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THIRTY-FOUR

The Hampton Inn’s breakfast area is awash in NFL of the Jaguar and Colts variety. “Oh, look,” Jean whispers as she leans into me, “your favorite! Football!” she says, elongating “ball” until she is out of breath.

“Yes. Roman cunnilingus.” I reply, rolling my eyes as I nod and smile at Peaches.

“Dude,” Jean says, shaking her head, “time to retire that one. You need new material. Who’s that?” she adds, following my lead and smiling towards Peaches.

“Gal who works here. She brought me coffee this morning when she found out I was drinking last night’s dregs. From Guatemala.”

“You get her life story?” Jean asks as we walk into the serving area.

“Just a little. Been here since the early seventies which, if memory serves, was a period of increased violence in Guatemala,” I answer, filling a cup with waffle batter before pouring it into the iron. “I wasn’t up to your dad’s standards.”

“Who is?” Jean asks as she gathers her yogurt, fruit and juice. “I’m going to grab a table. I’ve got silverware,” she adds, eyebrows raised, which I acknowledge with a nod.

As my waffle cooks I scoop up a cheese “omelet,” a rather grandiose name for a folded egg with American cheese inside, place it on my plate along with craisins and nuts and then wait for the waffle irons’ timer to beep before adding that to my heaping plate along with a small dollop of syrup. I pause as I walk by the pastries, start to pick up the tongs to grab one, reconsider and head to the dining area where I find Jean standing next to a table to which Peaches is giving her squirt, squirt, rub, rub cleaning ritual. “Thank you,” Jean says as I walk up.

“Mr. Tony,” Peaches says to me, nodding and smiling.

“Señora Peaches,” I reply. “Did you meet my wife? Jean, Peaches. Peaches, Jean.”

Jean puts on her party smile, says, “Nice to meet you,” and sits.

“Oh,” Peaches replies, “likewise. Your husband was down here very early this morning working away. He said he did not want to disturb you. He is very considerate, yes?”

“Oh, you have no idea!” Jean replies. “Coffee?” she asks of me.

“Claro! Of course,” I reply, grinning at her. “You are so considerate.”

“Yes,” Jean says, smiling at me. “Just like you. Peaches? Very nice to meet you,” she adds before walking to the coffee.

“And you. Enjoy your day!” she says, leaving our table behind as she winds her way through the breakfast area.

I watch Jean as she walks away and then again as she returns. “What?!” she demands as she places the mugs of coffee on our table.

“Nothing. I was just trying to figure out which way you look better, coming or going.”

“Oh my gosh,” she responds, shaking her head. “Just shut-up and eat.”