“One guy…One girl…One Motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Final Chapter…

“…SHELLEY!!!”

Franny shouted the name out so loud, two guys sitting at the bar near us turned around. 

Franny composed herself and in a normal, sane voice…continued…

“Shelley…meet Stanley…the nicest bartender in the city of Minneapolis…and the lousiest bumper pool player.  I’ve made a fortune off of him!

I finally found the courage to actually look up at Stanley and I tried very hard to appear casual and…you know…over 21.

“Hey.  Nice to meet you, Stanley.”

“Same…uh, it’s Shelley…right?” He said laughing.

“Yup.” I said confidently as I noticed him getting ready to take our order.  Maybe he wouldn’t even ask to see my ID…could I get that lucky?

Franny ordered first.

“I’ll have a small tap beer and a small cheese pizza.”

Stanley looked over at me.  I wanted to say, “I’ll have a Coke…” but I really did want a beer…so…in for a penny in for a pound…

“You know…I’ll have the same…and an order of onion rings, please.”  I am so very polite.

“Okay, ladies, I will place your order and get your beers for you.”  He ripped off the order slip and turned to walk away…but then…but then…

He turned back to us…

“Oh hey…we’ve got a new owner as of last month and he’s pretty careful about underage drinking here, so he’ll be over to check ID’s in a couple of seconds.  I’ll be back soon with your drinks.”  And then he left.

“Dammit!  I thought you were good to go.” said Franny.

“That’s it, I’m leaving.  I can’t do this, Franny.  I’m a nervous wreck.  I just want to go home…I’ll call a cab.  No problem.”  I made a motion to get up.

“Cooper, don’t worry!  You’ll be fine.  Your ID looks almost just like you…and you really do look twenty-three…especially in this light.”

“Just be cool…”  Franny reached across the table and patted my hand.

“Hey…do you want to hear something funny?  Bob asked me on the way back here if you had a ‘drinking problem’ since you made such a big deal out of ordering a Coke at the restaurant.”

“Oh, yeah?” I said…half listening to her as I was digging in my purse for my wallet…and… my fake driver’s license.

“So, what did you say?” I said.

“Oh, I just told him the truth…that you weren’t twenty-one.”

My head flew up and I reached across the table to put my hand over Franny’s mouth.

“Franny!!  Quiet!!”  I whispered loudly and looked around but Franny just ignored me, batted my hand down and kept talking…

“Oh, stop…no one heard me.” she said giggling.  “I wonder what time Roger and his friends will show up…”

Nothing ever bothered Franny…she was always so happy and positive.  It’s what I loved about her.  It’s why she was my best friend.

I relaxed a little…glanced down at my ‘fake license’…I guess it did look kind of like me.  And then I looked up to agree with Franny…

But her mouth had fallen open and her eyes had widened in horror as she gasped…

“OH MY GOD!!  I’ll be damned!!”

I didn’t think twice.  Whatever was going to happen next was not going to happen to me…I was completely done with this day.

I grabbed my purse, slid across the leather seat of the booth and started for the door.  But just as I reached for the handle, a hand grabbed my arm.

“Excuse me, young lady.  Are you even old enough to be in here?  Let’s see some ID.”  The voice was loud and angry.

Oh.  Fuck!!  I wrestled my arm free and without looking back I yanked open the door.

“I’m leaving!  I’m leaving!”  I yelled to the guy over my shoulder and I almost ran outside.

“Not before you give me your phone number!” he said and followed me out.

What was going on?  Was this guy some kind of psycho?

In the dancing Fall shadows of a late September afternoon…and feeling safely ‘legal’ now that I stood on a street in Minneapolis and not in some bar that required me to be something I was not, I angrily whirled around.

I found myself looking into the very intense, laughing blue eyes of the new owner of The Friendly Inn.

Or…as I had come to know him just a short time ago…’Hank’…who was now wearing a white chef’s apron that said, “Yes, I AM the cook” over his raggedy white tee shirt and jeans.

Stunned…I, of course, swore madly.

“What the hell is going on?  Who are you anyway?”  I shouted at him, not enjoying the smirk on his face one bit.

“Well,” he said and pointed to his apron…

“I’m Hank Sullivan.  And as of two and a half weeks ago…the new cook and owner of The Friendly Inn.”

He reached up to block the sun’s rays from hitting his eyes and I noticed his left hand where there was now a simple gold wedding band resting on his third finger.

“And…I guess you’re also still somebody’s “faithful” husband as well…” I said accusingly.

I knew who had the upper hand right now…and it was not Mr. Married Guy…no matter how cute he was when he grinned…and he was grinning now…from ear to ear.

“Cheating on your wife is not funny.” I said indignantly.  “How would you feel if she was biking all afternoon with a strange young man?”

I was on a roll.  When you’re right…you’re right.  And I was definitely right!

“Plus…it’s not fair to women like me who…who…trust that you’re not married if you ask them to go for a ride on their motorcycle…”

I knew I was on shaky ground here since I had sort of instigated the whole “going for a ride idea” by kind of flirting with him in the first place…but still…

“Really?  That’s the best you can do?” he laughed.  “You’re trying to drink illegally in my bar which could cost me my license, a ton of money…which I don’t have right now…and possibly destroy me.”

I looked at him questioningly…”How do you know I’m not…”

Before I could finish…he said.  “Bob called me.”

“Oh…”  Well.  He had me there.  We were both wrong.

“Okay,” I said grudgingly…looking down at the sidewalk.  “I guess we were both wrong.”

“Nope.  Just you.  You’re the only one who is wrong.  I’m completely innocent…of all wrong doing.” he said smugly.

My head popped up.  

“What!  What the fuck do you mean?” I said totally dumbfounded.

“Well,” he said.  “I’m actually not married.  I only wear the ring to keep young women from hanging around the bar area and costing me business.”

“The previous owner suggested it…he was single when he bought this place 40 years ago…and it really does work.”

“Only I keep forgetting that it’s on when I leave here.  It doesn’t take long to get a tan line when you ride a motorcycle.”

He slipped off the ring  to reveal the tell-tale white band.

“I tried to explain that to you a couple of times back at the restaurant,” Hank continued, “but then you seemed kind of angry and not that interested in me so I thought what the hell.”

“I see…” I said softly…looking down.  Feeling a little stupid…I was at a loss for words.

Hank, however, was not.

“So.  How old are you, Cooper?”

“You mean today?” I said a little flippantly…”Or in December…when I will be twenty-one?”

I looked up at him…Oh…those eyes…

He gave me a huge grin…slowly shaking his head from side to side.  Then he came over and threw his arm around my shoulders…pulling me next to him.

“C’mon back in, Cooper.  You can hang out with your friend as long as you don’t order any beer…I’ve got an in with the ‘owner.'”

As we started walking back toward the entrance to The Friendly, Hank said, “It’s Sunday tomorrow and we’re closed.  I hear it’s supposed to be another great day…”

“Want to go for a ride?” he asked.

I stopped for a moment and then said…looking up at him…

“Do I need an ID?”

The End

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 18

As we neared The Friendly, I realized I didn’t want to be done with ‘married Hank’…not just yet.

When we got to the corner where this hopeless misadventure had all started, Hank pulled the bike up close to the curb.

He shut it down, got off and again quickly picked me up and put me on the street.  This time his hands lingered lightly on my waist.

“You know, Cooper…” he began…

I didn’t say a word.  I didn’t even look at him.

I just pulled away and walked over to the sidewalk…ignoring him completely.

When I got there, I looked back at him.  He hadn’t started up his bike yet…but was just watching me walk away.

“Hey!” I hollered back to him.  “Don’t forget to put your ring back on…your wife might get a little suspicious if you’re not wearing it when you get home.”

And then…I turned around and quickly walked right across the street into The Friendly Inn.

I was absolutely and completely unaware of where the hell Franny was but…as it turned out, she was right on my heels.

She and Bob had parted ways, quickly exchanging phone numbers before he took off.

Franny and I stopped for a couple of seconds in the entryway of The Friendly to let our eyes adjust to the inky darkness of the bar.

“Cooper…” said Franny. “That was beyond cool! What a put down. I looked at Hank’s face right after you yelled at him and he was completely stunned.”

“I guess he thought he had you fooled.”

“Oh, look,” she pointed. “That booth is empty. Hurry before someone else takes it.”

Franny gave me a little shove from behind and I all but fell into the first booth. She didn’t want to sit on the side that faced the door…she wanted me to sit there…she took the side looking into the bar.

“Now. When Roger comes in, just kick me a little under the table…but don’t say anything.”

“And don’t be overly obvious, okay? I know that sometimes you think you’re so funny…” I interrupted her…

“Should we have a code word…like ‘Rumpelstiltskin‘” I joked. But Franny was dead serious.

“Cooper! I am dead serious. That’s why I’m sitting here on this side…if I see him coming in the door, I’ll get all crazy acting. You know me…So just do what I asked…please.”

“Oh. Here comes Stanley.”

“Hi, Stanley!  It’s really crowded in here this afternoon.”

And that’s when my heart started beating so hard I thought I would pass out.  A life of crime was definitely not in my future.

“Hey, Franny!  Haven’t seen you in here for a few weeks.  Find another place to hang out and steal a guy’s money while you break his heart?”

“Yeah, I guess it has been a while.  Oh, Stanley, this is my best friend…”  She smiled and  turned to look at me…

And…that’s when Franny’s mouth stayed open…but no words were coming out…

She had completely forgotten the name on my fake driver’s license…tick, tock, tick, tock…

Oh My God!!!  I was so screwed!!!

 

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 16

So…when I made no move to stop him, he continued.  “More recently, I’ve been working at a little restaurant in St. Paul…The Blue Onion…have you ever been there?”

I actually had heard of The Blue Onion…it was very popular now and everyone was talking about it.

“Yes.  I have.  I’ve never been there though…maybe we should go there sometime…”

I let the suggestion hang in the air for a couple of seconds as I looked Hank in the eye while smiling…just so he would think that I was possibly hinting for a future date…

And then…just as it seemed he might be interested…I quickly turned to Franny and very deliberately continued my question to her

“…eh Franny?  You’ve heard of the Onion, right?”  I knew she had and she fell right in line with my little charade at Hank’s expense.

“Oh, yeah.  We’ll have to go there sometime and see if this guy can cook.”  And then she grinned at me…knowing that I had scored.

I turned back to Hank…gave him a slightly, mischievous  smile…and went in for the kill…

“So…what’s it going to be?  Want to come and play some pool with us later?”  I also looked over at Bob to include him…I had a hunch it wouldn’t matter…but I wanted to appear polite.

“You know…that sounds like fun,” said Hank, looking very meaningfully at Bob first…and then back to me…

“But,” he said after a huge pause, “It’s my mom’s birthday and the whole family…including Bob, who is like part of the family, is getting together tonight.”

“We’ll have to take a rain check.”  Apparently, Bob can’t speak for himself…since he didn’t.

What a swell lie.  I was so impressed I almost believed him…mother…birthday…such a good son…such a good, loving, ‘married’ son.

Nan breezed by and left the bill.  I put $10.00 on the table.  I knew that would cover my food and my share of the tip.  Hank pushed it back at me.

“My treat!” He said looking at me.  Damn…he had the most amazingly, beautiful blue eyes.  I hadn’t noticed them before…oh well.  That’s life.

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 14

“Are you kidding me?”  I thought to myself.  Not only was he married…he was trying to hide it by taking his ring off.  What a complete idiot!!  Didn’t he see the white band?

I tried to shoot a ‘look’ at Franny so she could also notice the tell-tale white circle but her head was down as she was digging out her wallet from her purse

“Hi, folks…got to see those IDs you know.  Don’t want to lose my license serving any underage kids.”  The bartender said all cheery-like…

I should have appreciated this moment…especially after my stellar performance…but now…not so much.

After checking everyone else’s IDs, the owner looked over at me.

“How about you, dear…” the bartender asked.

“I’m just having a Coke.”  I said flatly.

“Oh.  Okay then, I’ll bring those drinks right over.  Enjoy your food and thanks for coming in…usually Saturday afternoons are pretty quiet around here.”

Polite chit chat with the owner filled the air for a couple of minutes and then he left.

Franny was all smiles and happy…apparently Bob was beginning to tell her some witty little story.  She leaned in to listen to him and I couldn’t catch her eye.

“You know…” Hank turned to me and started to say something but I gave him a tight, even smile and put up my hand to stop him and then said to Franny…

“Come to the ladies’ room with me, okay?”

My tone was more of a friendly order than a request.

“Huh?  Oh, sure,” Franny said, giving Bob an apologetic look since he was in the middle of his story.

Hank stood so I could get out…such a polite, nice…married man.  I think he said something to me but I paid no attention.  I just walked toward the “Restrooms” sign.

“What’s up?” asked Franny when the door had closed behind us.  I checked to make sure no one else was in the stalls…then I whispered to Franny…I don’t know why I whispered…

He’s “married!”  That’s what’s up.”  I said…while looking in the mirror to check out my hair.  “What a creep!”

“How do you know?” asked Franny…who was also checking her hair in the mirror.  We were such “girls”.

“When we get back, look at his left hand and see the little white band of ‘non-tanned’ skin on his third finger.”  I said while pointing to my left hand.

“Nooooo!!”  I can’t believe it!” exclaimed Franny.  “I’m so sorry, Cooper.” She put her hand on my arm.  

“What kind of guy goes around picking up girls when he’s married!  What a jerk!  He probably even has kids!!” continued Franny.

Oh, that comment made me feel good…I hadn’t even thought about that…a little ‘Hank’ running around somewhere…waiting for his “ratty daddy” to come home…

“Well,” said Franny.  “I’m pretty sure Bob’s not married…at least I hope not…I’m going out with him Tuesday night.”

“Dinner at Charlie’s Cafe and then we’re going to see that new film, “The Russians Are coming, The Russians Are Coming”.  I heard it’s really funny.  I’ll have to check his left hand when we get back, to see if he has any tell-tale ring marks…”

I looked at her reflection in the mirror and she was turning her head from  side to side…admiring her new haircut…which was actually identical to mine.  Franny was always so happy and positive.  I was glad she was my best friend.

“Hey!  What about your plans to hook up with ‘Roger’ later this afternoon?” I asked her.  “Are you no longer interested in him?”

“Sure am!  Absolutely!!  But Bob is fun and super cute.  I’ll see what happens.  I just feel bad for you, Cooper.  Are you going to say anything?”

“No…of course not.  I mean…what can I say.  I kind of picked him up…really…and we are just ‘riding around”…after all.  But still…it is crummy.”

I put on some fresh lipstick…might as well look good anyway…and then we both headed back out into the restaurant.

“I hope the damn chicken is good.”  I said and let the door bang shut behind me.

 

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 13

I apologized profusely to sweet, young Nan…who had turned bright red but…had generously accepted my apologies…

And…after also apologizing to everyone else at the table and pleading temporary insanity…I quickly opened my menu and then slapped it shut.  I was ready.

Franny was still looking at hers and also occasionally peeking over the menu at me.

I gently cleared my throat a little…not to hurry her or anything…but…I did want her to speak first…

It was “my scene”…and even though she didn’t know it…she had the opening line to this little drama playing out in my mind.

Franny looked up from the menu and said…”What are you getting, Coop”

Yes!  I was “Center Stage”…

I glanced briefly at the menu again…just for show…and then I said, ever so kindly and politely to Nan, “I don’t feel like having a beer.  I’ll have a Coke…with lots of ice, please…and a chicken sandwich with fries.”

Then I handed Nan my menu.  I was so pleased with myself.  I looked over at Franny for her reaction.

Her mouth had fallen open slightly in surprise at my clever move…or maybe (okay…probably) because…without really meaning to…I had given my order to Nan using a heavy (and completely phony) Southern accent…a la Blanche DuBois from “A Streetcar Named Desire”…my favorite movie…

“I’ll have the same as her,” Franny said…pausing slightly and then smiling.  “Except…I do feel like having a beer.  I’ll have a bottle of Grain Belt with a glass, please.”

“My dad will have to check your IDs before he can serve you guys any beer.  He’ll be right over.”  Nan picked up the menus and headed toward the bar.

Feeling like I’d climbed Mt. Everest in the middle of a raging blizzard…with my oxygen tanks long since depleted…I leaned back against the booth.

I put my tanned hands on the table and admired my new Revlon Orange Blossom nail polish that I’d purchased yesterday at Larson’s Drug Store.

Taking a deep, relaxing breath I smiled across the table at Franny…and Bob.

“I’m hungrier than I thought!”  I said…with not a hint of a Southern accent…”I hope the food’s good.”

It never once occurred to me that we were sitting here with two strange young men…about whom we knew absolutely nothing.

Somehow it just seemed natural and perfectly fine.

I turned to ask Hank what he did for a living.  He was pulling his wallet out of his jeans’ pocket so he could show his driver’s license to the bartender who was headed our way.

My smiling eyes fell down to his hands.  They were even more tan than mine…

Except for a little band of pure white on the third finger of his left hand…you know…the ring finger…

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 12

The bartender smiled at us and motioned for a young girl who was standing right next to him to follow us and take our order.

Aside from the bar patrons and the family by the window…we were the only other people in the restaurant.

There were a couple of ceiling fans lazily churning the air around.  There wasn’t any air conditioning…but that was okay.  The fans kept it cool enough…even though I felt a couple beads of perspiration on my forehead…

Bob and Franny led the way to a booth in the back and Hank and I followed but then Hank veered off toward a sign that said “Restrooms”.

“Be right back,” he said to me.

No sooner had we sat down, than the girl…who was about 15, cute as a button and sporting a pony-tail and braces…placed four well-worn menus on the table and greeted us with a huge smile.

“Hi!  I’m Nan,” she said proudly.  “I can take your order and bring you food but my dad, who owns this place, will have to fill any drink orders since I’m only 16…if you all want beer, that is.”

I silently chuckled…

Then she pulled out an order pad and politely waited for us…to do something.  I imagine just like she had been trained to do…not so very long ago.

“Well, I’m ready,” said Bob.  “I’ll have a cheeseburger with fried onions.  And a Budweiser.”

“Make that two,” said Hank who slid into the booth next to me.

His knee accidentally brushed against mine and I jumped a mile.  (Yes.  I was a little tense.  My big scene was coming up…)

“Are you okay?” he asked.  HIs voice had so much concern in it…how thoughtful…

“I’m fine!  Just great!!”  My voice was rising a bit..  “I’m fantastic!!!  Let’s just get this God damn ordering over with!!”

It was at this point that everyone stopped cold and just looked at me.  And can  you blame them?  Really?  I sounded completely nuts…

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 10

But…wait!  Hold on!  Bob had said a “restaurant”…which…’by definition’…was absolutely not “a cheap dive bar with naked, dancing ladies, an opium den in the back and  a ‘neon sign flashing XXX’s over the front door”.

A “restaurant” was generally known as a place where families come to eat and families usually meant adults and children…so there.

I smiled and took a deep, calming breath.  No jail time for Cooper Malone today.  Awesome!!

I’ll order a Coke, I thought.  I love Coke.  Maybe I’ll order 2 Cokes…or a Pepsi.  Pepsi is a good choice too.

Let everyone else drink beer and flash their fucking ID’s all over the place.  “I’ll have a Coke…please.”

I planned the dialog in my head as we approached the town.

Opening Scene:  Restaurant interior…Cooper speaks confidently to the waitress…

“You know, I don’t think I’m in the mood for a beer.  I think I’ll have a Coke…” (and then all really polite-like) “with extra ice, please…”

The extra ice makes it really believable.  Right?  Right.

Like I could have a beer if I wanted to…but I don’t want to.  I am over 21 but…I just don’t want to drink beer…right now…today…even though I could…if I wanted.  Fade out…

And ‘former best friend’ Franny had better not say one damn word or there will be no “Roger encounter” for her at The Friendly when we get back.

That settled…I let my mind concentrate on Hank.  He looked older than either Franny or me…maybe about 25?  I wonder what he did for a living?

I knew for sure he was cute.  Oh yeah…he was cute all right and pretty damn sexy…he also had a kind of presence, not an attitude really, but something else…whatever it was…I liked it.

As we pulled up to the “Three Oaks Restaurant”, I noticed a family of four sitting by the front window.  Mom.  Dad.  Two little girls with pigtails…maybe 8 and 10.

Neither of the little girls were slugging down beers.  Not that they would be…of course!

“Settle down, Cooper.”  I said sternly to myself…as my thoughts ran crazily roughshod over any sensibilities that I may have had when this day had started.

 

“One guy…One girl…One motorcycle or…”

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 2

“Cooper, be serious. This is just a little, nothing, neighborhood bar that serves 3.2 beer, cheese pizza and hamburgers to the families that live around here. My God you can’t even get french fries at this place!

“My parents have been coming here for years! I’ve been coming here forever. Everyone knows me…you’ll be fine.

“And on Saturday afternoons, all the really cool guys come in here to play pool and drink beer before they hit the clubs downtown which…as you have reminded me a zillion times…you will never go to before you’re twenty-one .”

I took another deep breath and said very calmly…or as calmly as was possible…considering I was potentially facing a stretch in the slammer.

“Franny. How old are you?” I asked, as I made a very obvious move to turn in my bucket seat and look at her as she was carefully tilting the rear-view mirror to check her make-up.

“Cooper…I’m twenty-one,” she answered quite patiently…ignoring my burning stare.

“You know that…remember?  We all went out last March to celebrate at the River’s Edge Grill.  Did you stay out in the sun too long today?”

Then she pulled a bright coral lipstick out of her purse and painstakingly applied it to her lips, not once letting her eyes leave the mirror.

I knew, of course, she was kidding about being out in the sun too long…and in passing…I must admit we both looked pretty damn great with our ‘fresh’ tans and slightly sunburned noses.

“Yes.  I DO know that.  And…I also know that I am NOT twenty-one.  And this stupid fake ID looks so…so…fake!  I don’t even look like a ‘Shelley Harris.”

“Oh my gosh, there’s Mike Shaw and Danny Wilson walking in…they are so precious!  Stop whining, Cooper, let’s go!”

Then she carefully re-adjusted the mirror and dropped her lipstick into her purse and got out of the car.

“C’mon, Coop.  Get a move on.”  Franny called to me over her shoulder as she quickly walked around her car and over to the sidewalk where she almost ran down to the corner.

We had parked on the street because Franny didn’t want to park her brand-new car in the parking lot that The Friendly provided.

She didn’t want anyone carelessly opening their car door into the side of her new car.  Can’t say as I blame her…that Mustang was awesome.

I finally got out…but at a much slower speed.  One could even say I was dawdling….and one would be right.

Even though I didn’t really care what I looked like right now…I guess I had to consider the customary “mug shot” one gets after you’re arrested…so I bent down and looked into the car’s side view mirror.