Misty had been unresponsive when their alarm clock had awakened Joe that morning. As a rule Joe laughed at the idea of alarm clocks, he usually woke up fifteen to twenty minutes before he had to without the aid of the little box, but last night’s Halloween revelry had gone on into the early morning and there was a big difference between going to bed around eleven and waking up on one’s own at 6:40 as opposed to trying to wake up at seven unassisted when he hadn’t closed his eyes until after three a.m. Groggy, cotton mouthed and bleary eyed he had opted to make one large pot of coffee and pour what was left in a thermos for Misty to drink when she finally came to life rather than grinding her fresh beans and preparing the pot so she could have the freshest of the intoxicating, life restoring brew with a simple push of a button.
Their couples costume of Dorothy and the Tin-Man had earned them third prize at last night’s costume judging but it had also earned Joe extra duty in the showering department. The metalic silver body paint that he had smeared over his face, neck and hands was supposed to come off easily with cold cream and soap and water but even after showering last night and today Joe was still finding streaks of silver in the crevasses of his tired face.
His bike ride to work helped revive him and the unseasonably cool 42 degree overnight low temperature refreshed and awakened him. His body had requested a leisurely pace but the need to be to work on time had superseded this genteel desire and Joe had worked harder than usual on his jaunt to Challenge Cyclery. This exertion was a prescription for renewal and he arrived at the store a few minutes later than usual only to find it locked and empty. “Huh,” he said to himself, “looks like it might be one of those days,” as he took his keys from his bike bag, unlocked the store’s door and raced back to the alarm box to reset the device before its horrid claxon erupted into the still calm morning.
Once the alarm was safely turned off he returned to the front of the store to retrieve his bike and relock the door. He hung up his bike on a service department storage hook, unlocked the heavy duty lock to the back entrance and then slipped into the bathroom to refresh himself and change clothes. Having taken care of personal business he clocked on and arranged the few service tickets that were slotted and awaiting attention in order of priority and started another pot of coffee. “Probably going to need a lot of this around here today.”
Joe heard the jingle-jingle of the bell that hung from the front door of the store and poked his head around the partition that separated the service department from the showroom. “Hey, Joe,” JT drawled, “Thanks for opening up. Cold out there this morning, isn’t it?” he asked with a manufactured shiver.
“I kinda’ like it. Refreshing.”
“Figures. Crazy Yankee. How you feeling? Ready to do some work?”
“Okay. I woke up groggy but some coffee and a nice ride in in that arctic air of yours has me running on at least seven cylinders if not eight.”
“Good, good. You left early compared to some. Swear the sun was just peeking over the horizon when Darrell finally left. Tell you what, them Canadians can drink and I don’t mean maybe.”
“Yeah. I quit around midnight because I had to drive home but he was slugging ‘em back. Looked like he was talking to Rick?”
“Yeah, him and Brad both. Talk about cold. That Jill of his is a piece of work. You gonna’ run around on your husband you should at least have the courtesy to try and hide it. She is a bitch with a capital B.”
“That’s got to be terrible. Sad.”
“That’s for sure. Marriages end but you really don’t have to rub a fellow’s nose in it. Do I smell coffee?”
“Yeah. I made a pot. Figured we all might want some today.”
“Bless you. I don’t care what they say about you, you’re alright.”
Even though Joe felt that the early November weather was ideal for riding business had been getting more and more sparse. Today’s crew consisted of JT, Joe, Brad and Frankie and even with just the four of them they had little difficulty in keeping up with customer traffic flow and attending to the half dozen repairs that were queued in their slot. Brad had turned the radio down and when he saw Joe he had whispered, “Too loud,” as he shook his head. “Everything is too loud,” and looking at a repair ticket, rubbed his eyes, looked again and sighed deeply before collecting the bike off the storage hook.
“There’s coffee,” Joe had answered quietly.
“Yes,” was the muted reply. “I have,” he added, holding his mug aloft. “Thanks.”
“You talked to Rick?”
“Oh. Yeah. Poor guy. I don’t think they’re going to make it.”
“How long have they been married? I barely know Rick.”
“Hmm. Let’s see. Four years next spring? They had a pretty big wedding. His folks came down from Pennsylvania. He’s only got one brother but he’s older, married, got kids. Rick’s okay. When Moles left and Rick started managing East Side I was alright with that. I hear you worked it out so you can substitute teach over the winter?”
“Well, I worked it out with JT and John, now I just need to get an opportunity. Haven’t had any offers yet.”
“How long ago did you sign on for that?”
“I started paperwork back in the middle of the month with the substitute thing. You’d think I was pulling teeth trying to get them to realize they had all my credentials on file because I applied for real teaching –oops!- full time teaching back before I even moved here. Now I’m on some lists at a few of the schools. I don’t know if I’ll even get called.”
“Sure you will, Joe, don’t worry so much. Hey, at least you have a job, right? And a wife who’s not screwing around on you.”
“Amen to that, especially the latter. I don’t know what I’d do without Misty.”
“Well, it happens all the time. I hope you never find out. It’s funny though, the reason Rick married Jill was because she swept him off his feet, literally, if you know what I mean? A cat doesn’t change her stripes and if she was shall we say ‘adventurous’ when they married then there’s no reason to figure on that changing because they say I do in front of God and everybody. Sad but true.”
“Well, that’s half right for sure. It is sad. Do you think he’ll be okay?”
“I hope so. He said he’d been on the phone with his mom and dad and that they were supportive but clueless. Never even seen his parents fight! His brother was better, understood the situation more. I guess he really couldn’t say to his dad, ‘Dad, I married a vixen and now she’s catting around; what’s up with that?’ Like I said, ain’t gonna’ change her spots just because he put a ring around her finger.”
“Terrible in any case. I’m finished with this one. I need to hang it up and call these folks to let them know their repair is done. Think I’ll give Misty a call too, just to let her know I’m thinking about her. I won’t be but a minute.”