Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Jerry drove back to the auto parts store after a busy morning. It wasn’t even eight and he had eaten a good breakfast of bacon and eggs at the local diner and visited the YMCA. At the YMCA, he had taken a shower, shaved, and generally groomed himself with extra care. He even took the opportunity to polish his shoes. On returning to the store, he searched through his clothes carefully selecting the best outfit he had. He dressed taking time to make sure everything looked good together.
Satisfied with his morning activities, he settled into his job with a peace of mind he hadn’t felt in a long time. The telephone rang and Jerry answered it even though the store wasn’t supposed to open for another ten minutes. As he was taking down the order, Mike entered the store and looked around knowing he was going to have to teach his wife how to do inventory later that day. This was going to be her first day on the job and he wondered how it would go. Hopefully, Jerry wouldn’t lose his temper.
Jerry hung up and handed the order over to Mike as he said, “They’re calling early today. Why don’t you pull orders and I’ll take the calls. When your wife comes, she can help you and get to know the inventory a little.”
“Sounds reasonable to me,” answered Mike as he read over the order.
The phone rang and Jerry answered it. He started writing down the order trying to remember if they had everything in stock. At one point, he put the customer on hold and asked Mike if they had a particular part. When told they didn’t, he returned to the phone and said, “I don’t have one of those. I can order it for you, but it’ll be Monday before we get it in.”
When the guy at the other end of the line said that he would check some other places, Jerry said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll look around and see if I can find one locally. I’ll call you back and Howard can pick it up for you.”
Mike had come back with the order that he was pulling and overheard Jerry. He couldn’t believe that Jerry had made that offer. When the call was over, Jerry went to work on the phone to locate the part. On his third try, he located someone that had it and placed an order for it. He also sent over the rest of the order. Satisfied that they would have it ready, Jerry called his customer back and let them know that the entire order was at another store waiting for pickup.
Turning around, he looked up in time to see Karen enter the store. He said, “Good morning. Ready to start working?”
She smiled at the friendly greeting and replied, “Sure.”
“I’ve asked Mike to have you help pull some orders this morning so you can get familiar with the stock here in the store. Take your time and pay attention to Mike. He knows all there is to know about everything in stock.”
Karen looked over at her husband and said, “Sure. What ever you say.”
Jerry turned back to the phone as it rang again. He picked it up and took down another order. At this rate, it was going to be a record day. He called over his shoulder, “Mike, here’s another one.”
At fifteen past eleven, Jerry turned to look at Mike and Karen as they pulled the last order he had taken. He waited until they finished before he asked, “Would you mind taking your lunch a little early? I’ve got some business to take care of during lunch and would like to take a little longer than usual.”
Glancing over at his wife, Mike answered, “Sure. No problem.”
“Okay, I’ll see you in an hour,” replied Jerry as he turned back to the counter.
Less than an hour later Jerry pulled out of the parking lot for the short drive to the Crimson Rose Bistro. When he had just about reached it, he swore, “Oaf, you should have gotten her some sort of present.”
He drove past the restaurant to a flower shop several blocks down the street. Entering it, he looked around trying to figure out what kind of flower she might appreciate. He was debating between some simple bouquet of simple flowers and a rose, when he recalled the name of the restaurant was Crimson Rose. Of course she would like a red rose.
Stepping up to the counter, he looked down at the elderly lady at the cash register. He physically dwarfed her and felt like he could carry her around on the palm of his hand. The contrast almost made him reconsider buying a rose for Jenny. How would a young lady like her react to getting a flower from him? She’d probably think he was some sort of stalker. What had she really done? She’d been nice to a freak who had wandered into her place. Still, she had made him feel real good.
The lady at the cash register cleared her throat and asked a second time, “What can I get for you, sir?”
“A Crimson Rose,” answered Jerry. He low gravelly voice managed to convey the nervousness that he felt.
The elderly woman smiled and asked, “Is this for a sweetheart?”
The question gave him a moment’s pause. He answered, “Maybe. It’s for someone that was nice to me.”
She led him over to a pail of roses to let him pick out the flower. Looking over the bucket of red roses, he asked, “Which one is closest to Crimson in color?”
The elderly lady pulled out one of the darker purplish red roses and handed it to him. He smiled and said, “Thank you.”
She asked, “Do you want it wrapped in paper with Baby’s Breath?”
Frowning since he didn’t know what the question meant, he finally answered, “No babies. I’ll just give it to her plain.”
She laughed at his comment, recognizing he probably hadn’t ever bought flowers before. With stiff presses of her arthritic fingers on the keys of the register, she rang up the purchase and said, “That’ll be five dollars.”
Shocked at the price of a single flower, he handed her the five dollars.
The stem of the rose disappeared in his hand, even though he held it between his forefinger and thumb. Afraid of breaking it, he carried it to the truck and set it on the passenger seat with care. It didn’t take him long to return to the restaurant. Once he had parked, he reached over to grab the rose. In his nervousness, the long stem snapped in his hand. For a long minute he stared at the broken rose wondering what he should do. If it hadn’t been so expensive, he would have returned to the flower store to buy another one.
Picking up the rose much more carefully, he carried it with him into the restaurant. When Jenny saw him, she came over and said, “I was so afraid that you weren’t going to come here today. I set a special table for you.”
Surprised at her reaction to seeing him, he held out the rose. Gruffly, he said, “I bought this for you. It had a longer stem, but my clumsy hands broke it.”
Smiling, she gently took the rose from his hands and said, “Oh, this is wonderful. I love roses. How did you know I love roses?”
“From the name of the restaurant,” answered Jerry with a slight smile. She hadn’t reacted negatively to his gift and that pleased him significantly.
“Silly me. I didn’t even think of that. Why don’t you sit at that table over there while I put this in some water and get you some iced tea?” Jenny smiled and hurried away to the kitchen.
Jerry walked over to the table she had pointed out and noticed the glass on this table was much bigger than the glass he had used the last time here. He watched as Jenny came out of the kitchen with the rose in a small vase. Making a big deal out of it, she set it on the little stand where she kept the reservations. The stem looked a little shorter than when he brought it in, so he decided the damage he had done wasn’t that important. She made on obvious effort to show off the rose. Smiling she came over to his table and asked, “How do you like your beef?”
“Medium rare,” answered Jerry.
Smiling at him, Jenny said, “That’s what I figured. I’ve got a Caesar Salad and I’ll put a nice sliced Rib-Eye steak on it instead of the chicken. You strike me as a beef kind of man. Does that sound good?”
“It sounds great.”
“Oh my. I forgot your iced tea. I’ll be right back,” said Jenny as she rushed back to the kitchen. In the kitchen, she stopped just inside the door and fussed with her hair. Talking to herself, she said, “Grow up, Jennifer. You’re acting giddy as a schoolgirl. He’s married you fool. He even has a wedding ring on his hand.”
Amazed at the effort she had put into this lunch, Jerry didn’t know what to think. She was a very attractive woman. It was hard to believe she had thought about his needs in the manner she had. He frowned at the thought that he was probably just another customer to her.
Jenny came out with a pitcher of iced tea and filled his glass without saying a word. He watched her carefully, taking in her nice full lips, the aristocratic nose, her hazel eyes, and her delicate ears with little sapphire earrings. With her brown hair, held back with a headband, she was just too pretty to be interested in a monster like him. From deep inside, he could feel the rage stirring hoping this was going to turn out bad. He swallowed heavily and said, “Thank you very much.”
In a more professional tone of voice, Jenny said, “Your salad will be ready in a minute or two. The Chef has to cook the steak.”
“It sounds to me like he doesn’t get to do that very often,” remarked Jerry hoping to break down the sudden awkwardness that seemed to have descended between them.
His comment took her by surprise. Jenny laughed and said, “You know, I don’t even know if he knows how to cook one. I probably should have asked.”
With an exaggerated wink, he replied, “Maybe I should have ordered the chicken.”
“Not on your life. I made a special effort to find a steak for you,” replied Jenny not realizing the import of what she said.
“In that case, I’ll enjoy it even if it is burnt to a crisp,” replied Jerry.
Jenny looked at him and said, “You know, I bet you would, too.”
The restaurant wasn’t as crowded this day as it had been on Wednesday, but the customers still required her attention. Blushing slightly, Jenny took her leave and went to take care of her other customers. A number of refills of tea, dessert orders, and bill payments took most of her effort. In the mean time, she managed to come by with his salad and watched his expression at getting it.
Jerry watched Jenny take care of business, recognizing she was very good at her job and understood her customers far better than the average waitress did. She moved through the room with ease, taking care of everyone with special attention to the individual. Of course, he didn’t know if service like hers was common in places like this. His experience with higher-class restaurants was not quite that extensive. He figured his wife probably went to places like this, all the time.
When the restaurant quieted down, Jenny returned to his table to check his progress eating the salad. He had almost finished his iced tea and she refilled his glass. After swallowing, Jerry said, “You are a very amazing woman.”
Not knowing what motivated the complement, Jenny replied, “Thank you.”
Looking around the room, he said, “You make everyone feel special, even me. I have no idea how you do it.”
When he had included himself in with the rest of the customers, Jenny realized that something else was being said. It was almost as though he didn’t expect to be treated nicely. Her eyes glanced to the ring on his finger and replied, “Believe me, it’s a whole lot easier dealing with you than the rest of my customers. You’ve got an honest appetite, and I like men with honest appetites.”
The assessment puzzled Jerry. He had never thought of himself in that manner. As he tried to work through it, she returned to dealing with customers. He finished his salad while watching her work. The restaurant was slowly clearing up, as women paid their bills and left talking about the exhausting shopping excursions that waited for them. He watched a couple leave, the man was horribly thin and looked like he couldn’t lift ten pounds. Jerry decided the guy probably didn’t even know what a monkey wrench was.
Three women came in the restaurant claiming to be there for a dessert rather than a full lunch. Jenny seated them at a table near his since it was one of the few that were already set. He listened as the trio talked about the problems in their lives. One of them was complaining that her manicurist had to reschedule her appointment and how it broke up the rest of her day something horrible. Jerry sat there listening, shocked at how trivial these things were compared to real problems.
Jenny came by his table and whispered, “They won’t be here long. They’ll ravage the chocolate dessert and then leave feeling guilty. I’ll bring you one too, so you can show them how it is supposed to be enjoyed.”
Unable to prevent himself, he guffawed in a volume that immediately attracted attention from the rest of the women in the place. Jenny laughed and said, “I’ll be right back.”
Looking over at the trio of women next to him, he could see his presence there bothered them. Deciding it was because he reminded them that there were men in this world who were supporting them rather than his massive appearance, he didn’t feel the rage rising. Thinking about his rage, he wondered if it was too embarrassed to burst forth in this highly feminine environment.
When Jenny came to the tables with the desserts, the women cooed and fussed about how nice it looked. Interspersed with their positive comments were negative comments about how many calories it contained and how they’d gain ten pounds eating it. When she presented Jerry with his desert, he looked at it and said, “This looks wonderful. I can’t wait to eat it all.”
The three women shot him ugly looks, jealous at his disregard for the caloric content of the desert. Jenny smiled and gave him a wink, letting him know that she appreciated his comments. She returned to her customers, settling bills and slowly clearing out the customers. It was soon down to the trio of women and Jerry. The trio of women wolfed down the dessert in a dainty manner. They were each taking lots of little bites, but were more focused on the desert than each other. They stopped eating when there was still half of the desert left on the plate. At that point, they started talking and occasionally taking a taste of the desert.
Having a little fun, Jerry took last spoonful of the desert and as he lifted it to his mouth, said, “This tastes so good. I think I’ll order another one.”
The looks the women gave him threatened murder. It wasn’t long after he finished his dessert that they left while making comments about how they needed to work off all those sinful calories. As soon as they left, Jenny seated herself across the table from Jerry and smiled. With a twinkle in her eye, she said, “That was priceless. You paid for your meal with that single comment.”
“I had a feeling it would upset them,” replied Jerry with a grin. He could imagine how his wife would have reacted had he done that while dining with her.
“Well, I get so tired of delivering a great dessert and hearing half of the comments be negative,” replied Jenny. She imitated the women that had just left. “This is so fattening. It must have five thousand calories. It’s sinful and shouldn’t be served.”
“I can see how it would get to you after a time.”
“When I took it off the menu, you should have heard all of the comments and pleas to bring it back,” sighed Jenny.
“Must be tough. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
“Tell me about it. I really enjoy watching you dig into your food and enjoying it. You didn’t say a single negative thing about the meal.”
“It was a great meal and I enjoyed every bite of it. You seem to handle the other customers well,” remarked Jerry.
“Oh, I understand them well enough. The prices on the menu are three times what they should be. Why? They wouldn’t come here if the prices were low. It is a great status symbol that they can afford to overpay for their meals.”
-Jerry nodded, as that had been his assessment as well. His reason for returning was entirely different. The reason he was here was sitting across from him twirling a stray strand of hair between her fingers. He said, “That must help tips.”
“Not at all. They calculate the tip to the penny and will short-tip if there is the least little thing wrong with the meal,” she replied. With a snort, she said, “You should see them argue over the bill. They calculate exactly how much each woman owes. Men, on the other hand, just split the bill three ways and go on their way.”
That assessment of the difference between men and women surprised Jerry. These women were acting like money didn’t matter to them, but then fought over every cent. Shaking his head, he asked, “Sounds kind of contradictory to me.”
“Yeah. They are so happy spending their husband’s money, but they want the other women to be just as guilty in the process.” Jenny sat there shaking her head.
“You don’t sound like you like them all that much,” remarked Jerry.
“Just catty, I guess,” replied Jenny. She worked for a living and only had her income to spend. She was careful with every penny, but envied the ability of these women to buy things when they desired. She shook her head and said, “I guess I’m jealous.”