You Could've Heard a Pin Drop
Copyright© 2010 by woodmanone
In the three years since I kicked my fiancée, I guess I should say ex-fiancée, to the curb my life has changed; for the better I think. I don’t know to this day if Jackie was screwing that asshole Bill; right up until the end she swore that she hadn’t slept with him. It doesn’t make any difference; her actions didn’t pass my idea of fidelity.
Just to bring you up to speed ... Jackie had lied to me and met him several times when she told me she was with the “girls” or visiting her mother. Some of my friends had seen her on more than one occasion with Bill; dry humping on a dance floor, kissing each other, and even going outside to “get some fresh air”.
I confronted Jackie and her boy toy Bill in front of her house on one of the nights that she was supposed to having dinner with her girlfriends. I basically told her to go to hell, took my engagement ring back, and sent her down the road. I refused to meet with or talk to her after that night though she called several times.
Jackie didn’t want to break up and brought Bill into my watering hole to make me jealous as a ploy hoping to get me to talk to her. It wasn’t a good plan because Bill got all macho and shit when I told Jackie to go to hell. He broke my nose and put a cut over my eye that took twelve stitches to close. Billy Boy didn’t get away untouched; I later heard that he had a broken nose, two cracked ribs, and some very bruised testicles. I managed to kick him in the gonads a couple of times. Funny, I never saw or heard from Billy Boy again.
I finally agreed to talk to Jackie because she promised to leave me alone if I would. She explained that nothing serious had happened and I explained that she had crossed a line and there was no going back. Neither of us was happy about the situation but that meeting put a period to the relationship. I lost one other thing after we broke up; I lost my desire to over indulge with Jack Daniels. One drink on week nights and no more than two on the weekends was my new norm.
Two weeks after that final meeting, Jackie’s brother Rob came to see me. As usual I was at Kelly’s holding court with an audience of Kelly, a glass of Jack Daniels, and who ever cared to listen to my words of wisdom. In reality I was having a drink and talking to my friend Kelly. Rob and I were more than acquaintances but less than best buddies. We knew and liked each other and would have a few drinks once in awhile.
Rob flopped down on the bar stool next to me and told Kelly to bring him what I was having. He took a sip of his drink and made a face. He never was much of a Jack Daniels fan. “How can you drink this stuff?”
“It’s manna from heaven my boy. Finest kind,” I answered as I took a big drink.
I knew he had something on his mind; it was unusual for him to track me down. He hesitated and after a minute or so got to the reason he was there.
“Is there any chance that you can forgive my stupid sister? Jackie really does love you, you know. She’s a mess and I’m worried about her. She knows she screwed up but she’s learned a lesson.” Rob stopped talking and looked at me expectantly.
Taking another slug of my drink, I motioned to Kelly to bring me another one; it was Saturday night so I allowed myself a second drink. “Rob I’d like to help you because it’s you but you’re asking for something I can’t do. Jackie screwed around on me for our entire relationship and I don’t think it would be any different if we got back together. She destroyed my trust in her and that’s no way to live; I would always wonder if she was messing around again. Jackie’s out of my life and she’s going to stay out. I’m sorry I can’t help you Rob,” I finished.
“Can’t help or won’t help?” Rob asked with a small grin.
“Doesn’t make any difference, it’s the same result either way,” I answered grinning back at him.
“Well I promised that I would talk to you, so I’ve done my duty. I told Jackie that you wouldn’t change your mind but she begged me to try. Believe me I understand and can’t blame you. I hope we can remain friends; good drinking buddies are hard to come by even if they do drink this rot gut.”
Shortly afterwards Jackie moved to the west coast; she went alone or so I heard.
I’m Jake Connors by the way. A little over two years after Jackie and I went splitsville, my brother James and I bought the bar when Kelly decided to retire. It had been my favorite watering hole for a couple of years. James came home with a medical discharge from the Marine Corps, a monthly disability check, and a bum leg. He was wounded in some third world shit hole of a country.
I had been working construction but an injury forced me into their office. My knee had been screwed up in a fall and two years after the injury I had it operated on. At 28 I was still the same tall, dark, and handsome, well I don’t know about the handsome part, guy that I had been but my knee wouldn’t take the abuse that type of work put on it so I moved into the office. Scheduling jobs, ordering supplies, and planning were what I did now.
James wanted something to do besides sitting and waiting on his disability check and I wanted something to fall back on if the office job began to drive me nuts. My brother managed to accumulate a sizeable nest egg while in the Corps. I won’t go into how, just don’t ever play poker with him. I had saved most of my pay from working construction. Living at home with mom and grandma certainly minimized expenses.
So James and I pooled our resources and bought Kelly’s. We changed the name to “Conner’s Pub & Grill”, added a kitchen and offered a basic menu. Deli type sandwiches, burgers, and a Friday night fish fry was about as fancy as it got.
I spend most of my free time at our pub. I’m like a captain in the military and James is like the grizzled sergeant that makes sure everything gets done and runs smoothly. James manages the bar and kitchen and I’m administration. I’m a full service accountant slash office manager slash purchasing agent slash chief flunky and gofer. James and I split the weekend duties and I worked the bar a couple of nights a week so he could take a little time off; it’s a productive sharing of duties. We draw a salary and split the profits equally every quarter.
James and I look enough a like to be twins; we both have the same dark hair and gray eyes but I’m about 4 inches taller than him. I worked behind the bar to give James some time off and it was funny to see the reaction of some of the customers; they couldn’t understand how James had grown or I had shrunk overnight. It confused the hell out of them until they caught on.
Buying the pub and the two story building that housed it was one of the best things that James and I could have done. Not only did it give us a good income, it enabled us to do more for our mom and grandmother. We bought a four bedroom house and moved our “ladies” out of the tough neighborhood where we had grown up. James now lived with mom and grandma and I had my own three bedroom apartment over the pub.
I remodeled one of the bedrooms into a home gym. When I moved out of the field into the office and started working with my brain instead of my brawn, I began to put on a lot of weight. At 6’4” I could carry my normal weight of 240 pounds, but I ballooned up to almost 300 pounds and looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. It was cool not having to drive somewhere to work out; I just had to walk down the hall. I worked out three times a week and got my weight back down to 240.
The income from Connor’s Pub and Grill also enabled me to be more independent and not be a slave to my construction job. I wasn’t ready to give that job up but I didn’t have to put up with any crap either. If my work was done I saw no reason that I couldn’t leave early instead of sitting around the office until a set time.
I always backed up any work to my laptop which I carried with me everywhere and I was always available by cell phone. My job wasn’t an 8 to 4 type of job anyway; I always had to put out fires at weird times of the day or night. I decided that if the company didn’t like the way I worked I could always just go back to the pub. Apparently they liked my work just fine; they just gave me a bonus and a raise in salary.
One of my duties when we bought the bar was to hire some help and because we added the kitchen we needed a couple of cooks and waitresses. Our plan was to be open seven days a week from lunch starting at 11 A.M. to 2 A.M. with food service stopping about 10 P.M. So my search began but I didn’t have much luck; it seemed every applicant for the cook’s job or the waitress’s job didn’t fit what we wanted. None of them had the personality and job skills I was looking for.
I wanted Conner’s Pub and Grill to be a friendly place that would attract people and bring them back. A place that every customer felt welcome and like they belonged. Sort of a neighborhood version of “Cheers” the bar from the old TV show; a place where everyone said hello as you walked in and the staff made you feel welcomed.
Then fate smiled and led Jasper A. Quinn to us. Jasper is a retired Master Chief Petty Officer with 30 years of naval service. He had been in charge of mess halls in everything from destroyers to aircraft carriers; from small naval refueling ports to entire naval shipyards. Jasper was totally over qualified as cook for our little pub but we seem to hit it off and he wanted the job.
Both James and I had served in the defense of our country and I had a healthy respect for the Sergeants and Navy Chiefs that were the backbone of the service. They are the ones that actually got things done. I hired Jasper at our first interview.
“Chief, do you know of anyone that we could hire for a part time cook. We’re going to be open seven days a week and we need someone for your days off?” I thought he might have some navy buddies that wanted a job.
“You don’t need a second cook. I’ve got no family, nobody to answer to so I plan to work the whole week. My retirement is plenty for me to live on and this place will be my entertainment so I don’t plan on missing any days. Okay?”
“Fine with me Master Chief. You can start your day at 10 A.M. and finish around 10 P.M. We’ll see that you get a two or three hour break after the lunch trade is over. We can work out some full days off if you want or need them. If that’s okay, you can start on Monday.”
He nodded his acceptance and said, “Mr. Connors, have you hired any waitresses yet? I know a young woman that could use the work,” the Chief told me. “She’s a good girl and is having a rough time right now.”
“You don’t have to call me Mister; I was a Sergeant in the Army so I worked for a living.” It was an old joke but it put the Chief a little more at ease. “Call me Jake. Why don’t you have the young lady come in and see me? If you vouch for her and she wants the job, I’ll put her on.”
“Thanks Mr. Er, I mean Jake. Her husband was killed in the sandbox just before he was due to come home and then she lost her parents the same year. It’s just her and her sister and she has a three year old boy to raise. And you can call me Jasper.”
“You spent 30 years serving your country and you earned your rank so if you don’t mind I’ll keep calling you Chief,” I said with a smile and respect. “I’ll be here tomorrow about 3 P.M., have her come in then.”
The Chief nodded and went to inspect “his” kitchen. He said he wanted to see what he needed to bring from his personal cooking tools and to check out the facilities. After his inspection as he was leaving he nodded at me and pointed to the kitchen.
“Finest kind Jake. It just needs a little spit and polish so I’ll be in tomorrow. See ya.”
I had just arrived at the pub at 2:30 when the Chief and a young woman walked into my small office. I smiled at the Chief, nodded at the girl and motioned for them to sit down.
“Jake this is Juanita Riley Johnson; she’s the one I told you about. Juanita this is Jake Connors, he and his brother James own the place.”
The Chief was a gray haired, grizzled old sea dog with a barrel chest but he couldn’t be much over 5’ 7”; Juanita seemed close to 6 feet and extremely pretty. The difference between them struck me as funny and I had to hide a grin and suppress a laugh as I nodded at Juanita.
“Mrs. Johnson, it’s nice to meet you. The Chief vouches for you and that’s good enough for me. Let me explain the hours and duties and if you want the job it’s yours.” I could have talked to some others but I trusted the Chief’s judgment. “We’ll need you to work five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday; your days off will be Monday and Tuesday. You will be our head server and the seating area will be yours to command.” I smiled and gave a little chuckle.
“James and I will do anything we can to help you if you get overloaded. You’ll also have to keep us up to speed on any supplies you need for the dining area.” I stopped for a minute to give her time to taken in what I had told her. “Do you have any questions, Mrs. Johnson?”
“Please call me Juanita. I’d like to go to work for you. Chief Quinn vouched for you too Mr. Connors. Oh, I guess I should ask about my pay,” Juanita said with a big smile. When she smiled at me it was like someone turned on extra lights in my office.
Normally waitresses are paid not much more than minimum wage plus tips I told Juanita. “But we expect you do be more than the normal waitress so we’ll pay you better.” I mentioned an hourly figure and Juanita agreed to the wage. “One more thing, you will have to split the tips with the Chief. If the people tip because of the service it’s on you, if someone tips because they liked the food, it’s on the Chief; I think it’s fair that you both share the credit. Okay?”
Juanita nodded and agreed to start that afternoon by helping the Chief spruce up the kitchen and I helped her set up the fixtures for the eating area. I watched and worked with her that afternoon and thought she was going to be a very attractive addition to Connor’s. Juanita was tall at 5’9” with long almost midnight black hair worn almost to her waist.
She had bright blue eyes and a slender figure that moved with easy grace. As she left that first day I wondered again how women could move the way they do when they walked. Men sort of plodded along as they walked but women, including Juanita, glided with their hips moving in an eye catching motion. Fascinating. It’s an overused description but she was poetry in motion.
Juanita had been with us for about 4 months and I felt close enough to ask her about her name. I was sitting on a bar stool having the one Jack Daniels a day that I allowed myself and Juanita sat down next to me. This wasn’t the first time; she usually sat and talked to James and/or me before starting her shift. Mostly we talked about the pub but today we just talked; well I guess we were gossiping, about nothing important. “You’ve got a strange combination of nationalities in your name, Juanita.” I said, hoping she would explain.
“Not so strange when you think about it. My father is Irish and my mother is Mexican, so Juanita Riley. My husband’s name was Johnson and I guess he was just down home American.” She answered with pride.
If the fates smiled on Connor’s Pub when they sent us the Chief, they gave us a real gift in Juanita. She and the Chief worked very well together and with James and I. We served good substantial food, poured an honest drink, and gave the customers good service. Our business boomed and we had a lot of regulars and more all the time.
Master Chief Jasper Quinn and I developed a very good working relationship; we became good friends too. Having an after work drink or just bullshitting around the bar I called him Jasper, but when a question or discussion about the pub or kitchen came up I called him Chief. He would never come right out and say I did something good; it was always “Finest kind, Sergeant.” It was a sign of approval and respect from one non-com to another.
It’s been a year since James and I had the good luck in finding and hiring Juanita and Jasper. Yeah, he finally got me to call him Jasper even though I had to suppress a smile every time I used his name. Here’s this old salt with a barrel chest and bowed legs with a first name like Jasper. Not really funny I guess but I’ve got a weird sense of humor.
Several times a month, Juanita would bring her 3 year old son, William, into work with her. Her sister Lupe was her baby sitter and when Lupe had to work overtime Connor’s was turned into a day care center. When Lupe got off work she would come by the pub and take William home. I was enlisted as a substitute baby sitter and kept William in my office until Lupe showed up. At first I was worried that the city inspector would raise hell about William being in a bar but I quit worrying when I found out that the Chief and he were old shipmates. Another problem solved by Chief Quinn.
The first few times I was shanghaied into babysitting, I did it reluctantly and only because it would have pissed Juanita off if I refused. As much as she did extra around the pub I didn’t want her upset by anything. What’s more I would have pissed off Jasper too because he had sort of adopted Juanita’s whole family.
But around the third or fourth time I babysat I began to look forward to spending time with William. He was a cool kid; I hadn’t been around too many children so I had no one to compare him to but I liked the little guy and enjoyed taking care of him. When he started to tell his mother that he wanted to stay with me instead of going home, William made me wonder what it would be like to be a father.
After babysitting for three months, a total of eleven or twelve times, I suggested that I take William to Lupe when she got home. She would call me once she had a chance to settle in after getting off work and I would take him home. I even bought a car seat for my truck that installed easily.
I was 28 and for the first time since Jackie I started to think about a family. Problem was that I didn’t have much time to look for or develop a relationship. I worked in the construction office all day and spent most of my evenings helping out at the pub. Helping out, that’s what I told myself; in reality I was just lonely.
At least twice a month or sometimes more, Juanita would stay and we would have a late supper and talk. Nothing really important or earth shattering was discussed; she would use the time to wind down a little and I used the time to keep from being too lonely. She was an intelligent, street smart, and funny; I enjoyed our “dinner dates” as we called them.
I was afraid to try to move our relationship past the friend and employer/employee stage. First I wasn’t sure that Juanita wanted to become closer; I didn’t want to piss her off and maybe lose her friendship and a great employee. Second, after that mess with Jackie I was still a little gun shy about letting myself get too involved with another woman.
I think Jasper was trying to help move things along because he would make special little desserts that we shared after dinner. Just imagine Popeye the Sailor playing cupid. Watching him peek over the pass through in the kitchen to spy on us was hilarious.
One Saturday evening we had a private party at the pub that went past the normal cut off for food, actually it was a wedding rehearsal dinner. The young couple had met in Connor’s Pub and thought that would be the perfect place for the rehearsal dinner. The Chief, I mean Jasper, I still wasn’t entirely comfortable calling him anything but the Chief, stayed over and kept appetizers and finger foods coming out of the kitchen. He said that love needed all the help it could get as he pointedly looked at Juanita and me.
That late Saturday night was a sort of turning point in the “Get your head out of your ass” operation as the Chief called it. Juanita and the Chief lived in the same apartment building and worked together so they spent a lot of time together. He told me that he and Juanita had talked a lot about me. Jasper said that I was wasting an opportunity here and wasn’t real happy with me for not trying to get closer to Juanita.
His exact words were, “Shit or get off the pot son, that boy needs a father and Juanita needs someone to love.” Jasper wasn’t the most eloquent of speakers but he got his point across.
Juanita’s car was in the shop that night and Jasper said he had to meet some buddies so I gave Juanita a ride home. I stopped in front of her house and lean across my truck to help open the passenger door; sometimes it sticks. As I moved to help with the door, Juanita moved to give me a kiss on the check as a thank you which she usually did. I turned the wrong way or she moved the right way and the kiss meant for my cheek was directly on my lips.
We both pulled back in surprise and she started to apologize but Jasper’s, I mean Cupids, arrow had hit its target. I pulled Juanita to me and really kissed her. Our normal two minute good night turned into a half hour make out session in my truck. We didn’t go nuts and rip each other’s clothes off or anything but there was a lot of kissing and holding and caressing.
The next morning I had a hard time keeping a smile off my face. I think I was truly happy for the first time since my grandma had passed away. Yes James and I lost one of our “ladies” to a heart ailment and old age about six months after James and I opened the pub. James was still living with our mother in the house we had bought for her and my grandma.
The Chief came in and as he walked by me he said, “Finest kind Sergeant.” He didn’t stop and went on into his kitchen. I watched him go by and when I turned Juanita was standing there.
“Finest kind Sergeant Jake,” she said with a big grin as she came and hugged me. I guess she felt the same way as I did about last night.
That started a new phase of my life. Juanita and I didn’t rush anything we just enjoyed our time together. Sometimes on her day off we would do something with William, like a real family. Sometimes we would leave the boy with Lupe and go on real dates. Other times we would go out after the pub closed; there wasn’t a lot to do that late at night but we had a good time anyway.
It was on one of these dates that we took the next step in our relationship. We were going to a late movie after the pub closed the kitchen down and I ran upstairs to my apartment to change my shirt. After ten minutes or so Juanita followed me upstairs to see what was taking me so long; I was having trouble deciding what shirt to wear. It was funny because I never worried about how I was dressed before Juanita; it was always T-shirts and jeans.
She started to help me and I found out that the combination of Irish and Mexican made Juanita a very sexual person. Of course I did my best to uphold my Irish heritage also. I guess I’m being too subtle here, what I meant to say was we went at it like bunnies. It was a very exhausting but enjoyable evening and morning.
Neither of us mentioned moving in together or marriage; we just enjoyed each other and had an unspoken understanding that we were a couple. Master Chief Quinn walked around strutting like a peacock because he felt he had been responsible for bringing us together. One evening Juanita had a school thing to go to and I stayed at the pub with James. When he would get a break from serving customers, I talked to my brother about my feelings since Jackie, about my feelings for Juanita, and my conflicting emotions and ideas.