So, after divorcing her cheating husband, Lauren searched for nothing special and she thought she found it when she landed a job as a waitress in a biker bar in Carnal. It was perfect: a nothing job in a nowhere bar in Nowheresville.
I sat in my parked car outside the bar.
It looked like a bar. It could be any bar anywhere, small town, big city, it didn’t matter. It was just a
bar. Bubba’s bar, apparently, for it said “Bubba’s” in blue lettering on a black background in a huge sign
at the top.
I looked out the window to my left. There were two Harley Davidson motorcycles parked there.
I looked back at the bar which it would seem might be a bit of a biker bar.
I looked out my window to the right. There was a beat up, old, blue Chevy pickup parked at the edge of
the parking lot.
I looked back at the bar which would seem was not high-class and not high-brow. They probably didn’t
even have martini glasses.
I looked at the window of the bar. In it there was a sign that said “Help Wanted”. In the little white
space at the bottom of the sign was written, “Waitress”.
I pulled breath in through my nose. Then I exhaled, got out of the car and walked right to the door,
through the door and into the bar.
I was right. Nothing special. Nothing high-class or high-brow. It could be any bar anywhere.
There was a man sitting on a corner stool at the long bar at the back of the room. He had a ball cap on.
There were two other men playing pool at one of four pool tables (two to the left, two to the right, the men
were at one of the tables to the left). Evidently, bikers played pool. There was a woman behind the bar.
She had a lot of platinum blonde hair. She also had a lot of flesh at her cleavage. I could see this because
it was bursting out the top of her Harley tank as well as straining the material.
Her eyes came to the door the minute I walked in and didn’t leave me as I walked to the bar.
“Hi,” I started.
“Chantelle’s about twenty miles down the road. Straight on,” the blonde interrupted me. “Just turn right
out the parking lot and keep goin’.”
“Sorry?” I asked and felt the man with the ball cap turn to look at me.
“You lookin’ for Chantelle?” the blonde asked.
“No, I’m –”
“Gnaw Bone?” she asked.
“Gnaw bone?” I repeated.
“Gnaw Bone. Not too far away from Chantelle,” she told me. “That what you lookin’ for?”
I didn’t know what to say. Then I asked, “You mean Gnaw Bone is the name of a town?”
She didn’t answer. She looked at the man with the ball cap. I looked too. When I did, I saw firstly that
his ball cap had definitely seen better days and those days were about four hundred years ago. Secondly, I
saw that he was staring at my breasts.
I looked back at the blonde.
“I’m here about the waitress position.”
For a second there was loaded silence. Then the man with the ball cap burst into a loud guffaw.
The blonde’s eyes narrowed.
“Did Bubba put you up to this?” she asked.
“Bubba?” I asked back, at this point confused.
“Bubba,” she bit out then glanced around before looking at me. “This ain’t funny. I got things to do.”
I glanced around too and saw that she actually didn’t have much to do. The two guys were playing pool
and didn’t seem all that thirsty. The ball cap guy had nearly a full draft in front of him.
I looked again at the blonde.
“I’m not kidding,” I told her.
“Bullshit,” she replied irately, already at the end of her patience.
This was shocking. It wasn’t like I’d never heard a curse word before, or used them myself, just that I
didn’t tend to blurt them out to strangers looking for jobs. Or strangers on the whole. And also I’d been
there for about three minutes and hadn’t done anything to strain anyone’s patience, much less push them to
the end of it.
“No, seriously. I’d like to apply for the position,” I explained.
She didn’t answer for awhile and took the time she was silent to study me. I decided to do the same.
She’d be pretty, if she didn’t tease her hair out so much and wear that much makeup and look clearly
like she was in bad mood and anyone could set her off. Though she really pulled off that tank top. I had
serious cleavage too but it didn’t come with a petite, slim but rounded body. It came with a big ass and a
mini-Buddha belly and a hint of back fat. Not to mention somewhat flabby arms.
I decided to break the silence and announce, “I’m Lauren Grahame.”
I stuck out my hand. She stared at my hand and didn’t get the chance to speak because the ball cap man
“Jim-Billy,” he said and I turned to him.
His hand was out to me, he was smiling and this time looking into my eyes. On the left side he’d lost the
second tooth in and hadn’t bothered to replace it. For some reason, instead of this making him look like a
hillbilly with bad dental hygiene, it made him look a little goofy and a little sweet.
“Jim-Billy,” he repeated. “That’s my name.”
I took his hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you, Jim-Billy.”
I repeated his name because I learned a long time ago at a training seminar to do that when you met
someone. It solidified their name in your mind so you wouldn’t forget it. I was terrible with names and I
found this worked and I figured a waitress in a small town needed to remember the names of the regulars
at the bar. And Jim-Billy definitely looked like a regular.
It also worked that I chanted, Jim-Billy, Jim-Billy, Jim-Billy in my head.
Then again, who’d forget the name “Jim-Billy”?
He gave me a squeeze, released my hand and his gaze swung to the blonde.
“Tate’ll like her. Big time,” he declared. “Bubba’ll like her even better.”
“Shut up, Jim-Billy,” the blonde muttered.
“About the job…” I stated, bringing the matter back to hand and the blonde looked at me.
Then she leaned into me. “Girl, take this as me doin’ you a favor. Boys around here…” she threw out a
hand, “they’d eat you alive. Go to Chantelle. Gnaw Bone. Woman like you has got no business in Carnal.”
That was one of the reasons I picked that town. Its name was “Carnal”. I thought that was funny and
interesting but that was as interesting as I wanted to get.
I wanted to live in a Nowheresville town called Carnal. I wanted to work in an anywhere bar called
Bubba’s. There was nothing to either, except the names. Nothing memorable. Nothing special. Nothing.
“You don’t understand,” I told her, “I –”
She leaned back and stated, “Oh girl, I understand.” Her eyes moved from the top of my head to my
midriff (which was all she could see with the bar in her way) then they came back to mine. “You’re
lookin’ for a thrill. You’re lookin’ for adventure.”
“I’m not. I’m –”
She threw her hands up. “You think I don’t know it when I see it? Do I look like a woman who ain’t
been around? Do I look like a woman who feels like hirin’ and trainin’ and learnin’ to put up with the
new shit a new waitress is gonna feed me and then when she realizes that she wants her old life back she
ups and leaves and then I have to hire and train and learn to put up with new shit again?”
“I wouldn’t give you… um…”
“Everyone shovels shit and I don’t like the taste of it from my kind. I already know I really don’t like
the taste of it from yours.”
I again didn’t know what to say because it was dawning that she was discriminating against me.
“Not to be rude or anything,” I said softly, “but you don’t really know me. You don’t know what kind I
“Right,” she replied and there was derision heavy in her word.
“You don’t,” I asserted.
“Girl –” she started but I leaned forward and I did it for a reason.
I leaned forward because I needed her to hear me. I leaned forward because I’d been searching for
Carnal a long time. I’d been searching for Bubba’s a long time. I needed to be there and to be there I
needed that job.
“Right,” I repeated. “You think I’m some kind of lost woman like out of a book, travelling the globe on
some idiot journey to find myself?” I asked and before she could answer, I continued, “Thinking I can go
out there and find good food and experience interesting places while soul searching, wearing fabulous
clothes and being gorgeous and making everyone I run into love me and, in the end, find a fantastic man
who’s really good at sex and adores me beyond reason?” I shook my head. “Well, I’m not. I know who I
am and I know what I want and I know that isn’t it because that doesn’t exist. I also know what I’m
looking for and I know I found it right here.”
“Listen –” she began.
“No, you listen to me,” I interrupted her. “All my life, or as long as I can remember, I thought something
special was going to happen to me. I just had this feeling, deep in my bones. I didn’t know what it was but
it was going to be beautiful, spectacular, huge.” I leaned in further. “All… my… life.” I shook my head
again and put my hand on the bar. “It didn’t. I waited and it didn’t happen. I waited more and it didn’t
happen. I waited more and it still didn’t happen. I tried to make it happen and it still didn’t happen. Now I
know it isn’t going to. It’s never going to happen because there isn’t anything special out there to happen.”
I sucked in breath, she opened her mouth but I kept talking.
“I had a husband. I had a home. I had a job. I had friends. Then I found out my husband was sleeping
with my best friend. Not an affair, they’d been doing it for five years. When the cat was out of the bag,
they decided to be together for real. He divorced me and I couldn’t afford the house on my own so we
sold it. Then, all of a sudden, after ten years of being with someone, I was alone. They got the friends who
always thought behind my back they were perfect together. They all knew. For five years. And no one told
“Fuckin’ shit, woman,” Jim-Billy muttered.
“Yeah,” I said to Jim-Billy and looked back at the blonde. “But, you know, after the shock of it wore
off, I didn’t care. I swear. I didn’t. Because all of a sudden I realized that I had a shit marriage to a shit
guy and I had a shit best friend and all sorts of other shit friends besides. And all that time I was living in
a house I didn’t want, it was too darned big and it was too darned everything. A house should be a home,
not a house. And that house was in a town I didn’t like because every house looked the same and every
woman dressed the same and every man played around the same and every car was shiny and new and
there was no personality anywhere. And in that town I had a job I didn’t much care about even though it
paid me good money.” My voice dropped and I told her, “I realized I didn’t have anything special. All of
a sudden I realized that life didn’t have anything special in store for me.” I took in a breath and finished,
“And I’m okay with that. I don’t want special anymore. I waited and I tried to make it happen and it
didn’t. So be it. Now, I want to live someplace that is just a place. I want a job where I can do a good job
while I’m doing it and then I can go home to a place that’s a home and just be home. I don’t want anything.
I’m done wanting. I’ve been wanting and yearning for forty-two years. The only thing I want is peace.”
“You think you’ll find peace in a Harley bar?” Jim-Billy asked what was possibly a pertinent question
and I looked at him.
“I think I can get to work on time, do a good job, feel good about myself because I worked hard and did
my best and go home and not think about a Harley bar. I can think about myself or what I have a taste to
eat for dinner or what might be good on TV Then I’ll go to sleep not thinking about anything and get up.
and get to work on time again.” I turned to the blonde. “That’s what I think. I’m not looking for a thrill.
I’m not looking for adventure. I’m looking for nothing special because I can be content with that. That’s
what I’m looking for. Can you give me that?”
The blonde said nothing just looked me in the eyes. Her face was blank and no less hard and it stayed
blank and hard for a long time.
Then she said, “I’m Krystal. I’ll get you an application.”
I stood at the window of my hotel room holding the curtains back with a hand and staring at the pool.
Carnal Hotel wasn’t much to write home about. A long block of building, two stories, all the doors
facing the front, fourteen on top, fourteen on bottom. I was on the bottom in number thirteen. The rooms
were clean, mine had a king-sized bed and a TV that had to have been purchased fifteen years ago was
suspended from the wall. The low four-drawer dresser and nightstands stuck out of the wall and had no
legs. The closet had two extra pillows and an extra blanket. The bathtub and kitchen sink had rust stains
but even so, they were clean too. The whole of it was below average but it would do.
That pool, though, that was something else. It wasn’t big but it was pristine clean. The lounge chairs
around it weren’t top of the line but they were okay, in great repair and obviously taken care of.
I looked from the pool to reception. It wasn’t so much reception as a tiny house. I tiny well-kept house
with a little upstairs. It also had big half barrels full of newly planted flowers out front. It wasn’t quite
summer but it was the end of spring so the flowers hadn’t come close to filling out.
Carnal was in the Rocky Mountains, a small valley surrounded by hills which were surrounded by
mountains. It was closing on May, there was a nip in the air and I wondered if those flowers were
If they were, whoever planted them had the capacity for a lot of hope. There were more flowers in
window boxes in the front windows of the reception-slash-house. There were also more flowers in half
barrels intermittently placed by the poles on the walk in front of the hotel rooms with more window boxes
on the railing of the balcony in front of the rooms upstairs. And lastly there were more half barrels dotted
around the pool area.
The parking lot was tidy and well-kept and the hotel and reception-slash-house both had a good paint
All of this indicated that Carnal Hotel might be below average but the people who owned it cared
I had checked in with a nice lady at the front desk who said anything I needed, change for the vending
machines or laundry room, Wi-Fi access, menus for restaurants and takeout in town, “just holler”.
Then I’d unpacked my car. All of it. I unpacked it for the first time in four and a half months. Then I
cleaned it out. All the junk food wrappers, discarded pop cans, fallen mints, lost pieces of candy, bits of
paper. The flotsam and jetsam of a killer road trip. I lugged my suitcases (there were five) and boxes
(there were two) into the hotel room and took a plastic bag I’d found and filled full of trash to the big
outdoor bin tucked close to the side of the hotel not facing any streets.
Then I unpacked my clothes.
Over the past four and a half months, I’d been in tons of hotel rooms but I’d never unpacked. I’d never
stayed beyond three days. I’d only stayed long enough to do laundry, take a breather and decide where I’d
head next in my search, zigzagging across so many states I’d lost count in my search for Nowheresville.
After I unpacked, I’d walked into town which amounted to me walking by room number fourteen and
turning the corner. Carnal Hotel was on the edge of town right before the road opened up to nothing again.
I’d found a deli, bought a pastrami on rye and ate it on the sidewalk, chasing it with a diet pop. Then I’d
walked the town up one side and down the other.
Bubba’s was in the middle, five blocks from the hotel and it was definitely a biker bar because Carnal
was a biker town. There were two bike shops and one bike mechanic at the opposite end from Carnal
Hotel and it had a sign that said “We take cars too”. There were also three motorcycle paraphernalia
shops that I could see looking in the windows sold a lot of leather bike accessories and more leather
There was also the deli, a diner, an Italian restaurant, a pizza delivery place and a coffee house which
was strangely called “La-La Land Coffee”. Again looking in the windows of La-La Land, I saw it was not
run by bikers but hippies that were so hippie they wore tie-dyed shirts with peace signs on front and had
long hair. One of the two behind the counter had on round, blue-tinted sunglasses even though he was
inside and the other had a thin braided headband wrapped around her forehead. They looked in danger of
dropping cross-legged on the floor and singing Kumbayah.
This all was intermingled with a discount tobacco store that sold all types of smoker delights for all
types of things you could smoke; two discount liquor stores; a drug store; a tailor who seemed to
specialize in stitching biker patches into leather (or at least that was what the sign in the window said);
two convenience stores, one opposite the hotel, one at the other end of town opposite the mechanic; a busy
grocery store about a quarter the size of the mega-grocery stores that every other town in the nation
seemed to have and it looked like it’d been there since 1967; a bakery; a hardware store; a flower shop; a
gas station and a variety of other Nowheresville places to fill a Nowheresville town.
There were people on the street and I knew they were friendly because most of them smiled at me.
After I checked out the Main Street (called Main Street and it was also the only street with businesses,
the rest was residential) of my new home, I went back to reception at the hotel. I bought a week’s worth of
Wi-Fi from the nice lady who took that opportunity to share with me that her name was Betty. I shared my
name too and decided to go ahead and pay a week in advance on my room when I got the Wi-Fi. This
decision overjoyed Betty and I knew that because she told me.
“Sweetie! A week! I’m overjoyed!” she’d shouted.
She would be. Mine was the only car in the lot and she had a flower and pool habit and those weren’t
Nevertheless, she was friendly and open and I decided I liked Betty.
After telling her I was glad I’d brought her joy, I went back to number thirteen and dragged out my
laptop. Then I logged in. Then I ignored all my e-mail and sent a message to my parents and my baby
sister that all was well, I was fine and I’d check in with more information later. I saw that they’d sent e-
mails to me but I didn’t read them. I didn’t read them because I knew they would freak me out because I
knew my Mom and Dad and sister Caroline were freaked out. They weren’t big on me upping stakes and
roaming the country looking for nothing special. They were bigger on me moving home and sorting myself
out and finding a decent man and starting over (in that order).
I shut down my computer, sat on the big, soft bed, stared at the wall and thought about the next day when
I was supposed to be at Bubba’s at eleven to train to be a waitress and start my new life.
Then I smiled.
Then I watched TV until it got dark and the pool beckoned me.
Now I was standing and looking outside to see the pool looked clean and enticing and it was all lit up.
In fact, the parking lot was all lit up. Seeing it, I knew four things about Reception Betty. She was
friendly, she liked flowers, she was proud of her below average hotel and small but clean pool and she
wanted her guests to feel safe.
That’s when I saw the car pull in. It was a convertible, an old model something. It looked like a
Chrysler, not great condition but also not a junker.
It parked outside reception, the door opened and a woman folded out.
I stared at the woman.
She had thick, long dark hair and long legs most of which I could see coming out the bottom of her very
short, frayed-hemmed jeans skirt. She had a tight tank top and more cleavage than Krystal (but as much as
me). She wasn’t petite or slim, she was long and very rounded but it was clear she didn’t care. A mini-
Buddha belly and a hint of back fat didn’t bother her. Not in the slightest. In fact, she worked it.
She sashayed into reception and I saw a man was there. He was Betty’s upper-middle-age. He smiled
at her like he knew her and she waved and smiled back giving the same impression. I knew this was the
truth when he handed her a key without doing any of the usual checking in business. She took the key, put
both her hands on the counter, lifted herself up, booty pointed up in the air, feet in high-heeled stiletto
sandals on tiptoe. She kicked back one foot and leaned toward him, giving him an across-the-counter air
kiss. Then she strutted back out to her convertible, got in and drove through the parking lot to park three
spots down from my Lexus. She got out, didn’t grab a suitcase and walked toward a door where I lost
sight of her.
I had a feeling I was going to have to buy some tank tops to fit in in Carnal.
I dropped the curtain and went to the dresser. Most of my clothes were folded and sitting on top, there
wasn’t enough room for them all in the drawers and closet. But at least they’d been released from their
suitcase captivity. In the drawers I’d put my underwear, socks and pajamas. I’d also put my bathing suit in
Seeing my clothes laid out I thought it wasn’t much but it was more home than I’d had in a good long
while and it made me feel weirdly settled.
It had been a warm day but it couldn’t be over sixty-five degrees outside. Still, I loved pools, I loved to
be in water and for some reason I really wanted a swim so I figured it would be like any time you got in
cold water. Once you were in, you’d get used to it. At least I hoped so. If not, so what? I’d just drag my
carcass out and come back to my room.
I changed into my swimsuit, put on a pair of track pants, a sweatshirt and some flip-flops. Before I
could chicken out, I grabbed a towel and my room key and headed to the pool.
I slipped off my shoes and sweats and decided to dive right in. Better to get it over with all at once. I
moved to the side of the pool, braced for impact and dove.
The pool was heated.
I swam five laps of the short pool and had to stop because I couldn’t breathe. This, I told myself, had to
do with the fact that I was in the Rocky Mountains, at altitude, and it did not have to do with the fact that I
was seriously out of shape.
I forced out four more laps and had to stop again.
Then I forced out one more lap and put a hand to the edge to turn back for another lap when I heard the
roar of bike pipes.
Stopped at the edge of the pool, holding on and peering over the side, my eyes followed the black and
chrome Harley gleaming in Reception Betty’s parking lot lights as it glided along, pulled in and parked
next to the convertible. Then my eyes watched the man shove the stand down with his booted foot and
swing his leg off the bike.
His back was to me so all I could see was that he was tall and he had a great behind. He also had on
faded jeans, a black, long-sleeved, thermal t-shirt and he had a head of thick dark hair that also shone in
the lights, just like his Harley
One of the hotel room doors opened and the woman in the mini-jeans-skirt ran out and threw herself at
the tall man. Her arms wrapped around his neck and I couldn’t see it but I could tell her lips latched onto
He didn’t even go back on a foot when her body impacted his. He just curved his arms around her and
leaned into her kiss.
That’s something special.
The thought just popped into my head and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what was happening. I
didn’t know these two people. All I knew was that it looked special. So special, all I could do was stare.
They stopped kissing and she tipped her head back and laughed with pure delight, the sound ringing
through the air, filling it with music.
I decided I hated her and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know who she was or what was happening. I just
knew she had something special and I didn’t and never would and that sucked. It wasn’t a nice thought
which was unusual because I was normally a nice person but it was the one I had.
She disengaged from him and came to his side, wrapping her arm around his waist and propelling him
He looked down at her and I saw his profile in Reception Betty’s bright parking lot lights and when I
did I held my breath.
If he was that handsome in profile, so handsome he was breathtaking; he’d be sensational full on.
That’s when I decided I really hated her.
They got close to the door and he moved suddenly and quickly. Swinging her up in front of him, she
wrapped her legs around his hips, her arms around his shoulders and tipped her head down to look at him.
But he seemed to be peering in the room like he expected to see something or someone, something or
someone important, something or someone he was looking forward to seeing. But before he found that
something or someone, she fisted a hand in his hair, tilting his back, her mouth went down on his and they
entered the room necking.
He closed the door with his booted foot.
Yes, sensational. If he could pick her up like that and carry her anywhere, he was beyond sensational.
“Like the pool?”
I jumped and pushed off the side with my foot, my head jerking around as I stared at the Reception Guy
who checked in Lucky as Hell Girl that I hated. He was standing at the side of the pool and looking down
at me. I was so engrossed in Handsome Harley Guy and Lucky as Hell Girl I hadn’t heard him coming.
“Sorry?” I asked.
“The pool,” he answered. “Like it?”
“Um…” I mumbled, staring up at him. “Yes.”
“It’s heated,” he informed me.
“Um…” I mumbled again. “I can tell.”
“Betty ‘n me got it relined last year. One or t’other of us clean it every day. Best pool in the county.”
I couldn’t disagree. It was a fantastic pool, clean, heated and everything.
Therefore I said, “It’s really nice.”
He rocked back on his heels and took in the pool with his eyes before he looked back at me.
“Thanks. Ned,” he said.
“Uh, my name is Lauren,” I said back and he laughed.
“No, pretty lady, name’s Ned.” He jerked a thumb at himself. “I’m Ned.”
“Oh,” I replied, feeling like an idiot. “Hey Ned.”
“Hey back at cha Lauren.” He grinned. “Betty tells me you’re stayin’ awhile.”
“Yeah,” I told him thinking he seemed friendly enough but not certain how much to share because, well,
I didn’t know him and every girl in a pool in the parking lot of a hotel on the edge of Nowheresville
should be smart and not tell their story, current or past, to some random man who snuck up on them. In
fact, girls like that should get out of the pool, get into their room and lock the danged door.
“That’s great.” Ned was still grinning. “We don’t get a lot of long timers. Weekenders. Nighters. Yeah.
Long timers. No.”
“Oh,” I replied, my eyes going back to the long block of hotel, specifically to my room where I figured I
should be at that present moment.
“That’s Neeta,” Ned said and I looked back at him.
“Neeta?” I asked.
Ned nodded. “Neeta and Jackson,” he shook his head, “bad news.”
My gaze slid back in the direction of the hotel. He’d misinterpreted where I was looking. He thought I
was looking at Harley Guy and Lucky as Hell Girl’s room.
I didn’t inform him of his mistake. Instead, I asked softly, “Bad news?”
“Yeah,” Ned answered. “She swings into town and shoo!” My eyes went to him to see he’d put his
hands up at his sides and had taken a step back. “We brace.”
“Brace for what?” I asked.
He dropped his hands. “Brace for whatever Neeta’s got up her sleeve.”
“Is that…” I stopped and motioned toward the Harley and the convertible with my head, “Neeta with
“Jackson, yeah. He’s great, a good man, smart, solid, salt of the earth. Loses his mind around Neeta,
though. Then again, not many men wouldn’t but I’m guessing you know all about that.”
My eyes had wandered back to the Harley as I treaded water and Ned talked but I looked at Ned when I
heard his comment.
His grin came back and it was bigger this time, brighter, transforming his whole face making me think
he might just be a friendly innkeeper in a biker town in the Rocky Mountains, just like he seemed.
“Sure you do. Ain’t shittin’ me, pretty lady.”
He was right. I wasn’t shitting him mostly because I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Figure, though,” he went on and his eyes moved toward the Harley, “you’d be worth whatever trouble
you might cause.”
“What?” I whispered and he looked back at me.
“I’m a good judge of people,” he informed me instead of explaining himself.
“Yes?” I asked because I didn’t know what else to say.
“Yeah,” he replied quietly, moved closer to the edge of the pool and squatted down. I kept treading
water and staring at him. “See,” he continued, still quiet, “any trouble you might cause I’m guessin’ would
be trouble you don’t mean to cause.”
“I’ve never caused any trouble,” I told him.
This was true. I hadn’t. I was a good girl. I’d always been a good girl. I’d always made the right
decisions and done the right things. I might have chosen the wrong husband and the wrong friends but they
were the jerks in those scenarios, not me. I was nice. I was thoughtful. I was considerate. I looked out for
my neighbors. I got up when old ladies needed a seat in a waiting room. I let people who had two or three
items go in front of me at the checkout in grocery stores if I had a full cart of food. I kept secrets. I bit my
lip when people I knew did stupid things I knew they would regret and then kept biting my lip when those
stupid things bit them in the ass and they came to me and whined about it.
I didn’t wear mini-skirts, not ones with frayed hems, not any mini-skirts at all. If I did, I wouldn’t wear
them with high-heeled sandals. Maybe flip-flops or flats but not high heels. I didn’t air kiss front desk
reception guys named Ned even if I knew them. I didn’t drive a convertible. I didn’t rush out a door and
throw myself in the arms of a man.
And I’d never laughed so loud I filled the air with music.
“Betty’s different than me,” Ned broke into my thoughts and I focused on him.
“She is?” I asked thinking I may have missed something.
“I’m a good judge of people, she’s got the sight.”
“The sight?” I repeated stupidly.
He grinned again while straightening, it was his big grin. He had all his teeth, the eyetooth was wonky
but they were all clean and white and the rest were straight. His hair was a little thin, light brown. He
wasn’t tall, not short either. Lean and on the thin side. And, I was beginning to believe, a genuinely nice
guy, not the creepy night clerk at a hotel in Nowheresville.
“The sight.” He nodded then looked toward the hotel before he turned to me as I moved my arms
through the water to take me back to the side so I could stop treading. I reached out and held onto the edge
as he kept going. “She told me she met you and she just knew.”
“Somethin’ big was gonna happen.”
I blinked and it wasn’t to get the water out of my eyes.
“To you, through you, because of you, whatever. But whatever it is, it’ll be big and it’ll be good.”
I didn’t know what to do with this mostly because it was a little crazy.
“She said that?”
He nodded and crossed his arms on his chest, rocking back on his heels again.
“Yep. And she’s never wrong. We been married twenty-five years and she gets these feelin’s and, I’ll
repeat, she’s never wrong. My Betty’s always right. Always.”
I didn’t know what to say to that so I stayed silent.
“Anyhoots!” he exclaimed loudly. “Best leave you to your swim. You need anythin’ at all, you know
where to find me. I hit the hay around midnight but you just gotta ring the buzzer outside the front door and
it’ll wake me up. Yeah?”
“Anythin’ you need, pretty lady, I mean that,” he said and it sounded like he meant it.
“Okay,” I replied.
“Glad to have you with us, Lauren.”
He lifted a hand in a wave and wandered back to the reception-slash-house.
I looked at the Harley and listened to the quiet of Carnal.
Then I forced out ten more laps (with three more rest periods), got out of the pool, toweled off, grabbed
my stuff and ran to my room.
A Job to Do
I spent more time wondering what to wear to work than I did training at Bubba’s.
Since Krystal was in a tank top the day before, I decided that it probably wasn’t work casual, more like
anything goes. So I put on a nice pair of jeans, a belt and a peachy-pink colored t-shirt that had a crew
neck and three ruffles made up the sleeves. I thought it was bright and cute. My ex, Brad, told me he
thought it was a little young for me but I liked it, I thought it suited my coloring. I wore flip-flops because
I usually wore flip-flops if I could but also because I figured I’d need comfortable shoes. I put in some
earrings that were little dangles of peachy-pink crystals, a half-inch choker which was a net of peachy-
pink beads and a bunch of bracelets that were elasticized bands of multi-colored crystal beads, peach,
pink, peachy-pink, creamy peach, creamy pink, clear and I threw in a couple of blue ones to go with my
I walked from the hotel to Bubba’s thinking that I should have planned ahead last night and maybe
stocked some provisions in my room. I left early so I could pop by the bakery to get a donut and a coffee. I
hadn’t even thought of dinner the night before and didn’t eat any so I was starving.
My muscles also ached. It was dull but they were not used to being worked. They’d been cooped up in
a car for four and a half months for one but even before that it wasn’t like I was a regular at the gym. I
didn’t think this was good considering I’d be on my feet all day.
Krystal was there when I got there and I knew right off she was in a bad mood. I didn’t know why but I
suspected it was because there were some dirty glasses and beer bottles left out “on the floor” as she
called it though most of them were on ledges on the walls around the pool tables and not on the floor at
all. Also, when we turned the chairs off the tables, most of them hadn’t been wiped down.
I suspected this was why she was in a bad mood because she muttered irately, “Fuckin’ Tonia and
Jonelle. How many times do I gotta tell them? Wipe the tables, clear the floor of empties. Shit,” she
looked at me, “you got evening shift, you clear the empties off the floor and wipe down the tables real
good. It ain’t hard to do and Anita comes in in the mornin’ to sweep and mop so it ain’t like you’re part
I nodded, making a mental note to clear the empties and wipe down the tables “real good” because I
figured that Krystal was the sort of person who didn’t need a lot to tick her off and I didn’t want to do
anything to add to her seemingly perpetual bad mood.
She showed me around the bar but there wasn’t much to it. The front which had the bar, a mess of tables
out front and the pool tables to the sides. She explained that day shift there was only one waitress and
bartender unless it was a weekend. If it was a weekend, the floor was split into two sections for two
waitresses. Weeknights there were always two waitresses and one or two bartenders. Weekend nights
there were three waitresses and at least two bartenders.
“We don’t have no busser,” she informed me, leading me out of the bar and down one of the two
doorways that led off the back of the bar. It had a sign over it that said “Private Do Not Enter”. “Don’t
need another person on payroll when you waitresses can nab your own empties.”
I nodded even though she wasn’t looking at me.
She took me to an office and let us in. “You stow your purse in here and you take your breaks in here.
We don’t give keys out to everyone so you need to come back here, you find Tate, Bubba, Dalton or me to
let you in.”
“Tate, Bubba and Dalton?” I asked.
“Bubba’s my old man,” she answered. “Tate owns the bar with us. He ain’t around a lot. Then again,
Bubba ain’t around a lot either. Like now. He’s fishin’,” she said the word “fishin’” like it tasted bad and
she had to get it out of her mouth fast or she’d have that taste forever. “Dalton’s the other bartender,” she
“Oh. Okay,” I said and she eyed me.
“Gonna say this now gonna say it once, Bubba, Tate and me own this place and Bubba’s been in my
bed goin’ on a decade. That’s about as much fraternization as we need. Half the time I don’t want that
jackass in my bed, half the time he ain’t in my bed because he’s fishin’. You get an eye for Tate or Dalton,
and they all get an eye for Tate or Dalton, rethink it. You’re here to work not get laid.”
“Oh,” I repeated, more than a little surprised at this subject matter and the way she presented it.
She didn’t move but she spoke. “Not jokin’, girl.”
“Um…” I decided to give as good as I got in an effort to make her think I wasn’t the fancy pants she
clearly thought I was from her comments the day before though, in all honesty, I kind of was or at least I
wasn’t a biker babe like her. “I’m not exactly in the market to get laid, Krystal.”
She kept staring at me. Then she moved out of the office muttering, “Yeah, you haven’t seen Tate or
I had to admit this worried me a little bit. I didn’t need to be working alongside good-looking men,
especially starting out. It’d make me anxious. Once I got used to things, got my bearings, I’d be fine
mainly because I wasn’t lying. I wasn’t in the market to get laid. That market had closed and I was okay
with that. But I didn’t want to be fumbling around learning how to be a waitress in a biker bar with
handsome biker men as my audience.
As if she read my mind, Krystal talked as she led me down the hall. “I’m keepin’ you on day shifts for a
week, maybe two, see how you do. Cut your teeth. Get the lay of the land before you go nights.”
“Thanks,” I said when she stopped outside a closed door.
She turned to me. “Don’t thank me. Tips are shit on the day shift.”
She unlocked and pushed open the door and showed me the storeroom. Then she told me that waitresses
might be called on to help stock or run back and get something if the bartenders were busy. Then she
showed me the clipboard where they kept track of stock in a complicated way that would be far easier if
put on a computer spreadsheet. Even though I probably could set that up for her in about an hour, I didn’t
inform her of this.
“We open at noon close at three,” she went on, walking back down the hall. “Shifts run eleven to seven
with two fifteen minute breaks and half hour dinner break. Night shift is seven to three. Last call is 2:30
so you get those drinks in and you get your clean up done best you can while we got folks in the bar. You
don’t wanna be hangin’ around ‘til four clearin’ and cleanin’ and I don’t wanna be payin’ you to do it.
“Yes,” I nodded but she wasn’t looking at me, she was leading me through the bar and taking me toward
the other hall, the opening had a sign over it that said “Restrooms”.
“Anita cleans these in the mornin’ and loads ‘em up with toilet paper. We got a customer reports a
bathroom problem with the toilets, you tell one of the boys. Toilet paper is in the storeroom. You might
need to restock and, I’m warnin’ you, you might need to do clean up. Shit happens you would not believe
in the bathroom of a bar.” She stopped in the hall between the two bathroom doors, ladies up front, gents
to the rear and she turned to me. “You got a problem with that?”
“Are we talking vomit?” I asked because I had to admit, I was not a vomit person.
“Vomit, piss, shit anything a body can produce, I’ve had to clean it up.”
I felt my eyes get big and I asked, “Anything?”
“Girl, this is a biker bar. Those boys get randy, they need to get off and they don’t care much where
they get them some. And girls who hang with bikers care even less.”
“Wow,” I whispered.
“So, you got a problem with that?” she repeated.
I looked at her and straightened my spine. “You can get used to anything, right?”
She stared at me a second then mumbled, “Right,” and she took me back front and showed me how to
use the cash register. She finished with, “You’ll have a float in your apron and you’ll figure your own
way to keep tabs on what you’re sellin’ and what’s in your apron. Me, Bubba, Dalton or Tate will cash
you out, take your float and our take and do the reconcile, leavin’ you with your tips.” She gave me a hard
look. “It’d be in your best interest to keep on top a’ that. It gets busy, you’ll be bustin’ your hump to earn
those tips. I ain’t sayin’ any of us’ll fuck you over. I’m just sayin’ you need to look out for yourself. And
you fuck up on a transaction, that’s your gig. You sell what you sell, you track it, we track it, it all don’t
jive, it comes outta your tips. You won’t use the register much but you should know your way around.”
I nodded, she studied me as if thinking it wasn’t sinking in due to the fact that middle-class women
were incapable of selling a beer, making change and keeping track due to their middle-class nature then
she shrugged as if it was all the same to her.
She showed me the complicated, three sink procedure of how to wash glasses, where empty bottles
went and told me that bartenders did most of the washing but if things were busy, the waitresses were
expected to pitch in where they could. She gave me a paper with a list of drinks and snacks (they sold
bags of potato chips, pork rinds and peanuts) and their prices.
“Memorize that, soon’s you can,” she ordered then crossed her arms under her tank top covered bosoms
(another Harley tank, this one white with very cool silver, red and black lettering) and looked me in the
eye. “We get trouble, Lauren and it isn’t infrequent like. Boys come in here, get blitzed, act stupid. Some
of ‘em got knives, all of ‘em got fists. You sense trouble, you tell me, Bubba, Tate or Dalton and you stay
I wasn’t happy with the cleaning up of vomit and anything else a body can produce part of the job
description but men with knives was taking it to a new level.
Though I also had to admit to some concern that she’d want me to tell her. She was four inches shorter
than me and at least fifty pounds lighter. She had no business wading into a knife fight, or any fight.
I decided to focus on the latter.
“Tell you?” I asked.
“Me,” she answered.
“But, shouldn’t I get a man –?”
“I been around the block, girl, and this is my fuckin’ bar. It’s been my fuckin’ bar for five years. You
think I can’t sort out trouble?”
“Um… you’re five foot five and weigh about a hundred pounds,” I informed her of a fact she likely
knew (though I was being nice about the weight consider her behind and cleavage).
“I’m smart, fast but that don’t matter since I know where we keep our shotgun,” she replied. “Even
wasted, men stop fightin’ quick when they got a loaded shotgun aimed at ‘em.” She pointed across the
room to the wall where there were a bunch of visible pockmarks in the wood. “Buckshot. Mine. Round
these parts it’s not only known that I know where the shotgun is but that I know how to use it and someone
messes around in my bar, I will.”
I nodded again wondering why I was undeterred by the variety of craziness she was telling me and
standing there listening to her rather than saying, “Thanks… but, um, I think I’ll just be leaving.
Instead, I said, “Okay.”
“All right,” she replied and the door opened.
We both turned to look and when I saw who came in I stopped breathing.
It was the Harley Guy from last night at the hotel. Even though I hadn’t seen his face straight on, I knew
it was him. And I was right. He was sensational straight on.
He was tall, maybe taller than he seemed in the parking lot or maybe he just seemed bigger in the bar
since his shoulders were so broad. But his hips were lean and his legs were long, his thighs obviously
powerfully muscled and I could tell that even through his jeans. His dark brown hair gleamed even in the
dull light of the bar. It was thick and it was clear he washed it and let it fall where it lay for the part was
natural and not straight, it was swept back but some of it fell around his temples and curled a bit around
his ears and at the back of his neck. His eyes looked dark, I couldn’t tell the color but there were sun lines
emanating from the sides that were attractive. His brow was heavy; his nose wasn’t perfect but it was
straight with a slight bump at the top of the bridge that made it interesting; his cheekbones were cut and his
jaw was strong. His skin was tanned in a way where I knew he didn’t get that color lounging by a pool
and he was wearing faded jeans, black motorcycle boots and a heathered-gray-blue, long-sleeved,
skintight, thermal Henley.
He was beautiful.
“Hey Tate,” Krystal called and I turned woodenly to her.
Okay, maybe Krystal was right earlier, I hadn’t seen “Tate” yet (though I had, I just didn’t know it and
thought his name was Jackson) and if this was Tate then I definitely wanted to get laid by him. Definitely.
Though a man like that who could get a girl like Neeta wouldn’t even look at me and he could, he
already had Neeta but hell, he could get anyone.
I turned back to Tate to find I was wrong. He was close, stopped at the side of the bar where there was
an opening. I saw his eyes were dark brown and they were on me.
“Who’s this?” he asked, his voice deep and a bit rough. He didn’t take his eyes off me and, like
Krystal, he looked like he was in a bad mood.
“This is Lauren, our new girl,” Krystal answered.
I opened my mouth to say hello when he spoke.
“Lauren?” he asked and his tone was scathing. Downright scathing. And his face had gone from making
him look like he was in a bad mood to sheer and utter contempt.
I felt my body automatically get tight.
“Yeah, Lauren, she’s –” Krystal started but he interrupted her.
“Talk,” he growled and then turned down the hall.
Krystal looked at me. “Check the fridges.” She pointed to a bunch of glass-fronted, half fridges at the
back of the bar. “See what we need to stock up and go to the storeroom. Put the new ones in the back, the
old ones in the front.” She handed me her set of keys and followed Tate down the hall.
I waited a second because I was recovering from that strange scene and wondering why all these
people took an instant dislike to me. Krystal hired me which was good but she wasn’t exactly welcoming
even through training. And Tate, well…
I shook this feeling off as just my inexperience of biker folk. Maybe they were a close knit group and
you had to prove yourself. I could do that. I hadn’t waitressed since I was a cocktail waitress at a dinner
theater during my summers in college but it couldn’t be difficult to pick it up again. I was a hard worker.
As far as I could remember, my entire work life I’d called in sick once when I got the ‘flu. I hated being
late and never was. In fact, usually I was early. Once they got to know me, I told myself, they’d like me.
I walked down the hall and the door was closed to the office. I nearly made it to the storeroom when I
heard Tate’s raised voice.
“Jesus, Krys, maybe you wanna talk to me before you hire some sorry-ass, old, fat, suburban bitch to
drag around our goddamned bar?”
I stopped and had to put a hand to the wall to hold myself up.
Sorry-ass, old, fat, suburban bitch.
That beautiful man’s words ricocheted around my head causing damage that was so excruciating I knew
the way it was inflicted it would never, never heal.
Then my body jolted and I rushed to the storeroom, found the key on the fourth try and went in, flipping
on the light switch and closing the door behind me.
Then I leaned in and put my forehead to it.
Okay, I was forty-two not exactly a spring chicken. Okay, I wasn’t svelte by a long shot and had a body
that just couldn’t be svelte and never would even if I tried (though I could stand to take off a few pounds,
or more than a few). But I wasn’t sorry-ass. And I’d lived in suburbia but I’d never liked it, I just told
myself for Brad, because I loved him, that I did. But it wasn’t me and the minute I got my chance, I left.
And forty-two wasn’t eighty-five. I was over twenty years away from retirement. That was hardly old.
Not everyone could be gorgeous, like him. Not everyone could have fantastic bone structure, like him.
Not everyone could have thick, gorgeous hair, like him. Not everyone could have a beautiful body, like
him. Most of that (maybe not the body, because that would take work) he inherited from his parents! He
was just lucky! Not everyone was that lucky, especially not me.
What a jerk!
“Fuck him,” I whispered and then pressed my lips together because I didn’t like to swear. Then, out of
my control, I whispered, “Fuck Krystal too.”
I turned and stared at the shelves filled with bottles of liquor, crates of beer and wine, kegs lined up the
walls, boxes of potato chips and huge plastic wrapped rolls of toilet paper and I realized that I didn’t take
stock of what I needed before I went in there.
This was my life as I wanted to lead it. This was the place I wanted to live it. I’d been on the road
driving through towns and cities looking for what I needed and after four and a half months, this was the
only place that felt right. And Bubba’s felt right too, even though it wasn’t much and the people weren’t
nice, it still felt right.
And I didn’t care if they didn’t like me. I didn’t care if they didn’t think I was one of them. I didn’t care
that my jeans cost twice as much as theirs and my t-shirt was designer and they saw it, knew it and didn’t
Fuck them. Both of them.
I walked out of the storeroom and back into the bar. I found a sheet of paper, took stock of what was
needed and went back to the storeroom to search through the shelves and find it. I was on trip three and
squatted down rotating bottles of Bud and Coors Light when I heard them come back.
I sucked in breath and looked up and when I did I looked right at Tate. When my eyes caught his, I
watched his face change sharply and it did this with a small head jerk and wince.
He knew I’d heard him and at least that jerk had the good grace to react.
I put in the last bottles, stood, pushed the fridge door to and walked toward them both, saying, “One
more trip and re-stock should be done. I made notes of what I took and I’ll mark it on your clipboard.
Then I’ll wipe down the tables.”
Then I walked by them, down the hall and into the storeroom.
Both of them.
I had a job to do.