Under the rainbow.

September 14, 2013 § 13 Comments

Her whole job is an exercise in short-term memory.

Which one gets scrambled. Which gets over-easy. Which cup gets topped off with high-test, which with decaf.

She’s so dog tired some days she only knows right from left if she looks at her hands: regular right, decaf left.

A cup of Joe.She will probably arrive at the pearly gates armed with regular right, decaf left. And she’ll say to St. Peter, “Can I warm that up for you, hon?”

She’ll top off his cup, then ask, “You mind getting that big door? My hands are kinda full.”

She’ll be wearing her white support hose, hopefully without runs–and hopefully it will be close to payday, so she’ll just have had her hair done.

Couldn’t hurt to stride into glory looking good.

After that, it gets hazy. She doesn’t know much about heaven except it’ll be postcard beautiful. It’s hard to imagine scenery like that from here. She’s worked the strip of linoleum behind this counter so many years she’s personally worn the pattern off. From where she stands, the view, this side of heaven, is far from scenic.

First there is the stretch of counter, dark pink with a black fleck to it.

Next, the row of chrome stools which she takes on faith, being out of her sight under the lip of the counter except when she wipes them down.

Then there is the plate-glass window on which the letters, running backwards, say “Greyhound Café.”  Beyond the window is the waiting room where the air stinks of exhaust as buses pull up outside the big, open-and-close glass doors, and stalled travelers sit, slumped or anxious, on half a dozen sorry benches.

Not your better class travelers. Mexican migrants in cowboy boots, heels worn thin, young mothers twenty pounds overweight, missionary Mormons, their white summer shirts sweated through under the arms, punks with tattoos and pierced eyebrows.

The tips here are lousy. Not many men in suits ride the Dog.

Still, you would think that sometime, in the ebb and flow of customers, someone worthwhile would  park at her counter and say, “Morning ma’am,” and look at her like she was there.

He wouldn’t have to be young. What would she do with young? Wouldn’t matter if he wasn’t thin either, she was far from high school weight herself.

All she asked is that he be decent. Polite and clean and steady, but still alive enough to pay attention to the woman standing on the other side of the counter filling his coffee cup and reciting the sides that come with the burger platter.

What would bring a decent living breathing man into the Greyhound Café she couldn’t say. Maybe he’d be meeting someone getting off the bus, not a woman of course. Or picking up a ticket when he happened to see her through the glass under the curved rainbow of the Greyhound Café sign.

Looking at her, he won’t hear music, just the hot breath of the air brakes of an arriving bus, but something will catch his eye and he’ll watch her working the counter, a pot of regular in her right hand, decaf in her left. And he’ll think, maybe I’d better go in and get myself a cup and read the name tag pinned to her blouse.


“That’s right, Beetrice with two Es, no A.” She’ll tell him her mother made up the spelling herself.

And they’ll take it from there.

Note:Beetrice is one of the characters who walks into my mind and says, “Can you write this down, hon?” Some never find a story—that man she longs for will probably never walk through the door, at least not on paper, but just as Beetrice will stride into heaven ready to offer St. Peter a cup of Joe, I’ll be carrying paper and pen, ready to write it all down. If they let me, I’ll post the report right here–but not too soon. I still have plenty of stories to tell right here.

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