One tiny, little lie (or perhaps a couple) leads to a trip full of twists and turns thru cornfields and small towns on a beautiful Fall day.

“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…

“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.

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 15

“Are you going to tell Bob your real name today or wait until Tuesday?” I quietly asked Franny as we headed back to our booth.

“Oh, I’ve already told him.  He thought the whole ‘fake name thing’ was really a cool idea.”

“Oh, yeah?” I said.  “Well good for old Bob.”

Yes, yes, I know…I sounded just a little bitter.

As we approached the table, Hank jumped up right away so I could get in and sit down…so very courteous.  Whatever…

“Everything okay?” he asked, again sounding a little worried…

“Peachy…just peachy,” I said with a big (maybe a tad phony) smile.

The bartender had brought over the drinks while Franny and I were in the Ladies’ Room.  I took a swallow of my Coke.  I was so thirsty.  It was icy cold…perfect.  Who needed  beer anyway?

I glanced sideways at Hank.  You know…I could play games too.  Maybe I would have a little fun with ‘my married date’.

“So…Hank…” I asked.  “What are your plans for tonight?  Franny and I were going into The Friendly Inn when we met you guys…want to come in with us when we get back?  Play some bumper pool?”

I was trying to sound normal and friendly but I know I wasn’t carrying it off very well…but like I cared…right?

Hank looked at me and tilted his head…almost as if he was debating what to say…it was odd…but then he laughed a little and said…

“Well, actually…” and then Nan appeared with our food and Hank didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence.

The food was really great and nobody talked much while we were eating.

I popped a last fry in my mouth and said, “Wow, that was excellent!”

“I wonder what that sauce was the cook put on the hamburgers?” Hank wondered out loud.  “I’ll have to ask Nan when she collects the bill.  It was really different…but good.”  Bob nodded in agreement.

I gave Franny a look.  What an odd comment from a guy about his burger.  It seemed strange to have a guy so interested in the food.

“What…are you a cook or something?” I asked Hank…a little bit sarcastically…for no other reason…than because he was “a married rotter”.

I wasn’t usually sarcastic to people…in fact I was never sarcastic to people…so it came out a little heavy-handed.

I instantly felt bad…but oh well…if you’re going to “cheat on your wife and abandon your babies”…you get what you deserve.

He paused…obviously feeling the sting of my remark…but then said…

“In fact, yes.  I worked for a couple of years at the Leamington Hotel in Minneapolis as a sous chef.  Then I moved over to the Nicollet Hotel.  I worked there for about a year.”

“It’s what I do.  I cook.”  He gave me a tentative smile…maybe wondering if I was going to stop him from talking…again.

“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.