44 Cherry Street, Chapter 9

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beers2

The day after the party, Chip awoke with a big smile on his face and a big-time hangover pounding in his head. Alison had provided a keg of Pisgah Pale Ale, his favorite, and he had enjoyed too much of it. When Chip had arrived at the party, he had located Alison at the grill, cooking the mixed meats and veggies he had recommended. She had marinated everything in a blend of butter, mustard, maple syrup, and curry, and the smell of grilling food was divine. He got some points with her when he offered to take over at the grill so she could socialize with her guests, and she happily handed over the utensils. She returned frequently with fresh cups of beer which slid down easily and cooled him off, what with the smoke and heat from the grill. He watched her circulate among the guests, and thought how lovely she looked. She had a great smile and a musical laugh he could hear over the loud music and voices. 

People came over to say hello and check out the source of the tantalizing smells coming for the grill. He enjoyed meeting some fellow bikers and made plans to meet some of them for an early morning trail ride the following weekend. Once the food was ready he moved it to the long tables Alison had set up, and he was pleased to hear the compliments about the meal. “This is the best food I have ever eaten!”  Funny how people will go crazy with compliments over food, but you work hard at your job and you get hardly a pat on the back. Chip wished he heard any word of praise at his job at the butcher shop. He thought, not for the first time, that he might enjoy a job in food service. But he would have to be his own boss. 

One summer while he was in college, Chip had gotten a job in the kitchen of the old Pewter Rose in Charlotte. He loved eating at that place with his parents and was excited about being behind the scenes at one of the city’s top restaurants. Before he started work he had imagined himself behind the big stove, broiling and sauteing dinners, and planning and implementing new recipes for the restaurant. Instead, Helen, the owner, had put him at the salad station. Day after day, he prepared salads according to a diagram posted on the wall in front of him. No deviation from the diagram was tolerated. He also cleaned salad vegetables and combined huge garbage bags of salad mix. One day he decided to get a little (very little) creative with it. He added a few bunches of chopped green onions to the mix. Helen happened to see him throw them into the bag, and she made a beeline over to his station. 

“What did you just do???” she demanded.

“Um, I jazzed up the salad a little. You know, just made it a little more interesting.”

Helen was a redhead with pale skin, and Chip watched amazed as a red tide moved up her neck and soon covered her whole face. “You idiot! Do you realize we now have to throw away that whole bag of salad?”

“Throw it away? Why would we do that?” Chip’s face was now hot and red also, but from embarrassment.

“When people come to this restaurant, they expect the food to be exactly the same as the last time they were here. We don’t put green onions in our salad, and if they find green onions in the salad, they don’t appreciate it. Uniformity. It’s not fun, but that’s what we have to do to get people to come back.”

Chip felt awful. “I am so sorry…” he began.

Helen could see that Chip was upset and she felt sorry for blowing up at him. She put her arm around his shoulder and said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s not a biggy. Just don’t do it again. OK?”

Chip assured Helen that he would never again stray from the diagrams posted at his station, but he also promised himself that if he ever opened his own place, he would change the menu all the time, just to keep it interesting both for him and for his customers. He didn’t want those boring Charlotteans eating at his restaurant anyway. 

Now, however, he was getting that impulse to cook all over again. 

As the party wound down, Alison located Chip as he was walking around the yard picking up trash. “I can’t thank you enough for all your help tonight! I invited you as a guest and didn’t want you to work all night long. You are so amazingly nice! Stop working instantly.”

Chip was flushed with pride. “Aw, I enjoyed it. I love to cook and have been thinking about going into the cooking business at some point. I managed to meet a slew of your friends, regardless, and have even made a plan to meet up with some of them next weekend.”

“Still,” continued Alison, “you are just too kind. Hey, how about I take you out for dinner one night this week? You know, to thank you, and all?”

Chip smiled. “I’d love to meet you for dinner, but you don’t have to pay for my meal! We can split it.”

“No, no! I insist! Just think about where and when,  and we can get together towards the end of this week. School doesn’t start for weeks, so I can go out almost any night.”  Alison said.

And with that agreement, Chip found his bike and pedaled back to Cherry Street along the dark expanse of North Fork Road. “Wow! Great night,” he thought.  

The words of the Dead song, “Believe it or Not” ran through his head:

One or two moments

a piece of your time

is all I am asking

and I’ll give you mine

One or two moments

out of all you have got

to show how I love you

believe it or not. 

“Yup. Things were moving right along.”

Meanwhile, that same night on Cherry Street, Lorraine was at her computer, pouring over the profiles men on Match. She was dressed in a pale pink silk Dior nightgown and peignoir set she had found buried in her top drawer, leftover from her marriage to her last husband…the deadbeat. Her friends had thrown a lingerie  shower for her, and she had acquired some luscious pieces. Lacy bras and panties, garter belts,  silky nightgowns, and yummy peignoirs. Pearls before swine!! Her ex wouldn’t have cared if she had come to bed in burlap. He slept in Ozzie and Harriet-style flannel pajamas and wool socks every night and he was snoring by the time she had finished her nightly ablutions. 

She was really put off by the collection of weirdoes presented for her consideration by Match. She was aware that the photo she had posted was many years old, so she imagined that these men had pulled the same stunt. Even so, they looked ancient and gnarly. Even more pitiful were the statements they had posted to introduce themselves. One guy had written, “I am a guy who has earned a good living, and I don’t want any leeches or fat chicks contacting me. If you aren’t independent, self-supporting, and slender, don’t bother me.” His photo, though, revealed a bald-headed, fat man. What the hell! Other guys in their sixties specified that their dates be thirty or younger. Lecherous old farts!

Lorraine called her friend Judy, a therapist in Waynesville, who was also single and looking. She asked her if she had found the same sorry assortment of men available in their age group. That is, the 45-50 year olds… Judy answered on the first ring.

“Well,” Judy said thoughtfully, “I have had a mixed bag of dates from Match, and I have been on Match for the last fifteen years. I was actually one of the founding members of Match.”

“Fifteen years???” Lorraine gasped. “And you haven’t found a keeper yet?”

“Lorraine. You know how particular I am. I have met plenty of men who were crazy about me. I just found some small but unforgivable flaws in each one. I have been wined and dined by some handsome and wealthy men from all over the Carolinas. One man wanted me to move to Charleston. Crazy. Another owned a large international business and wanted to take me on a trip to Hong Kong, but I don’t like Chinese food, so I put him to the curb.”

“Oh,that’sencouraging. Next time you meet one of these wealthy businessmen you don’t want, will you suggest to them that they give me a call?” asked Lorraine.

“Well, I would. Really I would. But I don’t think that would work. I do look so much younger and thinner than you do, that I hardly think they would find you as attractive as I am.”

Lorraine couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She had thought of Judy as a friend, and now Judy was putting her down in a despicable way. “I wouldn’t say you were any more attractive than I am!” she spat.

“Now, Lorraine, be reasonable. Back in the sixties I was a groupie with Jethro Tull Band and I slept with all the guys in the entire band. Can you say the same? I don’t think so!”

“No. I can’t make that claim,” answered Lorraine. “Nor would I admit it if I were you. Slut!!” 

And with that Lorraine hung up on her former friend, and went to the bathroom to take a hot bath to relax herself. She filled her wine glass with Cabernet Sauvignon, poured Lavender bath salts in the tub and muttered to herself as she carefully hung the Dior ensemble on the back of the bathroom door.

“What nerve!”

jethro tull