Jubilee (2)
Ronnie hesitated, worried about leaving the shop untended, but King pressed his case.
- Hey you fellers, he hollered, you're not planning to steal anything while I'm cooking your breakfast , are you ?
The men shook their heads.
- Nope, the young one said .
- Come on , babe, the shop's fine. Ruby will be in any second.
Ronnie relented, refilled the electricians' coffee, and followed King into the kitchen.This is what he told her as he cooked :
- Sug , I've got this old Navy buddy, Maxie Fisher. Believe it or not, he saved my life once. I was almost gone with smoke inhalation, and he pulled me out of a barracks fire. So I owe him one. One, shoot, I owe him so many times I can't count it up. But here's the thing. He's coming into town - he lives in Brooklyn - and he gives me a pain. See, he's a sad sack. Back luck follows him , you know what I'm saying ? And now he might want to settle here in Chicago.
- Uh-oh, Ronnie said.
Then King started to tell her about Maxie's life. The way he described it, it sounded like some farfetched movie plot. Every lousy thing that could happen to a guy had happened to Maxie.
Maxie's mother died in childbirth. Maxie thought his stepmother was his real mother until he found his birth certificate when he was 15. Maxie joined the Navy because he had to leave his loveless home. Maxie took a wife who died of cancer a year after their marriage. Maxie hadn't had a woman since. Maxie had no children. Maxie lived alone.
- The guy can't even get a promotion at the post office, and he's been working there for 25 years. I don't think Maxie ever got over his wife's death. I met her once when I visited them in Brooklyn. Only time I went. He was so proud, he kept asking me to come. She was just a little bit of a thing. Sweet, got tired a lot. Paula, her name was. After she was gone, Maxie got bitter. He was bitter before that, but now...I gotta tell you, babe, I don't think I can stand to see him.
- Hunh, sounds like trouble. I dated a man like that for awhile but I had to ask him to leave. Too many troubles can turn a person bad, you know ? Like the whole word was against him. Okay, so now this pal of yours is coming into town.
- Yeah. He'll be here today. He's staying with me. Oh, Jesus.
They were interrupted by Ruby, who had arrived and already taken another order from two more customers. The morning rush had begun. Within half an hour, the place had filled. The coffee pots were at work in overdrive, and the third girl from the first shift, Gloria, had come in.
- What are you doing in here chit-chatting ? Ruby asked as she came into the kitchen. She was, at 62, the oldest girl on staff, yet competed with Ronnie for the title of "most energetic" at the Jubilee. Ruby was a pistol. Once a full-time housewife, she worked at the coffee shop - her first job ever outside the home - because her newly retired husband got underfoot. She wanted to cook and clean unfettered.
- Gal, that table of yours is asking for you and all we've got on the floor now 'sides me is that Gloria.
- Yes ma'am, Yes ma'am. I'll get these orders right out, King teased Ruby. He frequently played the dutiful servant with her, although her impatience did nothing in reality to quicken his pace.
- Well, see that you do, Ruby said, and she left the kitchen after giving King her batch of orders.
And so the morning progressed. King stayed in the kitchen and cooked. Ronnie and Ruby rushed around, attending to their customers' needs. Gloria, a sullen high school dropout with stringy blonde hair and heavy eyeliner, did as little as possible.

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©1997-2000 by pisalou