Clarence needed a wife.
He needed a wife like a hungry polar needs a seal pup. He needed a wife like a Democrat needs taxes. Aw, heck. Clarence needed a wife because he needed a job. He’d lost his last one with the advent of the automatic regi-clerk at the grocery store.
Sure self-checkout had already been introduced years ago, but now they’d gone and done away with all the check-out help, including Clarence. He thought it was a pansy job anyway so he didn’t mind too much drawing unemployment for six weeks. But now it was week seven and Clarence, with his salt-n-pepper stubble and coffee-stained teeth, wasn’t getting any younger or any richer.
Elthea sat down at the counter. Elthea had been wanting a husband for twenty-some odd years. But that was ten years ago. Now she was happy living as an old maid as her brother called it, but what did he know? He was so scared of loneliness that he’d shot through three wives already and he was younger than Elthea.
“That’s a bald-faced lie!” Miss Sally thunked Clarence’s coffee cup on the counter and smirked at the grizzled man.Â “I did not charge you double for that piece of pie a la mode. I charged you triple.”
Clarence let out a snort. “Woman, that pie was worse than a hunk of sheetrock with snow on it,” he retorted. He picked up his coffee, leaving a ring of hot liquid in its place.Â
Elthea, seated seven stools to Clarence’s right, whispered, “Pie makes ya fat, boy.”
“I heard that, you skinny kid.” He looked up. “Oops! I thought you were Dee Dee. I’m sorry, Miss. I wouldn’t talk like that to a stranger.”
Elthea scooted over and stuck out her hand. “Name’s Elthea. Now we’re not strangers and I’ll tell ya loud and clear. Pie makes you fat.”
Clarence raised his eyebrows. He patted his belly.Â “You mean this here paunch? Got it eating bacon and eggs and biscuits right here at this diner. If it’s no good, tell it to Miss Sally,” he said.
The waitress put her hands on her hips and cocked her head toward the slight woman. Elthea smiled again. “Not only is your gut bulging, but your heart’s surely pumping way harder than it needs to with a breakfast like that.”
Miss Sally exclaimed, “My daddy ate here for thirty-nine years; didn’t die until he was 82 years old and then it was electrical shock…his ‘lectric shaver fell in the bathtub with him.”
“And what did your daddy do for work,” Elthea asked.
“He worked on the farm, raised 62 Jersey dairy cows, butchered 200 chickens every year, and feed his animals off his own land,” Sally responded.
“Sounds like he worked hard, sweated like a man, every day,” Elthea observed.
“You bet he did. I washed his clothes myself after mother died,” Sally said.
Elthea picked up the menu. “I’ll have a half-slice of grapefruit and whole wheat toast with peanut butter,” she said. “It’s the hard work that keeps the heart ticking so you can eat like Jack Sprat’s wife. When you stop working like a plough horse and don’t do anything harder than run a machine while sitting in a chair, that’s when you run into problems,” Elthea explained. “A cup of green tea, too, if you have it.”
Clarence interupted, “Well now, don’t get me wrong, Miss Ethel, but my heart scored real high on the doctor’s test just last month. I don’t do nothing these days since I lost my job this past summer.”
Elthea looked at Clarence, “Just how long do you plan to keep doing nothing,” she asked.
Clarence grinned, “Until I get me a wife! Then I’ll have to chase her around the bed every night and…” Clarence stopped.Â His face turned ashen. He lurched forward into the bar, bounced off and landed at Elthea’s feet.
At the funeral, Sally mummured, “If thoughts coule kill…looks like Clarence’s thought did!”
Prompts for September 29, 2010
- Use the phrase: That’s a bald-faced lie!
- Someone needs to sit at a table or bar and consume something
- Don’t leave us hanging, write a clear denouement at the end
- Include a ring of any sort whatsoever in your submission
- publish by October 5 for inclusion in next week’s column
- tag with gwwe