My very adult breakfast before meeting Beatrice!
My very adult breakfast before meeting Beatrice!
Achievement unlocked! Gainful employment! My second job ever! Aunt Pearl isn’t going to brag about this one either! Never underestimate the small bonus of annoying your nearest and dearest with life choices which don’t fit their well-placed parameters of life.
Ok, so maybe it isn’t the steadiest of jobs, but I figured I could eke it out until I could figure out a more permanent solution.
The only downside to my morning of adulting was the unfortunate issue of forgetting my phone at home (even more adult? I didn’t cross three lanes of traffic to whip a u-turn at speed on an arterial to go back and pick it up before my appointment!) which resulted in a seven day delay in starting my new means of earning my daily bread. Apparently their paperless process is batched once a week and I just missed the cutoff – because I couldn’t return their emailed forms straight away (my previous adult driving started to annoy me). However I did leave the office with my FLIT sticker, ID number, lapel pin and assurances that the Pink Princess and I have a bright future with the company. I think the interviewer had drunk too much corporate koolaid with that last one – but since they didn’t even blink at my previous employment, who am I to judge? Seriously they seemed more concerned with my criminal record -or lack there of- and the Princess’s brake pads, than in my sparkling personality.
Since I was on a roll, I ran some errands, mainly grabbing packing supplies. When I got home I found my phone right where I left it – right next to the box of Froot Loops on the kitchen counter. Ignoring everything else, I finished all the forms FLIT sent me, hoping against hope someone would slip it through early and I could start driving sooner than next week. Hope springs eternal.
When I finished with those, I delved into my other email – mostly adverts. It was my texts which held something interesting: an unknown number. Well not as unknown as I first thought…
Good morning, Phoebe, this is Beatrice. We met the other night at dinner. Dourwood gave me your number and I have a proposition for you. Give me a call at ***-***-*****.
Curious. Three days had passed since our fungus-laden dinner. Two since Wood’d promised to talk to her. Now she was propositioning me – business or personal? Business, please be business.
Speed dial number two activated.
Me: “Did you talk to Beatrice?”
Wood (indignant): “She isn’t a vegetarian either! She agrees with you about Laney’s cooking!”
Me: “Focus! Did she think it was a date?”
Wood: “Nope. Didn’t cross her mind, apparently.”
Wood: “Hey! Laney comes home on Friday, want to grab dinner on Thursday?”
Me: “Sounds good, text me where you want to go. No fungus!”
I hung up before more questions about Beatrice or his wife’s cooking came up again.
So I was free of one awkward conversation; the Cupid known as Dourwood missed his shot. So what proposition did she have for me I wonder? I gave her a call and we agree to meet a a little coffee shop near Pulp, The Altar of the Bean.
They take their coffee really seriously.
Sunday morning during my rounds at Nevermore (redundant I might be, but vandals are my nemesis, nemisii? In any case, they get my goat) when Wood texted me…
Dourwood: Did you get the high score after I left?
Me: Nope, wasted a multi-ball opportunity.
Dourwood: Too bad, your name will be up in lights again, Benedict doesn’t stand a chance! How did you like Bee?
(btw Wood is taking about the Addams Family pinball machine – recently someone dethroned my high score – I am determined to regain my title)
Me: She seems nice.
Dourwood: Good! I gave her your phone number.
Me (texts are so limiting – sarcasm, suspicion, all tonal quality is missing. But Wood didn’t need to hear me huffing and puffing my way through Nevermore): Why?
Dourwood: Well she asked…and I was hoping you guys would hit it off…
Lightning speed dial, they should have something faster than just plain speed dial when you need it – opting for currently available technology I hit speed dial on my phone, stopping to watch the leaves fall around me while I switched my oxygen priorities. Wood answered on the third ring (I could practically hear the gears turning in his head).
Before I even got a word out Wood cut me off.
Dourwood: “I didn’t set you up with a guy, and I stayed and supervised so you wouldn’t move someone’s house again…”
Dourwood: “…you’ve had such bad luck with guys recently I thought you might want to see if you’d be happy with someone different…”
Dourwood: “…and you guys have so much in common books, music and sense of macabre I thought you would hit it off…”
I wondered how long he’d continue.
Dourwood: “…plus you’re both novice vegetarians…”
Me: “WOOD! I AM NOT A VEGETARIAN!”
Dourwood: “But you told Laney you’d stopped eating meat.”
Me: “No, last Christmas Laney assumed I’d become a vegetarian because I wasn’t eating any of the turkey. I just didn’t contradict her. Wood, honestly, I love Laney but she either burns or boils ever piece of meat she cooks. I just couldn’t take it anymore…”
Dourwood: “That’s genius!”
Me: (I laughed): “I don’t think that strategy will work for you.”
Dourwood (A glum note in his voice): “Probably not.”
Me: “Wood, I am not interested dating anyone right now. Presently my life is filled with entirely too much chaos. Promise me no more set ups – with anyone. And you need to fix this with Beatrice.”
Dourwood: “I promise, I promise. But there isn’t much to fix with Bee, I didn’t tell her it was a set-up either.”
Me: “Then why did she want my number?”
Dourwood: “I was hoping for date number two. But really I have no idea.”
Dourwood: “Really, Really.”
After extracting further assurances he’d call Beatrice, I finished checking in with my regulars on my rounds – nothing but an aggressive squirrel to report – and headed back home. I didn’t look forward to telling them I wouldn’t be around as much soon, but that was tomorrows problem.
Today’s problem, I mean opportunity for personal growth, filling out my second ever job application and vehicle evaluation.
(To Be Clear – this is not The Fungus House!)
Random ordering is not a sound strategy in a place called The Fungus House.
Beatrice’s mushroom pho looked like a pretty piece of modern art in a bowl.
Wood’s portobello burger looked like an actual burger with cheese, ketchup and lettuce – I think a special sauce might have made an appearance as well.
My lentil and mushroom shepherds pie looked like a sick topiary covered in week old snow.
While contemplating how to tackle the beige mountain that was my dinner (while eating as little of it as possible) I tried to shift the topic off my impending homelessness on to anything else. Wood beat me to the punch.
“So Bee how is life in the book world treating you?”
My ears perked up, “Books?”
A smile crossed her face, “I am a buyer and store promoter for Pulp. I just got back from a trade show in New York. Oh Wood, I got the new Neil Gaiman advanced reader copy for you”. She dug in her briefcase and handed Wood the aforementioned book.
I have never been so jealous of Wood as I was right this instant. I love Gaiman. Eight more months I would have to wait for his new book to hit the shelves. I wonder if Wood would loan it to me when he was finished. Now to the important question, “You get to see where books are born?”
“Something like that, publishers hold book expos to promote their hot, new or exciting titles. Pulp sends me to figure out what is the genuine article and what is just hype. The only unfortunate thing about the trip was my place was broken into while I was gone.”
“That’s no good. Did they take anything irreplaceable?” Wood asked while tucking the book next to his leg.
“No, that’s what’s weird, they only stole a couple old paperbacks and that painting you hate. But other than that, they just rifled through the place and left.” She leaned back in the booth, the conversation causing her to lose her appetite, or perhaps she was full – her bowl was nearly empty.
“Well that doesn’t sound too bad, the painting was hideous. Do you know how they got in?” Wood chimed in while I made sympathetic noises.
“The police weren’t sure. The working theory is that Ms. Hettie left a window upstairs open and they found her key to open the door and went downstairs. They left her stuff alone. If they cased the place, they would have known she would be home soon and the police would investigate immediately rather than a week later.”
Chiming in, “Did you change you locks?”.
“On all the doors and windows. I made it much harder to get in, should they decide for round two.” A hint of competitiveness (or annoyance, it was hard to tell) crept into her voice – apparently thwarting thieves was a sport?
Speaking of larceny, Wood knew I was eyeing his book (he did after all turn me onto Gaiman), when my hand started creeping towards the volume he and the book scooted away from me, “Excuse me for a minute, ladies, I need to use the facilities and put this in my car before I forget it.”
It was then that the bright pins and needles sensation began pricking my toes. Curling them in my shoes I did my best imitation of Winged Victory (you know the statue), trying not to crane my neck to spot who’d popped up into the restaurant. Fortunately I didn’t wonder long – two dancers waltzed past me and started to gliding their way through the restaurant. I tried not to stare but her dress was so beautiful. It reminded me of the wedding dress Grace Kelley’s character wore in her last movie High Society, graceful lines with lace and chiffon swishing elegantly about her knees. Her partner was harder to make out, more the idea of a tuxedo giving him form than what he actually possessed. Or perhaps his partner just sucked all the light towards her, it was hard to tell. In either case, my fellow diners ate on, oblivious to the spectacle circling through them and I lost the thread of the conversation entirely.
“Her dress is lovely isn’t it.”
Startled I refocused on the woman sitting across from me, “Her dress?”
“The couple dancing, her dress is deliciously vintage isn’t it?”
At this point my mouth did a great goldfish impression, “You see them?”
Before she could answer Wood came back to the table patting his pockets, “Beatrice do you know where my keys are?”
Distracted from the dancers by Wood’s question I asked, “Why would she know where your keys are?”
“Bee always finds my keys when I lose them.” Wood looked expectantly at Beatrice.
I could feel her eyes rolling, “You are the only person I know who loses them so regularly.”
“Please?” Wood did his best imitation of a cocker spaniel.
Beatrice closed her eyes for a moment, “They are under the table over there.” She pointed an empty table near the restrooms.
Wood hustled over to where Beatrice pointed, taking the book with him (gggrrrr!), “That’s a neat trick.” I commented, relieved the dancers had left without noticing me.
She smiled, “You think so?”
After dinner we all ended up at The Rusty Hinge, drinking beer, playing pinball and shooting the breeze (where I managed to scarf down a bacon burger with Wood being none the wiser). The Fungus House was a distant memory by the end of the night.
“I see the nickname now – since you don’t fit the mold of cantankerous old man with hygiene problems. Well they say Elvira in real life is a red head – but Morticia has more class.”
“I know right?” Wood chimed in, “I keep telling her it’s a great name!” I sent an arched eyebrow in his direction he studiously ducked my eye contact and resumed eating.
“So you were fired yesterday?” Beatrice asked.
“Laid off. Ben, the owner, wants to expand, so to finance it – he laid me off and served me with an eviction notice. I live in a cottage in the cemetery, to keep people from pulling any shenanigans. He thinks eliminating my salary and his personal rent – will allow him to pour that savings back into the business.”, I felt frustration levels rising – trying to distract myself I started picking at an hors d’oeuvres.
“You don’t sound convinced it will work.”
Perceptive girl. “Ben is enthusiastic and willing to try new things…but he leans towards the unorthodox. I think his common sense will switch off and in the end cause more woe than gain.”
“How bad could it be?” Beatrice missed my eye roll while she looked (rather dejectedly I thought) over the menu.
Wood started laughing now, forgetting he was avoiding me – which is difficult at a three person dinner – as this was a familiar subject which he found no end of amusement in. “Let me tell!” I nodded and he went on. “A few months ago, a courier dropped off a bag at my office filled with swag – water bottles, magnets and such. I thought it was from a pharmaceutical rep. Instead the attached note asked us to keep the cemetery in mind for our patients’ future needs. He even included several glossy magazines which outlined Nevermore’s services to put in my waiting room!” Wood finished with more laughter and a wave of his menu over the memory.
Wood found it funny now, but you should have heard the call I got when he opened that package. I fielded calls from other irked doctors over the rest of the week; Ben’d sent “swag bags” to all the local physicians to try and drum up more clients. Afterwards Big Ben, his dad and Nevermore’s owner, put his foot down – all promotions, schemes or projects needed his approval before implementation.
The fly in the ointment? Little Ben (which I am not allowed to call him) manages all the day-to-day operations and feels it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission – so I don’t foresee the straight and narrow extending far in his future. Especially since Big Ben is a snow bird and spends falls and winters in New Mexico (Arizona is too trendy). I said so to the table.
Beatrice snorted at the story and ordered her dinner, “Yes I can see why you’d be worried. However he isn’t your responsibility anymore. So where will you go from here?”
I ordered at random (you can only be so innovative when your base is mushrooms – or so I thought). “I am not sure. My only asset is my car….so maybe I’ll work for FLYT? I’ve been a caretaker for the last fifteen years, I’m not sure what my resume would qualify me for.” FLYT being the new rideshare company in town. My shoulders sagged knowing what the follow up question, the same one which kept me awake last night, would be – and there it was…
“Any clue where you will move?” Beatrice asked.