“You here for dinner again?” Spank said, as Lilly Jean settled her sorry ass on the stool closest to the diner’s entrance.
“What’s it to you?”
“You got a pout on your face the size of Texas.” Spank polished a fork on his apron and Bitsy suspected that, had she not been looking, he would have spit on it to remove the bit of egg stuck between the tines. “What’ll that make, the third time this week?”
“I ain’t counting.” As she looked at the menu, Lilly Jean spun herself back and forth on the stool with the tip of her toe. She reminded Bitsy of a pendulum: Lilly Jean was all wound up; full of energy with no place to spend it. Lord knows, there wasn’t anything to do in Medford. And so, back and forth she went. This way, then that, history repeating itself again and again until time stopped altogether. Daddy Sheriff’s first wife had spent many a night on that very stool until she’d stood up and walked out of Medford for good, just after Jonathan’s son had run off and Howard had made up his mind to become a monk, confusing the entire town with his undeclared vow of silence and poverty. What had happened to Howard’s dreams? What had happened to her own?
“So you coming in for my cooking or to flirt with me?” Spank winked and picked up a handful of spoons to polish.
Lilly Jean barked a laugh. “None of the above, old man. And it sure as hell ain’t your music, neither.” She looked out the window and crumpled her napkin into a ball. “Daddy Sheriff went out of town a couple of days back,” she said softly. “It gets a little lonely out at the house all by myself.”
“You got Howard for company,” Spank said.
“Howard ain’t no company, Spank. The man ain’t never said a word to me yet.”
“He doesn’t talk to anyone, Lilly Jean,” Bitsy said. “That doesn’t mean he’s poor company.”
“We all thought that Sheriff Daddy would stick around a bit, after he brought you home. It’s awful inconvenient to try and locate the sheriff when no one knows where he’s at.”
“Daddy Sheriff likes to hunt. He likes to fish. He works hard, Spank. Then he comes home to deal with Howard. Give the man the bit of peace he deserves.”
Spank raised an eyebrow at Bitsy. “I have no quarrel with a man who hunts. It’s what he’s hunting that troubles me.”
“Bitsy,” Lilly Jean said, pouring herself a cup of coffee. “I don’t understand what your cook means to say.”
“Daddy Sheriff can be mendacious, Lilly Jean.” Bitsy felt pleased with herself, using a word she’d just learned last night. It was a good word; a solid word. It felt good upon the tongue, nearly as good as thick mashed potatoes with butter and salt. Best of all, Lilly Jean would pretend to know its meaning and she and Spank would be off the hook. They had better things to do than stand around discussing Lilly Jean’s marital issues.
“Oh, Bitsy, quit passing them pretty words round like they’re caviar on a silver platter. This ain’t no fancy-pants town, so you can quit acting like it is.”
Despite her size, Bitsy felt a bit deflated by Lilly Jean’s remarks.
“Ain’t nothing wrong with using good words, Lilly Jean. Bitsy here, she’s got herself a whole arsenal of words and she’s just waiting for the day to bring them out.”
“There ain’t no use for big words in a town that thinks Cheez Whiz on a Ritz cracker is fine dining. Ain’t no use for pretty words when you got yesterday’s egg caught up in the tines of your fork.”
“Lilly Jean, all Spank is saying is that Daddy Sheriff is gone half the time. It’s like he’s…”
“You saying I got me half a man?” Lilly Jean’s eyes flashed. Her fingernails drummed the top of the counter.
“No, Lilly Jean. I’m saying you’ve got half a husband.”
“Half a husband’s better than no husband at all, Bitsy Barnes,” Lilly Jean sneered. “But you wouldn’t know nothing about that now, would you?” And Lilly Jean Jacobs, the former Miss Tennessee, the former Miss Hospitality, past runner up for Miss Sweet Pea and current Queen Bee of Medford stood up and rushed from the diner.
“She’ll be back tomorrow,” Spank said, returning to his handful of spoons.
Labels: Fiction, Indie Ink