Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Jerry Smith slammed the telephone down and sat in his chair fuming. His wife had just come home from shopping and discovered that he had cleared out all of his clothes and tools. She had asked how he could dare do that to her considering how much she had supported him, given birth to his two children, and slaved in the house. She kept asking who the whore was he had found and had screeched at him that the neighbors would all know that he left her for some crack whore.
Even though he was angry, his rage was still well under control. Sitting at his desk, he stared at his hands wondering why he had been cursed with such massive paws. They weren’t good for anything except destruction. Never had he been able to use them to create something. If he worked on anything for any length of time, hard rough calluses would form. When his hands were callused, his wife would flinch in pain when he touched her body.
Looking down at the desk, he realized he had failed to fax in his order for replacement parts. If Mike had done that, he would have yelled at him for an hour. It was his fault today and he just shook his head.
Talking out loud, he said, “It’s just not worth getting angry about it.”
He faxed in the order pushing the buttons on the fax machine with his fat fingers. Much to his surprise, the machine didn’t jam like it usually did. The rage inside him seemed almost disappointed.
Stepping out of his office, he went to the back door and looked over his truck. The new tires and brakes he’d had put on made it safe to drive. After Mike came back from lunch, he’d take it out for a drive and see how it ran.
Returning to the counter, he told Mike, “It’s almost lunch time. I’ll see you when you get back.”
Mike had heard him talking on the phone and was worried his boss would come out of the office angry. That Jerry appeared calm was very uncharacteristic and it made him wonder if the man had lost it somehow.
Not wanting to provoke his boss, he said, “I’ll be back in an hour.”
“Take your time,” replied Jerry as he settled in the chair at the counter.
It was a slow day, which was fine with him. Getting out a pad of paper, he started making a list of the things that he needed to do over the next few days. He guessed the first thing he needed to do was find a place to live. While the office couch was okay for a night or two, it wasn’t appropriate for the long term.
Shortly after Mike left for lunch, a man came in the store and stepped up to the counter. Having taken a moment to look over his truck, Jerry was at the back door and heard the noise.
Looking around, the guy called out, “Anyone here?”
“Coming,” answered Jerry as he headed to the front of the store. Reaching the counter, he asked, “What can I do for you?”
The man asked, “Are you Jerry Smith?”
“Yes, I am,” answered Jerry wondering how the guy knew his name. The guy wasn’t dressed up enough to be a lawyer hired by his wife.
“I’ve got your car out front. Where do you want it?”
“Put it in the back next to the truck. Don’t block the truck though.”
“By the way, I put the bumper that was on the hood in the back seat. Your car must have really hit it hard to bend it like that.”
Jerry frowned at the reminder of his actions the previous day. Shaking his head, “I’m afraid I bent it.”
“Sure as hell bent it,” replied the tow truck driver with a grin at the understatement. The bumper was bent into the shape of a horseshoe. He had been puzzling over the bumper ever since he saw it lying on the hood of the car. He added, “I have no idea how a car could bend it into that shape.”
“I bent it,” answered Jerry with an emphasis on the first word.
About to make a smart-ass remark, the driver paled when he finally understood what Jerry meant. Looking at the huge man, he realized just how strong the guy had to be in order to have bent the bumper.
He said, “Oh shit!”
Jerry frowned as he said, “I think I’m going to hang it on my wall as a reminder of what happens when I lose my temper.”
“I’ll park your car in the back, just like you asked.” The driver backed out of the building and returned to his truck.
Jerry hadn’t meant to scare the guy, but he wasn’t going to lie to him either. After a minute, he realized that he would have to pay the guy for towing the car and headed to the back of the store with some cash from the register. Stepping out into the back, he watched the guy back the car next to the truck. The guy double- checked to make sure that the car wasn’t blocking the truck.
Jerry watched the driver remove the tow bar from the car. On the ground was a trail of oil that had been left by the car while it had been towed. Going back into the store he searched for something to put under the car to catch the oil. All he could find was a box, so he filled it with some newspaper to absorb the oil and threw in a generator that had been returned as defective to weigh the box down. Returning outside, he slid the box under the car as the driver waited for him to pay.
Jerry went over to the driver and asked, “How much?”
Jerry counted out fifty and handed the money to the driver. Accepting the cash, the driver asked, “What are you going to do with that old truck?”
“Fix it up and drive it.”
“Looks like you have a lot of work ahead of you. Are you planning to show it or something?” asked the driver. He had towed a lot of cars in worse condition to folks intending to fix them up. Most folks never fixed them, but judging by the business this guy was in the chances were good that it would be restored to mint condition.
Jerry looked at the truck and realized what it had come to mean to him. He answered, “That truck is me on the inside. All beat up, rusted, worn down, and left on the back of the lot to be ignored. Yeah, it’ll be a lot of work fixing us up. When I’m done, I’ll probably show it around. However, it is going to fulfill its function in life, too.”
“Well, I wish you luck,” replied the driver. Shaking his head, he returned to the tow truck and left.
Jerry went back into the store to wait for customers. He took calls from repair shops, pulled orders, and piled them up on the counter. The runner came and went several times, picking up the orders to deliver. The time passed and he started to get hungry, but Mike wasn’t back from lunch. The day before, he would have been furious. Instead of getting angry, he just went to the back door occasionally and examined the truck. His eyes didn’t see it as it was, but how it would look when he was finished with it.
Finally, he returned to the counter and sat down. There was a stand of key rings on the corner of the counter and he absently examined them. There were two that had lightning patterns on them, but were slightly different. He picked them up and examined them. Selecting one, he put the keys to the truck on it.
Almost an hour and a half after he had left for lunch, Mike came rushing in followed by his wife. When he realized that his wife had followed him in, he turned and half whispered, “Get out of here. You don’t want to see this.”
Jerry looked up at the commotion and said, “Ah, you’re back. Did you have a good lunch?”
Mike slowly looked over at Jerry and answered, “I’m sorry about being late.”
“Hey, I told you to take your time,” replied Jerry. Grabbing his list and his keys, he stood and headed towards the back of the store. He called over his shoulder, “Watch the store. I’ll be back in an hour or two.”
Mike watched Jerry walk out the back of the store. Turning to his wife, he said, “I don’t think he’s feeling well today.”
Jerry headed down the street intending to hit the burger joint where he usually had lunch. Rather than rushing there to get through the meal as fast as he could, he took his time and looked around for a change. For the first time, he noticed a little restaurant called the Crimson Rose Bistro tucked away a little off the main road. At the last minute, he decided to try the place and turned into the parking lot. The driver behind him honked his horn and shot him the finger. Jerry ignored him and pulled into a spot next to a Mercedes.
Getting out of the truck, he looked down at himself taking stock of his clothing. He was wearing a pair of business casual pants and a white shirt. Neither one of them was dirty. Turning to the truck, he said, “There shouldn’t be any problem with eating in a place with real silverware for a change.”
Entering the restaurant, Jerry was shocked to find it was filled with little two and four person tables. The majority of clients were middle-aged women with two or three to a table. There were two couples, both with men who looked to him to be a little dainty to be considered men. An attractive young woman in her late twenties came over to him with a pair of menus in her hand and asked, “Table for two?”
“One, please,” replied Jerry feeling very out of place.
A puzzled expression came over her face as she looked at him. He wasn’t the type of person who came into this kind of place. She led him to a table for two wondering if it was large enough for him. Seating himself on the small chair, he dwarfed the table making it look like he was balancing a plate between his legs. Lifting an eyebrow, she handed him a menu and asked, “Would you like something to drink?”
Uncomfortable by the surroundings and the attention his arrival had provoked, Jerry answered, “Yes, please. I’d like an iced tea.”
The pretty waitress smiled and said, “I’ll be right back with your tea.”
Jerry set both elbows on the edges of the table and leaned forward to read the menu. The first time through, he thought it was written in French. The second time he read it, he realized that it was English but he didn’t recognize a single item on the menu. Puzzled, he stared at the menu trying to decide what he should do. ‘What in the hell was Portobello Mushroom? Was it a kind of mushroom or was it a way of preparing them?’
The waitress returned with iced tea served in a tall thin glass. After setting it on the table, she asked, “Did you decide what you want yet?”
Taking a deep breath, Jerry gestured with a finger for her to come closer. When she leaned down, he whispered, “I guess you figured out that I don’t really belong in here.”
His whisper was like a normal speaking voice and most of the women turned to look over at him. Cautious, she answered, “The thought did cross my mind.”
“It crossed my mind. In fact, that thought is still ricocheting around in that empty space called my skull.” He waved a finger through the air as though it were a bullet ricocheting around in a small area.
As she tittered at his reply, he spread his hands as he said, “Last night, I came pretty close to getting killed. This morning, I decided that I was going to live life a little more fully. Now, this place is something I would never have tried before, but I’m going to try it. After all, isn’t trying new things part of living life to the fullest?”
Tilting her head as though reassessing him, she suddenly relaxed and smiled at him. Laying a hand on his arm, she answered, “Yes, it is.”
“So in that spirit, I have to admit that I don’t recognize a single thing on the menu. Why don’t you pick out something for me to try?” He smiled up at her as he made the request. Her casual touch on his arm meant more than he could put into words.
His honest candor was disarming and the woman found herself warming up to him. She asked, “What if you don’t like it?”
Jerry was quiet for a moment as he considered the possibility and then answered, “Then I learn something new.”
He reached over to the glass of iced tea and removed the straw. The glass was two inches in diameter and six inches tall. Holding the glass between two fingers and his thumb, he drained it in one swallow. The waitress had watched him down the glassful of tea and couldn’t resist smiling when he said, “Interesting. I would never have thought of serving iced tea in a glass that holds a single sip.”
The waitress made up her mind that she actually liked this guy and patted him on the shoulder. With a smile, she said, “You stay right here. I’ll fix you up with a lunch that you’ll enjoy.”
In the kitchen, she emptied the water from one of the water pitchers and filled it with tea. She called over to the chef, “Make a Chicken Caesar Salad, but super size it.”
After the chef had finished, she came out of the kitchen carrying the salad and the pitcher of iced tea. The salad was three times the size they normally served. She set the plate in front of him and the pitcher of tea within his reach. Pointing to the dish, she said, “This is a Chicken Caesar Salad. It has Romaine Lettuce, Croutons, Parmesan Cheese, and is topped with sliced chicken. It’s the only thing we have with meat and I figured you are probably a meat eater.”
Jerry smiled and commented, “It’s a good sized salad. To tell the truth, I kind of expected the servings to be a lot smaller.”
The waitress bent down and whispered, “I asked the Chef to make it big. I figured you are probably a man who enjoys a good sized meal.”
Realizing that it was his large stature at work, a slight frown crossed his face. Then the idea that she had made the effort to make sure that he was satisfied with the meal cheered him up. Bursting into a heartfelt smile, he said, “Thank you. I appreciate that.”
She had seen the frown cross his face and wondered if there was a story behind it, but the smile was genuine and that warmed her heart. She said, “I’ll let you eat.”
Jerry refilled the glass of iced tea and drank it down. Grabbing the fork, he dug into his food. The salad was very different than the typical lettuce with thousand island dressing that he usually had, but it was good. The chicken helped fill out the salad in a way he hadn’t expected.
As he ate, he examined his surroundings. There were little paintings of different kinds of flowers on the walls. The walls themselves were covered with striped wallpaper in a pattern that mixed strips of pale green, white, and light pink in a random pattern. The curtains around the windows were made of lace. Each table was covered with a linen tablecloth and had a small vase with a single flower stuck in it. The impression the room gave was very feminine and not the kind of place that he would have chosen to eat had he known what it was like inside.
The women in the room whispered to each other in intimate conversations, chatted about stores located in various places, or discussed fashions. He couldn’t hear the details of their talk, but he heard enough to form an opinion about the women around him. None of them worked. Instead, they lived off the sweat of their husbands. He never heard one of them express any kind of appreciation for what their husband did for them.
When he finished the salad, he sat back feeling satisfied and full. The waitress had done a good job in selecting a meal for him. She showed up to remove the plate and smiled as she said, “Either you liked it or you really had to work to get all of it down.”
Jerry laughed at her joke and replied, “I liked it.”
She smiled at his reaction and said, “I’m glad. Would you like a desert?”
“Normally, I would say no, but I’ve really enjoyed myself. Sure, I’ll take a desert.”
She leaned down and asked, “Do you like chocolate?”
Confused, he answered, “Yeah, I guess so.”
She whispered in his ear, “I have this killer chocolate desert. The women in here won’t order it unless there are at least three of them to share it because it is so rich. You’ll love it.”
Jerry looked at the waitress appreciating her efforts to make him comfortable. Smiling, he said, “I’ll try it.”
“I’ll bring out some coffee to go with it. Do you like it with cream or sugar?”
“I drink it black,” he replied.
Jerry enjoyed the desert tremendously. He ate and drank his coffee from the massive mug she had given him, not knowing it was normally used as a soup cup. He watched as the women slowly emptied from the restaurant. It wasn’t long before he was the last customer in the place.
The waitress sat down in the chair across from him and said, “It’s such a pleasure to see a real man eat. None of the picky questions about fat content, calories, carbohydrates, or brand names.”
Very surprised she had joined him at the table, he tried to come up with some sort of comeback. Weakly, he said, “I like food.”