Chapter 5 —Miss Lottie’s Café —Elaine Bonow
Miss Lottie’s Café
The neighborhood anchored on the West by Miss Lottie’s Café was where the people who lived in the little six-block square gathered to eat, drink in the Café and do a little shopping in the general store. Saraphina Sullivan’s grandmother was the original Lottie. Her original house converted many years ago had grown to encompass a half a city block by annexing both houses on either side. Now you couldn’t tell where the seams uniting the buildings began or ended.
Saraphina lived alone above the store in a very spacious apartment. She ventured outside the neighborhood occasionally but preferred to stay centered in her own prosperous domain.
Around the corner the church sat regally on the north side of the square looming like a brick and mortar Pope with it’s high steeple and steep stairway flanked by green lawns and well-tended flowers. The rest of the neighborhood was composed of older single-family houses a few duplexes and on the southeast corner a medium sized apartment building, the Maxwell.
Saraphina woke up most days at five-thirty, ate a healthy breakfast or rather drank her green smoothie, something she enjoyed only because it was suppose to make her healthier, skinnier and for all she knew smarter and wealthier. She took pride in being a very fit middle-aged successful business owner.
Her customers were for the most part denizens of the neighborhood. Lately, however, new customers were invading her café to immerse themselves in its old world charm and the healthy soul food she served. The general store provided her neighbors with ordinary groceries, drug store sundries, gifts and trinkets so that if necessary you wouldn’t ever have to go outside the square unless you needed a change of scenery.
Monday mornings usually slow gave her a chance to catch up with the neighbors on all the gossip from happenings on the weekend. Saraphina went downstairs to open up but as soon as she turned on the open sign there were footsteps and a tap on the windowsill.
“Charise, good morning. This is your day off isn’t it?” Saraphina said as she opened the door.
“Oh Sara P, I just had to stop by before I left.” She said as she sat down heavily at one of the oilskin-covered tables.
“I’ll put on the tea pot. Tell me. What’s happened now?”
“Saraphina, I have to go, today for sure. I’ve been thinking about what I would do if something happened and now it has.”
“Hold on a sec, the tea is almost ready. Here take your time tell me what’s going on. Saraphina was used to drama. She was the go to person in the square yenta, nurse and confessor.
“I knew messing around with him was gonna turn out bad. I’m going to California to stay with my sister. She needs a babysitter and I can make a fresh start.”
“What all happened?”
“You haven’t heard? No, you couldn’t have. Well, a couple of nights ago I get a phone call from Alvin, Mr. Boom Boom Harris. I thought he was going to tell me he was finally leaving Octavia, that bitch, but he told me that he’s changed that he is staying with her that she needs him and not only that but they are getting married, a big church wedding too. He told me to never call him. He told me to throw away anything he had given me and he was going to burn everything I gave to him. Last night everybody found out because Octavia posted the news on Facebook.”
“Damn girl, you are in a mess of trouble. You will be much better off getting away from him. When are you thinking of taking off? I’ll have to get someone to replace you here at the café.”
“I’m leaving today. I’m flying out this afternoon. Thank god I don’t have any loose ends here so I’m free to go.”
“Now Cherise, Stay in touch OK. I’m sorry you had to be so hurt by that man but it is probably better for you in the long run. You’ll be all right. Do you have enough money?”
“Yeah, My sister is very generous and she is paying me really good to watch the kids.”
Saraphina heard Jo come in the back as she was seeing Charise off. She’d just recently hired Jo. Everyone knew about Jo and there was a strong feeling in the community that supported Jo and also wanted the Reverend off the pulpit because of his nefarious deeds. Saraphina was grateful that Jo was such a good worker. Her sheer strength made life easier for Saraphina.
Jo loved working at Miss Lottie’s. She felt very fortunate to have landed good employment but also felt that her good luck had everything to do with meeting Miss Birdie. Since that fateful meeting in early spring their friendship had blossomed. Jo was able to help Birdie feel safer and her paranoia was in control. What was once just a friendship was becoming more and more serious. They never referred to the vast difference in their ages or backgrounds.
This morning as Birdie lay in bed watching Jo get dressed for work she said, “Jo I had a dream last night. It was about the Reverend.”
“Shit, we haven’t had enough time to set him up like we planned. I have been so busy I’ve almost forgotten about his trifling ass.”
“My dream was so real. I saw him struggling to breathe. He was in dire distress. His pants were down around his ankles and there were a couple of naked girls screaming for help. It was a very graphic dream and I know it must be true.”
“Hallelujah! The bitch is dead. Well maybe not dead but definitely fucked up!” Jo shouted.
“Now Jo, remember it was just a dream. We’ll have to see if something real has happened or not. You’d better get to work. You don’t want to be late. We’ll know today what happened. Kiss me goodbye my girl and let me know if you find out anything.”
Back at the café, Jo finished her morning chores and waited anxiously for any neighborhood news. Saraphina filled her in on Charise having to leave town and that she needed to find another worker for the café.
Jo said, “I’ll try and help as much as I can but I really ain’t a waitress. A great cook yes.”
“I’ll be alright today it’s usually slow on Monday mornings.”
The door swung open and in rushed a very distraught young woman. One of the girls that Saraphina knew lived at the Reverends “house”.
“Can I help you?” Hearing her comforting voice the girl broke down and started crying.
“Oh my God, what am I going to do now?”
“What’s the matter girl maybe I can help.” Saraphina sat the girl down while Jo went to fetch a cup of tea.
“You won’t believe what happened last night.”
“Trust me I’ve seen a lot in my years around here.” Saraphina confided.
“No one knows yet. The Reverend Perkins. He’s had a massive stroke. He’ s in the hospital. Oh, it was horrible. We were just having a night of it, me and the other girl and him. Suddenly he starts threshing around like he can’t breath and he …oh it was awful. I called 911 and they carted him away. The emergency guys said he was as good as dead. What am I going to do, how am I going to live?”
“Shhhh, stop your crying. I’ll try and help you. What’s your name? You can stay here till we sort you out.”
“My name is Evealynn. Thank you I can work. I don’t want handouts.”
Jo slipped out the back and over to Birdie to tell her the news. “Ding Dong the Bitch is Dead.” She sang out kicking up her heels with glee.