Picture Perfect 59

Picture Perfect 59

Dan looked around Cora’s Place for Teresa Dunlop. There were more people there than he had expected for a lunch time crowd at a small-town eatery. Eight tables with people at five of them already. Mostly couples and some families with children.

A waitress noticed him and the camera man standing there. “We have that window table for you.” she nodded in that generally direction.

“Do you know Teresa Dunlop? I was supposed to meet her here.”

The waitress did a fast look around. “Nope can’t say as she’s here. Take that table though she can’t miss you if she shows up. Remember now shots of customers in the restaurant.”

They sat at the table. Cameron, his camera man for the day, beside him. They was five minutes early. Dan glanced at the notes about Teresa on his phone. Married twice, no children, worked at various jobs, currently single, unemployed, trained as dental hygienist, worked as hair-dresser, lived in Halifax for several years before moving back to Stellerton to look after ailing parent. Parent passed away two years ago.

“Get you guys something while you are waiting?” waitress asked. “Beer?”

“Coffee will be fine.”

“Same here. Milk if you got it.” Cameron said.

The waitress brought their coffees. “You must be with that TV show that’s in town. The camera man is a dead giveaway.”

“That’s right.” Dan said.

“Down right sad about that Glaucia. I’d met her a couple of times. Funny how you can be here one day and gone the next.”

“Yes.” Dan stirred cream into his coffee.

“Wonder that she didn’t see it coming, though. Her being psychic and all that. Maybe you can’t see yourself in the picture, right?” The waitress gave a wry smile.

“Yes.” Cameron said.

She went to another table.

Dan sipped the coffee. It was weak. A table emptied, then another.

“Looks like you’ve been stood up.” The waitress came over with the coffee pot. “Top you guys up?”

“Not just yet for me. Too much coffee on an empty stomach isn’t good for me.” Dan looked over the menu. “I’ll have the soup.”

“Chicken noodle today.”

“Sounds good and a … grilled cheese. Whole wheat.”

“White only. But it’s enriched.”

“Okay.”

“Bacon burger and fries for me.” Cameron said. “The works.”

Soup & grilled cheese was the sort of lunch Dan’s mother used to serve when they traveled. She’d always bring a hot plate and grilled cheese was easy and fast. He’d had a craving for it since checking in to the Arms.

He checked his phone for the time and Teresa was thirty minutes late. He figured she wasn’t going to show up. 

The waitress brought his soup and sandwich and camera’s burger.

“Enjoy.”

The chicken noodle was out of a can. Either that or the chef was able to duplicate that look and taste. It was salty. The sandwich was hot, the cheese was mild, tasteless and it had to be those processed slices not real cheese. He waved to the waitress.

“How’s the burger?”

“Filling.” Camera said. “Fries are decent. Needs something.”

“Yes?” she brought the coffeepot to the table. “Ready for this.”

“Yeah, sure. Do you have any hot sauce?”

“No.” she shrugged.

“What about dips for the wings?” Cameron asked.

“Oh yeah. There’s the spicy one. I’ll have to charge extra you for it though.”

“Fine.”

“Dan James!” a woman called from the door, as she entered & walked to his table. She was about five four, though the fringe on her leather jacket made her look taller. Her tight jeans were tucked into the tops of calf-hugging dark red leather boots that came half way up her shins. Tufts of hair in a variety of reds, blues and blonds weren’t tamed by the Jay’s baseball cap she had pulled on her head. She bumped one of the tables on her way.

He stood to meet her. “Teresa Dunlop?”

“I’m she and she needs another drink. A Molson’s, Heather.” She shouted to the waitress as she sat. “A cold one this time, too.” She she slung her fringed purse on the empty chair opposite Cameron, pulled off her scruffy fringed jacket and sat. “They know me here.” She grinned at camera.

“This is my crew for the interview. Cameron Hall.” 

She reached across the table to shake Cameron’s hand and knocked over Dan’s cup of coffee.

The waitress put a the beer on the table along with a glass and gave Dan his hot sauce.

“I’ll get a cloth for that.” she grimaced at the spilled coffee.

Teresa took a swig out of the bottle then poured the rest into the glass. “That first one tastes best out of the bottle. You have to decide what’s more important being a lady or having the right taste.”

Another waitress came over to wipe the table down. They lifted their food to make it easier for her.

The waitress brought a plate of fries with a dollop of gravy splashed in the middle of it and put in front of Teresa.

“Thanks Heather.”

“It’s Barbra.” the waitress said timidly. “Heather’s been gone these two months having her baby.”

“Sorry to hear that. Guess I should look closer. Thanks Barbra.” She ate a couple of fries, had another swallow of her beer. “Look Dan, I gotta have a smoke. Can’t do that indoors anymore. I’ll be right back. Bring me another, Heather.” she called to the waitress.

“Mind if I join you,” Cameron asked.

“Sure! Nothing worse than smokin’ alone unless it’s drinkin’ alone.” She got a package of Export A cigarettes out of her purse. “You not takin’ that with you?” She asked gesturing to his camera. “Mighty small isn’t it?”

“Should I?” Cameron asked Dan. “It’s your interview.”

“Sure why not.”

“Swell, make sure you get m’good side.”

They stood on the sidewalk a few feet from the door. Teresa puffing, taking and pointing here and there. Someone stopped to talk to her and she introduced them to her cameraman. She flicked her cigarette into the street, slipped her arm under Cameron’s and they came back into Cora’s.

“I gotta take a quick, you know, to the ladies. I’ll be right back. Heather can you reheat this for me.”

The waitress took the plate of fries into the kitchen.

“You’ll have your work cut out for you with this one.” Cameron said. 

“She have anything to say out there?”
“Telling me who lived where. She did want to know you were single. I told her you weren’t in the market just now.”

A microwave dinged and waitress put the reheated fries in front of Teresa as she sat back down.

“That’s better. So where do we start Danny Boy.”

“What do remember about that day.” Dan asked.

“Mama was a wreck. Pops was drunk, not unusual. Both of them are dead now, you know that? Anyway.” She was silent for a moment. 

“Yeah, that’s all I remember. I was seeing that guy from Hippo. You know the one your sister had the hots for too, but I made sure she didn’t get more than her hands on him, and vice versa.” she sighed deeply. “I should have just stepped out of the way but I was tired of you folks coming here and getting all that attention. She was pretty enough. Acted better than she was because your Dad was so … rich. Yeah! We though you fellas were loaded. Staying the Arms and all that.” She picked at her fries.

“You weren’t like her though.”

“You mean after the same men as you?” Dan asked.

“Go on with you. No, I mean you acted like you was happy to be here. You and Timmy got on great too. You kept him out of trouble, most of the time.”

“My folks thought he was always getting me into trouble.” Dan said.

“It was pretty awful to lose him like that. You never know. Never.” She teared up. “We fought all the time but I liked him. Loved him. We was sorry to see you up and leave so fast too. Though can’t blame your Dad. He said it could have been you. For a long time I wished that it had been you. I hate to say that.”

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The Monkees

I have to admit the first time I heard ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’ I wasn’t impressed, main key because I was a snob who felt only the British groups made real music. The Monkees music was dismissed because they didn’t even play the instruments on their lps & some doubted if they even did their own singing. They were a live action version of the cartoon Archies – in fact both groups shared the same musicians & songwriters. The TV show was madcap fun & more anarchic than, say, Bewitched.

Over a couple mp3 cds I have The Monkees 1st; More of The Monkees; Headquarters; Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones; The Birds,  The Bees & The Monkees; Head, 33.3 Revolutions Per Monkee;  Instant Replay; Changes. Over time they wrote & played on more of their songs, toured, worked with Frank Zappa but never lost the taint of being a package product. Finally they became a nostalgia circuit feature.

Today I love those early lps, full of solid innocent songs that are well-crafted & beautifully produced. I know enough of their history to know the actors were musicians but like many musicians they were boxed in by commercial needs of the industry. The songs would be just as solid by any band. The construction of boy/girl bands is an industry manufacturing process that continues today. Listening to them I hear a sexual innocence in the lyrics & performances. I knew girls who loved the guys in the band & who drummed of kissing & hugging them. I doubt if they dreamed of gang bangs in motel rooms.

Rounding out the cds are Tommy James & The Shondells: Cellophane Symphony; Anthology – some of this is prime radio psychedelics. The unneeded version of Crimson & Clover is wild. Symphony is worth seeking out if you don’t have. Three Dog Night: Harmony – more prime radio music that is well-crafted & my favourite of theirs. Finally Paul Revere and The Raiders: 63-67: The Essential Ride – more golden oldie hits that bring back memories of high-school sock-hops. It was perfect doing homework music.

This story goes back to mid 80’s.

Cooler

part 2

A leather number from behind Dan said. “Gimme a Blue, Carl. Looks like a slow night.”

Carl had already gabbed a Blue before the guy had asked for it. “It’s early, Mike.”

“We met before?” Mike asked.

Before Carl could answer there was a ruckus in the front bar. He couldn’t see around his cooler to find out what it was, until a very drunk man fell into the middle of the dance floor.

“You bunch of fuckers. You bunch of dumb fuck fuckers.” The man was weeping. “None of you gives a shit about anyone but yourselves.”

Carl recognized the man as Jim, the doorman who had been let go just before he started. Something to do with missing money.

Jim got up unsteadily, pulled his jacket off & started swinging it around over his head. “He’s dead & all you ass holy queens want to do is drink & fuck. You don’t care. You don’t even care about yourselves.”

The he that was dead was Wilson, the man whose bar station Carl now had. Let Will wet your willy was the sign that used to be where Carl’s Cooler was now. Jim was in front of Carl, glaring at the new sign.

“God, I loved that man.” He was on his knees crying into his hands.

Those men who weren’t stunned, looked away embarrassed by this unexpected display of reality. 

“Interesting floor show.” Carl heard someone snicker as he passed.

“It wasn’t his heart, you fuck heads!” Jim shouted at no one in particular. “This bar killed him. He died right here. You cunts don’t even have the decency to respect his memory.”

“What did you expect us to do?” Jack asked, firmly pulling Jim to his feet. “Have his cooler sign bronzed? We sent flowers. We closed the day of his funeral. We …”

Jim shoved him away. “Big fucking deal. Flowers. We all owe that man something. All of us. You throw away his sign & people’ll forget him. You can’t forget him, ever. Please don’t forget him.” He grabbed Jack & shook him. “He was a good guy. Not like these other assholes. He cared about people.”

“I know. We all know.” Jack sighed. 

Carl shook his head knowing Jack was bullshitting Jim. When he was hired Jack had told him he was glad to be rid of Will. Will was too fond of organizing bar nights for the local AIDS group, fundraisers, that seemed to attract an uptight bunch, who rarely spent enough to cover the cost of lights for the night. To Jack, Will was a community pain in the ass.

“You don’t give a shit & you all don’t give a flying fuck. You bunch of simpering self-centred cunts. Especially you Jack …”

“Calm down Jim. We’re even …” Jack paused to think “ … setting up a fund in Will’s name for the AIDS hospice. Yeah, that’s it. All the boys are going to chip in one night a week’s tips, too, to keep it growing. Right Carl?”

He turned to Carl for help in getting things back to normal.

“Oh, yeah. Sure.”

“How come no one knows about it? I don’t see nothin’ anywhere.”

“We haven’t had time to get signs. Carl, you were going to look after that, weren’t you?”

Not wanting to get drawn deeper into Jack’s deceit, Carl answered, “They’ll be up before the night is over, Boss.”

“Jeez,” Jim became sheepish, almost apologetic. “Sorry.”

“Come on,” Jack guided him firmly to the front bar. “Have a drink on the house & I’ll get you a cab home.”
Carl put up a Back in 5 sign & went to the supply room. It took him almost twice that long to find pieces of cardboard, finally torn from a beer case, to make a couple of signs that said: 

Will’s Hospice Fund

Once there was a Will

Now there is a way

He taped it to a water carafe & propped the carafe at the end of his counter. He hadn’t known Will at all, but could sense how much he regulars missed him. Will had worked there since Matthew’s first opened nine years ago. Some still half-expected him to to be there when they came to the cooler.

The crowd quickly got over Jim’s reality reminder & business picked up sharply. Carl like it best when there wasn’t much time to think. Just bend, grab, open, make change, thanks, next, repeat, jokes, thanks. It gave him no time for anything except what had to be done. No time to dwell on the past, future or Jack. Just smile, say thanks, & drop his tips into Will’s can. He briefly thought about Dan & wondered if he wanted to be bothered with this whole meeting someone routine.

“Miss a turn on the Yellow Brick Road?” a young guy is a black t-shirt asked.

“That’s right. Now don’t get this on your red shoes, Frank.” He passed the guy a beer.

“How did you know my name? Better yet how did you know what I wanted?”

Carl tapped the side of his nose & winked.

“Well, smell her. A real witch. ” Frank smiled to his companion. “No wonder there’s weird vibes back here.” He went on. “Is it colder back here or is it just me?”

Now that it had been mentioned, Carl realized that he had been feeling chilled, but moving in & out of the cooler made it hard for him to judge how warm the space was.

Don’t miss the thrilling finale next week 🙂

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