Sunday, October 16, 2011

Oktober the Fifteenth: Catching The Drops

 This played out differently when it was happening in my head, but I didn't quite get there. I think that as the story progresses, the characters have a philosophical conversation about something. Maybe in the second draft...

 Anyway, I wanted to name this Rain Man, but it's taken. So I thought, Rain God of Amherst, but that is sort of taken too, by Rob McKenna in Douglas Adams' 4th Hitchhiker book. And Amherst never made it in.
 At the finish line, I realized I could steal a title from one of my February songs last FAWM. It's pretty, so I'll link to the lyrics here. There's a lovely version musicked up by my pal Gerry in Scotland, on the same page here. You'll like it.

Peace, Mari


Catching the Drops

By Mari Kozlowski

 John pulled into the Ground Round off the 290 starving and soaked. A beer and a burger were like salvation to him— he needed them now, and bad. All through Ohio, rain had splashed across his windshield so thick he could hardly see to drive. Then he’d had to stop and help a kid who’d hit a deer— the dead animal blocking half a lane and the kid’s Chevy in the ditch. The rain would wash the blood away by morning, but John doubted that kid would drive the highway at night again. He’d been shaken up good.

 The parking lot was pretty full for a weeknight at 9:30 in the middle of almost nowhere. Hot Pennsylvania night life. Who’d guess?
“Just you?” the bored server asked. She had one of those weird, elaborate hairdos black girls wore, lots of crossed braids and silver beads. It looked cute, really; but kinda much for the Ground Round. The tables in the main room were empty, but one.

“Yeah— I’ll sit in the lounge at the bar if you don’t mind.” 

“Sure. The lounge is to your left.”

 She handed him a menu and pointed the way, and half a minute later he was drinking a Boston Lager and looking around. The bar was full, unlike the dining room. There were couples, guys watching B-ball, one high café tableful of girls wearing heavy makeup and their work clothes: nice jeans, uniforms for different stores. About four rows of tossed shots in front of them and a new set ready to go. They looked as if they didn’t need any more.

 John asked the bartender, Todd by his name tag, “Is this a regular Tuesday around here?”

“Pretty much. There’s a couple malls down the way. Everybody that works there ends up here at least once a week. Mondays are crazy.” The guy rolled his eyes. “I make my car payment off Monday tips every month.”

“You don’t say?”

 Todd, nodded and took off down bar to fill another order. More people were walking in, taking up the last few empty tables. John nibbled a few peanuts and waited for his burger. The Bacon and Blue, salty and rich, with a side of rings. They made the rings from fresh onions here, he remembered, instead of buying them frozen and just frying ‘em like other places. He thought he might risk a second beer with his food, this one was going down so well. He wasn’t eager to get back out in the downpour.

“Is this seat saved for somebody?”

 John looked up from the peanut bowl into a beautiful face, a truly gorgeous pair of eyes. Sort of blue, sort of grey-green, and wide set. He sat up straighter and wiped his hand on the napkin by his glass.

“No, I’m alone. It’s all yours.”

 He smiled and hoped there wasn’t any peanut skin stuck in his teeth.

“Thanks. I need something to wash away all that rain out there. What’s good here?”

 She settled her bag on the bar at her elbow and looked at him straight on.

“They have good brew on tap, and some fancy cocktails, I guess. The burgers are what they’re best at, foodwise.”

 Jesus, she was beautiful. Not the kind of woman you expect to find at a bar off the thruway. Longish legs, slim wrists peeking out of her denim jacket sleeves. High, rounded cheekbones with just a touch of shimmery makeup. Her hair seemed dark, but it too wet to be sure what shade of dark.

“Beer sounds good. Can I get you another?” She pulled out a card and waved Todd over.

 John shook his head. “No, ma’am. Thank you, but I couldn’t.”

 He’d never had a woman buy him a drink before. He wasn’t sure it legal, even. The lady smiled, wide, and took his hand in a brief shake.

“Yes, you could. But I’m not a Ma’am, I’m a Pam. Nice to meet you.”

“John.” He said, returning her hand. It was warm, despite the droplets still sliding off her hair and jacket. Todd set their beers in front of them and gave John a tiny wink. Pam lifted her glass to his and clinked, toasting to better weather.

 He drank along, too, but inside he toasted the weather just the way it was, and said a private Thank You to the rain gods.

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