On a Rainy Tuesday Afternoon is more of a character sketch, (or two-character sketch I should say), than anything. It’s an excerpt of a short story I jotted down ages ago and have recently picked back up. I’d like to know how interested you are in learning more about these two. On a Rainy Tuesday Afternoon is rated PG-13, according to my standards. Enjoy!
On a Rainy Tuesday Afternoon, by Deanna Schrayer
The young woman nearly fell into Johnny’s restaurant, soaked by the torrential storm slapping the converted brick bungalow like a toy sailboat, her red-gold curls stuck to her face and streaks of mascara pouring from her cat-green oval eyes. She stood panting inside the doorway, bent at the waist and holding on to her knees, gasping for breath.
It was mid-afternoon, only one customer at the bar – Harry the Hobo he was called – and Johnny was polishing glasses behind the bar.
“You all right?” Johnny said, looking at her as if she might be a mirage.
“I’m….I need….” She struggled to find that elusive breath. Johnny stepped out from behind the bar and walked towards her, slowly. He had the illogical feeling if he approached her too quickly she may lash out and belt him a good one. He stopped a couple feet from her and asked again, “Are you okay?”
She looked up at him, straightened, and drew in her lips. She frowned and stared at Johnny as if trying to decide whether or not to trust him. “I…I just had to get out of the wind, it was blowing me all over the place.” She laughed as if the thought delighted her, but it sounded forced. He could easily imagine the wind tossing her about though as she wasn’t as big as one leaf of a willow tree. But something about her demeanor told him she could withstand many storms, that she had already withstood many storms.
Johnny nodded to the drenched girl, “Sit down over here, I’ll get you a drink.” He motioned her towards the only red vinyl bar stool that wasn’t torn.
“Oh, no, thank you but I…I think I’ll just stand here a few minutes, until the storm blows over. Thanks though.” She turned and gazed out the window as if looking for someone, biting her fingernails.
“Naw, now, you get on over here and sit down,” Johnny said, returning to his place behind the bar. She turned and took a tentative step and he sat a full glass of dark liquid on the bar and said, “Drink’s on the house.”
She carried a well-used backpack and wore a thick velvet peasant’s shirt the color of ripe grapes, the soaked material clinging to her slight frame and riding up her torso to reveal a flat belly, and jeans that sported several holes horizontally slashed down the thighs. Johnny couldn’t decide whether the denim was artfully torn or if she’d recently crossed a mad cat. She looked, to Johnny, like a princess who had carelessly stepped away from the palace to follow a rabbit down a hole and couldn’t find her way back home.
She walked slow but steady to the bar and sat down. “Thank you,” she said as she tipped the glass back and greedily sucked down the drink. She sat the glass down hard on the bar and sputtered, “What is this stuff?” she said, shivering.
“Brandy,” Johnny told her, “It’ll warm you up right good.” His broad smile revealed crow’s feet that, along with the silver tufts of downy hair framing his ears, told her he was old enough to be her father.
“Whew, I’d say!” She picked the glass back up and laughed the most infectious laugh he’d ever heard.
Johnny offered his hand and introduced himself. “Johnny Diamanté,” he said, and nodded towards the end of the bar, “That there’s Harry.” The hobo glanced her way and nodded his head, a camo baseball cap concealing his eyes. He raised his own mug of beer in salute.
Johnny detected a hint of fear in her eyes. She was slow to take his hand. When she did he was surprised at how warm her hand was. “I’m Stormy,” she said, and smiled, “Stormy Lassiter.” He wondered if she’d plucked the name from the rain that had ushered her inside.
Since that night Stormy was at the bar every evening. She didn’t drink much and she rarely ate, but Johnny didn’t mind as the simple fact of her presence seemed to pick up business. She soon became sort of a mascot of Diamanté’s Bar and Grill, floating around and socializing with the customers, men and women alike. Stormy would often leave with a couple or a group of girls, but never with men alone, which Johnny was grateful for; (he certainly didn’t want the place getting a reputation for that kind of business).
Stormy may return that evening or she may not, but she was always there the next evening, alert and ready to do it all over again. It was like having a free hostess. Often Johnny would nearly force Stormy to eat something in order to mask the guilt he felt for not offering her a paying job. He’d have the cook make up a plate of appetizers, and Johnny would set it down in front of her and say, “Eat.” When she tried to protest, pushing the plate away, saying she wasn’t hungry, Johnny persisted, holding her eyes hostage, pushing the plate back towards her and giving his head one sharp nod, “Eat.” She’d let the food sit while she talked to the patrons, giving it a cursory glance now and then, and finally Johnny would see her sneaking bites here and there, as if she was afraid of being caught.
It would be several years before Johnny recalled that look in her eyes, the shock of catching it a second time reeling him into a past he wasn’t sure if he was glad had happened or not.