Hi, folks... I'm going to be out of town tomorrow and Friday, so I won't be able to post anything else until this weekend. Thanks for your support and your indulgence... Bob
McDonalds certainly is not Starbucks, a realization that brought Shirley Hagerman a great deal of comfort. Suffering from a world-class coffee jones was bad enough, she figured, without having to pay four bucks a cup for it. True enough, McDonalds only offered regular or decaf, but if she really wanted something more exotic, the market offered myriad possibilities. Besides, she enjoyed coming in for a few minutes early in the morning before work, just to relax and watch the senior citizen men, farmers mostly, who commandeered the lion’s share of the tables closest to the restrooms. Surely they couldn’t all be widowers… she couldn’t understand why none of their wives insisted on joining them. Of course, judging from the laughter emerging from the area, most of the stories probably weren’t fit for mixed company. Maybe it was better this way… mother could get a couple of extra hours sleep and papa wasn’t occupying a stool at the corner bar; a win-win situation if ever there was one.
Sitting here at the Golden Arches, Shirley did miss one feature that The Endless Urn had offered before Dick Sterling died suddenly, leaving Thelma a thriving business that she ran into the ground almost before the dirt on Dick’s grave had completely settled— a clock. These days the concept of time held a different significance in Shirley’s mind, as though events of the past had begun to stack up behind her, threatening to topple over and come crashing down onto the present. Nervously, she checked and re-checked her watch, fidgeting with her cup and crossing and re-crossing her legs. Where the hell are you Tish? Come on… I need to go to work! She’d called her daughter last night at Chubby’s and arranged to meet this morning, but it now appeared she wouldn’t show. Finally, at 8:04, she picked up her cup and napkin from the table and walked to her car. If she were not sitting in her appointed seat in 11 minutes, smiling sweetly, Larry Sherman would have a coronary… figuratively speaking, of course…dammit.
As Shirley drove along Banker Avenue, she stopped at the four-way stop sign placed to control traffic at the intersection with Grove Street. Glancing into the back parking lot of Chubby’s, she saw the back end of Harper LaGrange’s silver Firebird pull out onto Grove. She made out a dark form in the passenger’s seat that could only be Tish. Angry now, Shirley screeched her tires as she made the right turn onto Grove. Okay, asshole, you’re messing with the wrong woman now. At 8:02 a.m., Shirley Hagerman decided that time no longer had any meaning; Plains Distributors and Larry Sherman himself could kiss her ass… she was going to be late.
Pressing buttons on her cell, she waited for someone to answer the phone at the office. Please, Frieda, answer the phone.
The voice on the other end intoned, “You’ve reached Plains Distributors, how can I direct your call?”
“Thank God, it’s you, Frieda… this is Shirley. I’m going to be late this morning. Can you cover for me if Larry asks about me?”
“Well, honey, I’ll do the best I can… you sound absolutely frantic, is everything okay?” Frieda’s gum chomping made her sound annoying even when she tried to be nice, which wasn’t often.
“Yea, it’s nothing, really, but I have a couple of stops I need to make. I should be in by nine or so… and thanks, sweetie, I owe you one.”
“Well, hurry as fast as you can, I can’t stal—“ The press of another button left Shirley holding a useless implement that she tossed into the tray provided by the manufacturer located between her bucket seats; she silently praised whoever had designed her Tempo’s interior.
Making sure to keep a city block between LaGrange’s car and her own, Shirley followed the Firebird out of town. They’re heading toward Pleasant Hills.