concept of mutually beneficial peaceful coexistence.  Good so far?”

“I read. The dudes got territory issues. Go on.”

“Yeah, that’s one way to put it.” Sarge hesitated then dove in again.  “Here’s what I don’t know how to say any way that will sound nice and polite. So focus on the message not how it’s packaged. Intentions are all good on my part.  Okay?”

“We’re good. Let it flow.”

“All right then. The first time we met, Lily asked you to tell me all about the news for your speech practice. When you did that, you didn’t use any slang or your usual lingo. At Irish Lace,  it would be in your best interests to try to talk like that as much as possible while working. If they can’t understand you when the kitchen gets slammed, it’s going to piss them off. You don’t want that kind of trouble. I’m not kidding. Mack gets pissed and the knives start flying. He doesn’t like anything messing up his lines. ”

“I read. Talk their talk. Walk their walk. Anything else?”

“You don’t have turn yourself inside out for these guys.  They don’t expect that.  It’s just a matter of effective communication that’s all. Mack offered you the shot because he likes your cooking. With him and the people he takes on it’s all about the cooking. All they care about is what you do in that kitchen. You play nice with them and they will play nice with you.”

Anton laughed a little.  “Hell, you make it sound like a damn kids’ sandbox.”

“Yeah, well that’s pretty much what it is when you get down to it, Anton.” Sarge looked down at his hands for a few moments. “Now this is an entirely other matter you need to be aware of especially if you and Mack decide to commit to a long-term relationship. If there’s ever a fight when you’re working, do not under any circumstances get involved. Do not try to intervene. Do not make a play for a piece of the action. No matter what is going down or who you see fighting, stay the hell out of it. Do not call the cops. Keep your head down and out of the line of fire. Do whatever Mack tells you to do.  He watches out for his people. You follow his creed to the letter if there’s a fight. Have I made myself clear, Anton?”

“Oh yeah, Big Man. Oh yeah. No problem. I got no interest in kicking sand at anyone else.  Got plenty of intervention action right here in the Flats to suit me.  More than I care for. Ain’t about to tangle with others’ issues. Anything else?”

Sarge thought for a moment then said, “Oh yeah. Sarah, the owner, she’s a handsy type, but she doesn’t mean anything by it. She just touches everything and everyone. If you watch her with the customers you’ll see her do it non-stop. She can’t stop herself.  I think it’s some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder. You probably noticed that Mack has a lot of fly-swatters in the kitchen. They’re not there for swatting flies. They’re there to keep Sarah’s hands off the food.  I’m not joking. When I said she touches everything I meant it.  When Sarah reaches for the food you’re working with, you whack her hand just like everyone else does.  Don’t hold back. She won’t hold it against you. She knows she’s got a problem.”

Thinking Sarge really was yanking his chain, Anton grinned. “Don’t hold back with the fly swatter. I can do that. Thanks, Sarge.”

Sarge stood up. “No problem.  Good luck with Mack. You keep his lines sweet, he’ll treat you right. One more thing, Mack doesn’t care if you’re black or white or green. Keep that in mind if he gives you some flack when he gets stressed. He’s got a limited vocabulary. Now, I’ve got some dough to pound down. I’ll wander back in to check the bread around ring time.  If you think of anything else you want to know about Irish Lace just ask.”

“Will not hesitate. Hey, you got a compulsive disorder with all this bread you and Lily been making?”

 

~~

Breakfast Special #27 https://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/breakfast-special-27-lilys-coat/

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