Dedicated to the memory of
Bronwyn Stacey Reynolds Joplin (1961 - 2010)
Bronwyn Stacey Reynolds Joplin (1961 - 2010)
We agreed to meet for happy hour at the neighborhood bar. My three-doors-down neighbor happens to be my best friend, which is quite convenient. It was Friday and she sat at our regular booth watching me walk in.
“Leave it at the office,” Trudy said when I slid in opposite her. Sally, the only waitress in the joint, placed my usual gin and tonic in front of me before I even settled my butt in the dented part of the bench.
“I did,” I replied and took a sip off the top. “I left it lying in the middle of the office floor in an ever-widening pool of his own blood.” I took a healthy swig, and sat back.
Trudy shook her head. “Where do we hide this body? Really, Marianne. What happened this time?”
You see, folks, I’ve changed in the last year. It seems that my faulty uterus was a plug that held my anger in. When it came out, so did the anger. And there was a lot of it. I’m a woman of a certain age. We are too young and not financially ready for retirement and we are too old to put up with the bullshit any longer.
“Another self-help book. The little Shit had a sticky note marking chapter two and it said, ‘Please read this section and I will, too. We’ll discuss it on Monday.’” I took a long draw on my drink. The cold bittersweet fluid started to hit my veins and I could feel my blood pressure drop. I looked up at Trudy. She was leaning back, arms crossed, and grinning.
“I’m surprised he tried that again. The last book stopped up the men’s room toilet. Did they ever replace the carpet in the hallway?”
I nodded. “Yeah. I guess I should be glad I didn’t have to pay the bill.” Trudy waited. “I was cool as a cucumber this time. I just took out the sticky and threw it away. I put the book on the bookshelf and closed up the office. Totally unsatisfying.”
Trudy shook her head again and drained her rum and coke. Sally replaced it before Trudy could put the empty glass down.
Sally’s of a certain age herself. She knows. Sally used to be in the same boat, actually. Sporting two masters’ degrees and a half-finished doctorate thesis, Sally chucked it all to wait tables in a bar. She tells people that she finally got smart.
Trudy, on the other hand, has always been smart. When her high school counselor was pushing college brochures at her, she was using them to light her joint. The next fall when most of our peers were jumping through another set of educational hoops, Trudy took her college savings and backpacked through Europe for six years. It kept her in writing material for the next thirty years and after fourteen novels and scores of short stories and poems, she finally ran out. It didn’t worry her, though. She’d picked up a camera and found a new outlet. Damned thing is that it was working. She is just one of those people who listen to their hearts. I guess that’s what I love about her.
“So when are you going to tell them all to stuff it?” she asked.
“I can’t Trudy. You know I won’t get another job. I’m an old lady who will always end up in entry-level positions if someone actually hired me over those little blonde bimbos with the perky boobs.” I looked down at my own sagging chest and sighed. “I’m holding on though. The Shit is working on a new line of financing that if it works will require him to hire more people. If that happens, I might get to slide over to work for one of them.”
“Better the devil you know, Marianne.”
“Yeah. We could cliché all night but it wouldn’t help. No, Trudy, I’m going to ride it out and see what happens. If he has the Board as fooled as I think he does…”
“Judging from that bonus you told me he got, I’d say that was a safe assumption.”
I nodded. “Yep, and that may mean that he’ll move on. And that puts Erica up a notch.” Erica, another woman of a certain age, also suffers under the Shit’s thumb. We both concluded that our mutual boss has issues with his mother.
We sat back and watched Sally put the bowl of pretzels down between us. She straightened and looked at us with a squint. “Pretzels ain’t going to cut it today, are they?”
We agreed. Sally picked up the pretzels and disappeared into the kitchen. Someone put a quarter in the jukebox and Grace Slick joined the conversation with “White Rabbit.” The jukebox jockey frowned at us when Trudy and I loudly joined in.
“Now there’s one lady who had a clue,” I said waving my glass at the jukebox when the song ended. “To Grace!”
Sally returned with a fresh basket of deep-fried zucchini and mushrooms. Chocolate works during the week but on Friday there’s nothing like hot fat and alcohol to ease tight mental muscles and calm the chakras into place.
“So. What are you going to do in the meantime?” Trudy dipped her mushroom in the Ranch dressing and watched it slide off again.
“Take it. What else is there?”
Trudy nodded. “I guess it is better than driving out to the desert to bury bodies.”
“Yeah,” I said, “You can’t lie to save your soul. You’d crack the minute a cop asks your name.”
“And you’d look so smug they’d know you were the perp immediately. So much for Thelma and Louise, eh?” she said.
Sally put another round of drinks in front of us, motioned for me to slide over and sat down with us. She’d brought a beer with her. “My shift is over.”
I looked at my watch. “It’s only 6:40.”
Sally pointed at a girl with a long blonde ponytail putting mugs of beer on a tray. She was wearing a tight tank top and jean shorts that were so short her butt cheeks hung out. “I can’t compete with fresh tits and ass. Might as well call it a day.”