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.
Back to Summary 6-1997
©1997-2000 by pisalou