Fiction Copyright © 2016 by Sara Jacobelli
“Seems to me that a man, don’t know how to treat a woman, he deserves to lose that woman. Seems to me that a woman, being treated shitty by a man, she should leave that man.” Hanover tapped his spoon against the side of his coffee cup.
“Will you stop that tapping?” Casey drank her orange juice and flipped through the paper. “Lookit the prices of these rents? A thousand a month? Who could pay that?”
“Seems to me that, a woman, if her man’s beating on her, she should leave. You know. Even if it means living in her car. Or the library. Lotsa homeless folks live at the public library. Seems to me it’s better to be homeless than dead. Just saying.”
“Seems to me some people talk too fucking much.”
The waitress held her coffee pot in mid-air above their cups. “Refills?”
“Yeah. Sure. Lemme see the sports section.” Hanover grabbed the paper. “Saints are bums again.”
“No more coffee for me.” Casey stood up. “My car broke down, can’t even make it out of the driveway. And if you think I’m sleeping under the overpass and taking a bath at the library, you really are senile. Like your wife says.”
“You don’t know my wife. My wife.”
Casey went outside to smoke a cigarette. The waitress leaned over the counter. “That one don’t know Gwen died?”
“She never knew Gwen. Just heard me chat about her right here, sitting at the counter. Every Sunday.”
“Thought you two was good friends.” Marie stacked plates and wiped down the counter.
“Nah, never seen her outside the diner. We just talk, joke around. I always tease her, tell her her old man don’t know how lucky he is. Hate to see a pretty girl cover up black eyes and bruises with make-up and sunglasses. Hate to see it.”
“Hanover, you’re a pretty observant fellow.”
“When I was a kid, my mama useta get beat like that. She took us all down to the Greyhound station in the middle of the night. Would you believe? Would you believe he marched right down and dragged us all home? He beat her so bad, she never tried to leave again. Never. And it was my fault. I told her we should leave. Take the bus to Disneyland, that was my Big Idea.” Hanover tapped his spoon against his coffee cop in a steady beat. “You know, Marie?”
“Hmmm. Yeah, Hanover.” Marie pulled out a small mirror from her apron pocket and attempted to tweeze a wayward eyebrow.
“I always said, I always said, ‘Life woulda been different.'”
“If mama and us kids left him, life. My whole life, woulda been different.”
“Well, you turned out alright. You met Gwen, got married. You know. What more do ya want, Hanover?”
Casey came back in and sat at the counter. “Those little silver jukeboxes? What happened to them?”
“Oh honey,” Marie said. “Nobody played em no more so Moe took em out.”
“Oh. I played em. Used to play all kinds a songs. Willie Nelson. I love his songs.”
“Yeah. Sure. You played love songs for me.” Hanover pulled a twenty out of his wallet to pay the bill.
“You wish, old timer.”
“Seems to me, that a man who don’t treat his woman right, seems to me he don’t got no complaints if she walks right out that door.”
“Moe hiring here, Marie? I could wait tables. Never done it, but I could learn. Only had two jobs in my whole life. Worked at McDonald’s in high school, and I did telemarketing for a while after I got married. One a them places they call boiler rooms.” Casey made a face. “He made me quit. Said my boss was hitting on me.”
“Moe don’t need no waitresses, but he could use a dishwasher. Jesse quit just yesterday.”
“I washed plenty dishes in my time.” Casey grabbed a napkin. “Hanover, you gotta pen?”
“You gonna wash dishes? Now, that’s a good start. I washed dishes when I got outta the army. Sure did. Now it seems to me, if a young lady can’t afford an apartment, she could rent a room somewheres. Miss Betsy down the road rents rooms. Rents rooms to single ladies, she does.”
Casey wrote her name and number on the napkin and gave it to Marie. “Maybe you could put a word in for me with Moe.”
“Sure honey. I can do that.” She went to wait on a family of redheads who sat at the corner table by the window.
“My wife Gwen, she always gave good advice. One time she told me, she said, ‘Hanover, you sleep too much. Don’t just sleep in on your day off, get up and accomplish something.’ So I did. I built me a garden shed, a garage, all kinds a things. Built a canoe for the kids and they bout wore it out. Built em with my own bare hands, I did. Built something every weekend, til the damn heart attack slowed me down.”
“Your wife calls you Hanover? Don’t you even have a first name?”
“First name’s Dick. She hated that. Said she wasn’t gonna stand at the back door and yell, ‘Dick! Dick! Time for dinner, Dick!’ So it’s always been Hanover.”
“You should have me over to meet her sometime. Play some cards, order a pizza.”
“Yeah. Sure. Seems to me, seems to me you gonna be mighty busy, with this here new life you’re planning.”
“See ya later alligator.” Casey touched Hanover on the arm.
“In a while, crocodile.” Hanover watched her walk out the door and cross the street to the bus stop.
Marie rang up Hanover’s bill and brought him his change. “So, whatcha got planned for the rest of the day?”
“I don’t know. Funny, isn’t it Marie? Life coulda been different.”
“You gotta be careful you don’t spend too much time alone, thinking about stuff like that. Ain’t healthy. Sitting there in that house with nothing but Judge Judy on the TV for company. Go join a bowling team, go over by St. Cecilia’s and play Bingo, why dontcha?” Marie pulled out a file and began filing her nails. “Go date one of them old ladies at church.”
Hanover stood up. “Just saying, life woulda been different. If she coulda left him.”
“Yeah. Well. And I coulda been a beauty queen, honey. And I’m slinging eggs and grits at Moe’s.”
Photo Credit: “Jukebox.” Pixabay Copyright-free images.