I’m not sure who my words shocked more Leo, Josie, or I. I’m thinking Leo, only because he nearly spat out his mouthful of beer.
Regarding me cooly for a split second, she shifted her focus back onto a red-faced Leo, who’d swiftly stopped choking and/or coughing, without any further acknowledgement.
Josie (smile a little tight at the edges): “I’ve been struggling to find a perfect gift for KARB’s Programming Director. You probably haven’t heard, as David’s only told a select few, but he’s handing over the reins to my inamorato Julien Dewinter and retiring at the end of next month. I think he’d love your work.”
Is she using selective hearing on me? Seriously? And how ostentatious, inamorato, why not just call Julien her boyfriend?
Leo (returning her smile with a polite one of his own): “Thank-you, but…”
Me (thoughtfully interrupting Leo): “Perhaps a viper is to on the nose. How about a spider? You could go as Arachne, from that story by Ovid, I’m sure Leo could whip up a cobweb mini dress and an appropriate eight-legged hat…”
Easing her left hip against the edge of the table, giving me an excellent view of her backside, Josie continued to pretend I was existentially challenged.
Well, who’d have thunk it – I do believe I’ve found a fourth solution for dealing with Josie and her ilk – and I owe it all to Ms. Hettie.
Josie (ratcheting up her charm-o-meter): “If you have a moment right now, we could discuss designs and your fee. I’m sure Phoebe won’t mind moving to the bar while we talk business. I believe she’s on excellent terms with the bartender.”
Woot! She just intimated I was a drunk! I wonder which Ms. Hettie would appreciate more; butter cookies or a bottle of bourbon? I feel I ought to repay her for the year of verbal sparring and zinger training I’ve received.
Me (snapping my fingers): “I’ve got it! You should go as a magpie! They’re handsome and thieving, just like you!”
Leo utterly failed to suppress a guffaw.
Man, how did I miss this? I never once considered needling-her-back as a viable defense! Probably because we were in school and she’d have made my life a misery.
Josie (turning back to me, her tone tetchy): “Are you still bent out of shape over that brownie thing back in junior high? It was over twenty years ago, we’re different people now, let it go. You’ll feel better for it.”
Is she trying to out adult me?
Me (Cheshire smile splitting my face – I let her): “Naw, don’t wanna.”
Ready to take the lumps Josie’s sub-zero stare promised were in the offing, Ruth quadrupled her tip by arriving at our table with our wing order a split second before the icy blast.
Leo (delighted): “Dinner!”
Digging into the baskets, Leo started distributing the sides and dividing the wings equally between our plates – as is our tradition – and successfully diffused the impending sleety squall.
Me: “Sorry, Josie. I’d ask you to join, but we only ordered enough for the two of us tonight.”
Josie (stiffly): “No problem, I’m a vegan anyway.”
Me (quizzically): “Really?”
Josie: “Yes, really, eating animals is beastly.”
Me (shrugging): “How very ethical of you.”
Josie (addressing Leo): “Can I contact you about the commission early next week?”
Leo (setting down his barbecue-gochujang coated drumette): “Unfortunately, I’m not taking on any new projects at the moment.”
Josie: “Are you sure? A vintage microphone hat would be perfect, and I’d pay triple since I know its short notice.”
Leo: “Sorry, Josie, Phoebe’s hat is the last custom order I’m doing for a while.”
Josie (letting loose a healthy sigh, then smiling): “I suppose it’s for the best. I’m not sure Julien would be comfortable giving his former boss something cute. Well, it was nice running into you, Phoebe, and a pleasure to meet you, Leo. I’ll see you both around.”
Dear lords above and below, I hope not.
After delivering her parting shot, using a tone that would make even Jack Frost shiver, she turned on her heel to leave – without waiting for our response. Unable to resist needling her one last time, I decided to impart a helpful laundry tip Aunt Pearl gave me soon after I discovered this place.
Me: “Hey Josie, you’ll want to run the front of your blouse and the bottom edge of your cuff under cold water, then soak it in liquid detergent for a couple of days before you wash it.”
Without sparing a glance at the tell-tale reddish specks splattered across her shirt, she turned towards my voice, her mouth compressed in a flat rigid line.
Josie (icicles hanging off the word): “Why?”
Me: “It’s the only way to keep that buffalo sauce stain from setting.”
Wow, I do believe Josie Reville just flipped me off.
Ms. Hettie’s definitely deserves both a bottle of bourbon and several dozen butter cookies.
Leo (regarding me with amusement): “Does the Hinge serve buffalo sauce on anything other than their chicken wings?”
Me (grinning): “No, no, they do not.”