Erratic Cafe – Tom
They( shared a table. A chance encounter at the Umbrella where tables seemed scarce. Neil had known her for a bit, introduced at a barbecue or a wedding or some party, but mainly running into each other at places like this.
They watched someone unloading gear and a ladder from a truck on the other side of the avenue.
The guy popped his ladder up against the building across the street. The two of them sat at adjoining tables outside the cafe. The guy gathered his tools and as he started up the ladder they noticed his utilikilt.
He watches, Lucille thought Always watching, or thinking he’s observing, rather than being watched. He trusts his eccentricity, and while it’s reliable, it’s fallible too.
“Shocking,” she said.
“Why? What’s wrong with a guy in a skirt?”
“Nothing, in theory. But those legs. And he’s going up the ladder.”
“You should be glad.”
“We’re over here.”
She smiled. “Alright then, defender of a man’s right to utilikilt, what makes it ok in your mind?”
“I am a former practitioner. A rocker of the utilikilt, if you will.”
Now she was shocked for a moment, or pretended she was. He claimed he was hurt, but he did not really care.
“You saying I can’t, or shouldn’t, rock the utilikilt?”
“Yes, I am saying you should not rock the utilikilt.”
“You should stop by my place and I could model it for you.”
“Are you kidding me? Do I need to move to another table?”
“Aw, come on, many, alright – some, thought I looked fine in a utilikilt. I was like a yellowjacket trap in August,” he said, “couldn’t keep them away.”
He laughed, off handed, turned his head to check himself in the window. For a moment he had thought he was witty, but now he thought better of it.
“Except you could get stung.”
“Damn straight, but that’s the way it goes. If it’s good enough you might not care.”
He liked this woman, this Lucille. Sensing that the pursuit was futile kept it safe for him, and the fact she would laugh with him made it fun.. Flirting in the afternoon was better than sitting here by himself. What’s in it for her though?
He remembered the first day he had seen her, watching her walk casually down the street. He liked her ass, but there’s lots of nice asses walking down the street. You might say you don’t even want to remember them because that tiny thrill of discovery is the most fun. Memory is not always helpful. What had attracted his attention? Sometimes people are just beautiful, moving in comfort, a moment belonging to them alone.
Unobserved for the subject, and kind of sad, in that your best moments fly away and you never know, you never see yourself the way people see you. Like the first sign the drugs were wearing off is catching yourself being aware of how high you are. Trying to catch it is futile, have to keep moving. Like starlight and melting hands. Dreams dreams dreams.
“Then how come you don’t rock the utilikilt anymore?”
“Stuff happens. Time passes. Not much use in pretending you’re a kid when you aren’t?”
“You’ve given up?”
“On the utilikilt and some other things. But, “ he smiled, “if I thought the utilikilt might work, maybe I’d give it a chance.”
Now they both laughed.
“I remember a night,” he laughed, “but it is probably too tragic, silly, and stupid to share.”
“Come on,” she said, “you’re a yellowjacket trap.”
“Well, she liked me in a utilikilt.”
It was summer, of course. Even then he would only muster the courage to wear the utilikilt if it was summer. She wanted to know that the utilikilt was all he had on. And, well, keeping her happy was important, if even then he had to admit he felt kind of naked whenever he went out with the thing on. But he got some bit of thrill out of it too. And Lulu knew it, and she liked it.
She had wanted to go someplace she cared about. Not what you would think. A field up near Darrington. She said she had lived there once, had walked right out one night and didn’t even say goodbye to the folks she knew. Didn’t miss them. She did, however, care about this rock up there. A big boulder. She never talked much about life up there, except the night she convinced him to go out to this rock with her.
There was a trailer on the edge of the field. No lights on. It was a perfect late summer night. Warm, new moon, the field big enough that it was dark, the lights from the road seemed far away and you could see hints of the Milky Way. He and Lulu had had a thing for a while by then, though it was before things got complicated. Well, he had thought they were complicated already, but he would learn. This was the first time that he got the sense that Lulu liked rocks more than she liked people.
The rock – an erratic she called it – was out in the corner of the field, near some trees. Pretty flat on top, it had enough room for two.
Lulu laughed as they walked out there. She giggled, he remembered. He tried to remember her giggling any other time, couldn’t.
“So, this girl liked you in a utilikilt? Really?” Lucille broke his train of thought.
“What’s so hard to believe?”
“You’re right. I will have to admit it is just lost on me. The whole thing. Conceptually, I guess. If it offered some pragmatism, maybe. But I’m pretty sure they’re not for me,just turn me off. So, this lady was special?”
He missed Lulu and he missed getting high. He did not remember: he missed both these things actively.
Come on, she thought to herself, tell me more about Lulu.
“Sure. No one else like her. But trouble too.”
Some parts of that night he could think of and blood started to commute to familiar places. That was the best part of the tableau. But then he remembered the dog shit, and the thorns, and the realization that you could run on a sprained ankle if you were terrified and someone’s ex who thought you were a pair of creepy meth heads was chasing you in the dark towards your old van, sweat and tension, yelling as the starter engages.
“So, a boulder, up near Darrington. Do you climb?”
“I did that night. Coming down was messy, and the ending was a bad comedy.”
“Look at your man across the street. A breeze is going to catch that kilt at any second.”
They both shuddered.
“Lets just say, the night started like magic, and the last happy thing I remember is the coolness of the rock on my . . .”
“Let’s just stop right there.”
“Right, because after that a flashlight came on, I startled and slipped. The rest was a mad dash on a mashed ankle with someone yelling behind us, all enhanced with the aroma of dog feces”
“Delicious. Was it a big rock? You ever go back?”
“It was big. You could definitely climb on it if it was still there.”
“Where did it go?”
“Someone chipped it apart, Like they were looking for something in the middle. Now it’s just a miserable stump of a thing.”
The guy descended the ladder. Took out his phone.
Neil seemed distracted, lost in the memory for a moment.
Lucille’s phone buzzed. She checked her text. Someone named Lester. “Is that enough,” he asked. “Can I take the ladder down and get out of this ridiculous get up.”
“Yes, sure” Lucille texted back. “How much do I owe you for the kilt?”
Lucille bid farewell to Neil. “See you around.”
“Oh, I’m around he said. Take care”
She watched him, alone in thought, until she turned the corner.