(Technically this is the Diner on the Corner’s biscuit and gravy spread – I forgot to take a pic of the chipped beef before I ate it!)
“It was a dark and stormy night.”
Beatrice (arching an eyebrow): “Was it, though?”
Robbie (brow furrowed): “Where? It’s been clear as a bell at the house for over a week. Not that I’ve been outside much…”
Me: “I’m trying to set a mood.”
Watching them roll their eyes in unison, I hastily moved on.
Me: “Okay, it wasn’t stormy per se, but it was dark.”
“My last arranged fare of the day, Mrs. Kim, called it quits on her Christmas shopping thirty minutes early…”
Robbie: “Shirt. Have you started making your presents for the gift exchange yet?”
Me: “Yes. I’m assuming you haven’t?”
Robbie (shifting in his seat): “Do you think sticking googly-eyes on condiments counts as homemade?”
Me (suppressing a grin): “If you have to ask….”
Beatrice (tipping her cup of earl grey my way): “Anyways…”
“Mrs. Kim’s early night meant I could eat a warm meal before my second shift started. I’d just polished off my plate of chipped beef on toast with the works when the lights flickered crazily as my FLYT ap popped.”
Beatrice (her tone dry as dust): “Warning our heroine, she should’ve stayed at home…”
Robbie: “Who has S.O.S. on their menu anymore?”
Me (responding in reverse order): “The Diner on the Corner had it as their Throwback Monday Special-of-the-Day and I take it you’re looking for less extravagant descriptions?”
Beatrice: “They do drape your story in a certain amount of distortion.”
Me: “Actually, they won’t.”
Robbie: “Really? How?”
Pulling my phone out of my back pocket, I placed it between the serving plates on the kitchen table.
Me (sheepishly): “I recorded the entire ride.”
Robbie (incredulously): “Isn’t that against FLYT regulations?”
Me: “Yes. However, in my defense, it was an accident…though when I did remember, I didn’t bother shutting it off….”
Beatrice (eyes sparkling with suppressed laughter): “You know, Ms. Hettie will have a fit if you get fired. She likes her tenants gainfully employed…”
Me (shrugging helplessly at the end): “Seriously, it was an accident. I was recording a voice memo while I was driving. When I hit the parking lot, the FLYT prompt superseded the phone screen. When I figured out who ordered the ride, the phone was the least of my worries.”
Robbie: “Don’t keep us in suspense, who was it?”
Pulling the Princess into the ill-lit lot of Hudson Brother’s Garage, I scanned for a man befitting of the name J.R. It took a moment for a silhouette to detach itself from the inky shadows and saunter towards the passenger side door. Passing through a pool of light issuing from the office window, the shade’s profile resolved itself into a dame.
A dame who I knew was nothing but trouble.
Me (holding up my hands under their twin glares): “Okay, okay, I’ll stop.”
Without meeting either Robbie or Beatrice’s level (and unamused) looks, I wiped the soy-garlic-glaze off my fingers, picked up my phone, plugged in my password, pressed play, and set it back amongst our dinner plates.
The strains of the Greensleeves Tango played for a second before KARB’s musical selection muted, allowing both the ambient car noises and my voice to shine through. (Entertainingly, describing the dinner we were currently eating days before we actually sat down at the kitchen table in the Lavender Lady.)
“Frozen peas, yellow pepper, water chestnuts and corn sautéed in garlic and onions for the dumpling filling. Need to get a red pepper, some bean sprouts, snow peas, julienned carrots, cilantro, and rice noodles for salad. Plus, a couple of limes, ginger, Serrano chilis and chili oil for the sauces. Need to marinate the chicken wings for at least a day….”
The soft tick of the turn indicator and an increase in rustle cloth accompanied my preoccupied voice. “Okay J.R., I’m here where are you?” Silence descended in the Princess as her wheels roll to a stop, thus allowing the phone to pick up my sharp gasp.
“Oh, holy forking hell. You’ve got to be kidding me…”
Beatrice (putting her chopsticks down): “What’s that thrumming noise? I forgot to ask before.”
Me: “My fist bouncing rapidly off the bottom of the steering wheel, I was debating whether or not to set the Princess’s tires on fire peeling out.”
The vibrating stopped a moment before the squeaky passenger side door opened. “Phoebe! I’m so glad you’re finally here! Oh, and look, you’re wearing another charming hat. It’s not as eye-catching as the octopus, but the plastic holly does lend it a certain je ne sais quoi.”
“I’m well within the pickup window, you…Josie.” I finished lamely, ignoring both her dig at Squiddy and my festoon chauffeur’s cap. (I’d found a small vintage fairy-cake topper and tucked it in the band of my hat – I rather liked the effect it created.)
Robbie (grinning): “You almost called her a Brownie Stealing Bench, didn’t you.”
Me (mouth twitching): “Maybe….”
Beatrice (her eyebrows puckered together): “Why did she use just her initials instead of her full name?”
Me (shrugging): “I’m guessing she knew I wouldn’t have accepted the fare otherwise.”