Jack Dawg Night
Geoffrey Deens joined the wiggly line along the red rope in front of the counter at Jack’s Dawgs and Burgers. He looked for ‘his Kathy’, the blonde who always took his order, but didn’t find her. Instead, a pimply faced boy with sores on his upper arms stood at the rightmost cash register; and two dark haired girls with giggles on their curled lips commanded the other two.
“He’s here every Thursday night,” someone whispered. “Creepy.”
Geoffrey glared at the girl he thought responsible for the comment and she drew herself into the booth where she sat with a blushing friend. Young girls. With full lips and straight brown hair. But neither as stunning as his golden haired Kathy.
He’d been coming to this Jack’s for more than a year and from the very beginning there’d been the beautiful blonde in the white blouse and blue jeans. She always smiled, never stared. He used to go to Lou’s Burgers for the one-night-a-week reward he gave himself for hours spent stocking shelves at Doland Discount. But too many sideways glances and too many muttered words, forced him to seek out Jack’s. Which he liked from the very beginning. Because of Kathy.
The comments he overheard hurt, but Kathy made up for that. If someone made fun of his bald head, he had Kathy’s smile to assuage the pain. His squeaky voice always drew titters and giggles, but Kathy never laughed. Even though he knew what he wanted to order, his mind didn’t work as fast as everyone else’s and it took time for the words to stumble from his mouth. Kathy waited patiently, with never an annoyed shuffle of feet, movement of arms, twitch of the eyes.
So much set him apart from everyone that he hated his reflection in mirrors and plate glass windows. His eyes: too dark. Nose too pointed. Ears: they protruded from the sides of his head. Cheeks sunken. Chin round and dimpled. Everything about him drew stares. People crossed the street, refraining from even the most casual of contact.
But Kathy never shrank from him.
He’d looked for her imperfections, which might explain why she was kind. Naturally red lips. No sign of dried, cracked lipstick. She had a tiny dent in one cheek, but otherwise her complexion was clear. No red sores like the ones that ran around his neck, across the bridge of his pointed nose, onto his high forehead.
Kathy’s eyes sparkled. Like her voice. Her hair smelled clean. He always sniffed deeply when he neared her. Golden hair. Even at the roots. An immaculate white blouse draped her chest. Her fingernails—pink sometimes and red others, and always polished—tapped the cash register keys when she took his order.
Without Kathy, how could Thursday nights be special? When he didn’t see her at her cash register, he said, “Where’s Kathy?”
“You want to order or what?”
That wasn’t an answer to his question. Would they tell him? Did they send her away? She’d been too kind for them to keep. Too good and perfect.
He got out of line. He left Jack’s. He wandered the street, looked in the windows of other restaurants. He entered an indoor mall with vibrating steel stairs leading from the ground floor to the second and third.
Maybe Kathy needed rescuing. He thought he heard her crying for him, her voice a sliver of sound amid the tumultuous banter and laughter mushrooming left and right as he passed one store after another. He darted out of the mall, went up a side street, and doubled back to the avenue, blended with the shoppers, the couples in line at the movie theatre, the diners at cafes with white tablecloths, and the people in line at fast food restaurants.
He flew. Above the crowd and, when that thinned, above empty, dark streets. He hovered, looking.
He looked for his Kathy. That Thursday night. And the next. And the one after that. Sometimes in flight and sometimes running on the ground.
Until he found the golden haired girl walking with two others. A blue paper hat adorned her head. Her white skirt swished back and forth in tune with her gait. No longer dressed in a white blouse, but rather a red-and-white-striped shirt that fell past her waist and hugged her hips.
“Kathy,” he squeaked.
The two girls on either side of the golden haired one put the backs of their hands to their mouths, eyes wide. But not Kathy. She smiled. She said, “I remember you. You were one of my regulars at Jack’s. Thursday nights.”
He nodded, afraid to speak, lest he frighten her as he’d frightened her companions.
But he had to speak. “Kathy. Please.” Had to speak because that would detain her, keep her close for a moment more.
“It’s Jan, actually. I had to wear the Kathy tag. They didn’t have one with my name.” And then she walked on, walked past him, her two friends on the curb side of the sidewalk and she taking the inside path. The trio rejoined on the other side of where he stood.
He stared at her back, at her bouncing blonde hair and swishing white skirt. Not named Kathy? Just a name tag? Because they didn’t have one that said ‘Jan’?
He turned away, head down, eyes on the cracks in the pavement. She wasn’t as perfect as he’d imagined.
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After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, David has turned to a first love: SF, fantasy, and magical realism. He’s published stories in Phase 2, Farther Stars Than These, Martian Wave, Encounters and other online, as well as print, magazines. Visit his web site: http://www.davidsjournal.com to learn more and for links to his Kindle books on Amazon.