“Sometimes the truth can be so boring…”

Chapter 1

It was possibly the most beautiful day of my whole entire life…a life presently consisting of twenty (almost twenty-one…but not quite) years.

It was September in Minnesota and most of the leaves on the oak and elm trees had just started turning from their humdrum shades of green to the brilliant, intense colors of yellow, red and orange.

“I should still be back lying on the beach…enjoying these last few hours of summer,” murmured Cooper Malone to herself as she looked wistfully out the window of her best friend’s car.  There were far too few of these beautiful late summer days left.

But no…instead I was sitting in the front seat of Franny Sherman’s brand-new, 1966 Candy Apple Red Mustang…chain-smoking one cigarette after another…trying to get up the courage to walk into the very popular neighborhood saloon…”The Friendly Inn”…knowing full well that I was not of legal age to drink.  I took a deep breath.

“They will demand to see my ID and then…when they notice that I am underage, they will call the cops and I will end up in a tiny, little jail cell,” I complained to Franny who… as my best friend…seemed to be paying little attention to me…and my pathetic exaggerations.

“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.

“Sometimes the truth can be
so boring…”
Chapter 3

The mirror’s tiny image showed a ruffled, Clairol-assisted, bleached-blonde, pixie haircut, in desperate need of a comb, hazel-brown eyes with green eye shadow (a little smudged…but who cared).

I smiled big…noting in my teeth.  My…just a tiny bit crooked…nose showed the effect of hours of basking in the sun.

My slightly ‘bent’ nose was a result of me foolishly not wearing my catcher’s mask during warm-ups earlier this spring during a fast-pitch softball tournament that I was unfortunately unable to participate in…since I was sitting on an old, very hard, plastic chair in the ER of Minneapolis General Hospital.

Incidentally…broken noses really do produce an un-Godly amount of blood.  Anyway…

I guess I looked okay.  Good enough to be arrested at least.

Franny seemed to be speed walking as I slowly dragged along.  I caught up with her at the corner…still unable to think of a way I could wriggle out of what I was certain to be a horrible disaster.

I had considered and then discarded my possible, upcoming promotion at work as an excuse.  I was in line to be made assistant to the circulation manager at the Minneapolis Journal…the newspaper where Franny and I both worked.

She was one of the local advertising reps and I was slowly moving up in the circulation department.  (No pun intended…)

However sad this sounds…I had to face the reality that most everyone at the paper had ‘liquid’ lunches and sometimes even ‘liquid’ afternoon breaks…so no one would bat an eye if I got nailed for underage drinking.

Most…including my boss, Mr. ‘party guy’ Ross Taylor…would probably consider it just a “rite of passage” into the wild world of adulthood.  

As we waited for the light to turn green, I heard a roar of motorcycles coming up from behind.

I turned and noticed two guys on Harley-Davidsons who had also stopped at the red light.

Ever since I had seen the movie “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando, I had…for some odd reason…become a big fan of motorcycles.  Don’t ask me why…I have no idea.

Even though they were both wearing aviator sunglasses, I could see they both looked pretty sweet!  Oh, c’mon!  Aren’t all guys on motorcycles sweet?  You know…all that leather and… you know…stuff??

Being the friendly sort of person that I am, I sent a huge smile in their direction…you know…as in “Hey welcome to the corner of 34th Avenue and 51st Street.”

Don’t judge me!  I am a very sociable person by nature.  I smile at most people…and when I am out walking…I say hello to every dog I meet as well.  As in…”Hi, dog!”

The biker closest to me pushed up his sunglasses and smiled back…may I say he had really incredibly vivid blue eyes?  I will…he did.

His smile was just a tad inviting… kind of slow and lazy.  Okay.  It was slow, lazy and sexy.

He was wearing a white tee shirt that had seen better days and faded jeans.  His scuffed, black, leather boots looked older than me.  No matter…it was working.

He was really tan and his longish, blonde hair was sun-bleached almost white…just like I was trying to get mine to look.

He was, actually…if you must know…drop-dead, fucking magnificent.

He looked quickly over at his friend and then back at me.  His friend had nodded what appeared to signal some sort of agreement…

“Want to go for a ride?” he asked me.

I think I stopped breating…no really…no intake of air was present for many seconds.

 

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 4

I was walking toward his bike before I even knew what I was doing…other than putting one foot in front of the other..and managing somehow not to trip and fall down.

Then he revved his bike’s engine…the sound was like a siren call.

“Sure…” I said, with not one single, intelligent thought floating around in my brain.

(And…I might add…whose voice was that coming out of my mouth? Certainly not my voice. My voice was perky and bouncy…one could even describe it as sprightly.)

This voice sounded like I had been drinking whiskey for the past twelve hours…during and after my job as a piano-bar singer in a smoke-filled nightblub while I was still recovering from laryngitis.

“What about your friend?” he asked and raised up his head in question…indicating, of course, friend Franny.

“What?” I said. (There was that strange voice again). I had a friend?

But then a sharp poke in my side quickly brought me back to reality.

“Oh, right!” I yelped. I turned to look at Franny who had left the curb and was now standing right next to me.

We whispered out a quick deal. We would both get on the bikes, go for a ride and then later I would go into The Friendly Inn with her. I would not quibble at all…not one quibble.

She knew that “Roger”…the guy she was really hoping to see tonight…wouldn’t be showing up until much later.

So, for her it was really a win-win situation…especially since the other biker…who had now also taken off his sunglasses…was also drop-dead good looking. That was a plus.

And…the deal was done.

“We can only be gone for a couple of hours,” Franny said to nobody in particular…because nobody in particular was listening.

“We’re meeting some people later at The Friendly.”

Then she walked over to “Biker # 2”.

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 5

“What’s your name?” Franny asked biker #2…giving him her customary, blazing smile…which suited her fiery red hair and dazzling green eyes.  Franny was something to behold…and most everyone did.

“Bob Nelson”, he answered quite politely.  “What’s yours?”

“Cynthia Zimmerman.  You can call me ‘Zimmer’ or ‘Zim’ if you like…”said Franny Sherman who…being five feet eight inches tall…found it ridiculously easy to sling her long, slim leg over the seat of the bike and settle herself down behind Bob..

Franny getting on his bike was about as easy as her almost never telling the guys she would randomly meet in bars her real name.  It was just her thing.

At some point either during the evening or at a later encounter…she would tell them the truth…if she felt like it.

You wouldn’t know it to look at her but…Franny could be…complicated

I looked up at my guy.  I could see he was pretty tall even though he was sitting on his Harley-Davidson…tall with tan muscular arms that flexed every time he revved up the Harley’s engine.  Okay…

I gave him my best smile and said, “So…what’s your name?”

Instead of answering, he moved his boot and flipped down a little chrome peg from the side of his bike.

“If you put your foot on that, you should be able to swing your leg over.”

I paused only for a second and then said super confidently…and…sprightly…

“Oh, I know…I’ve ridden before…hundreds of times.  In fact, my older brother, Owen, has a Harley-Davidson…not like this one exactly…but still a Harley.”

Point of fact:  I had never ever ridden a motorcycle before and I did not have a brother named Owen.  But occasionally I stretched the truth a little…but only if absolutely necessary.

I put my right foot on the little peg and then paused…casually looking around for something to grab so I could pull myself up and over and onto the seat.

I wasn’t sure if I should grab…you know…him.

At five feet three inches tall…I did not have the ability or the agility to easily sling my leg over the bike’s seat as Franny had done.

He looked at me for a second…kind of waiting…and then asked me the oddest question.

“So then.  You do know how to be a ‘passenger’ on a motorcycle…right?”

I glanced to the left and I could see Bob talking to Franny and gesturing a lot.

Franny was listening and nodding in acknowledgement.  I couldn’t really hear what they were talking about…Bob kept revving his bike engine.  I looked back at my guy.

“Absolutely!  I’m good!  I will be the perfect passenger.  You will have no problems with me at all.”

Words were coming out of my mouth that made absolutely no sense whatsoever…not even to me.

“No problems?…

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 6

But really…how hard could “being a passenger” be?  I had ridden a “bicycle” for years when I was a kid…in fact, many times somehow steering my trusty, old Schwinn (don’t even ask) with no hands.

I actually remember cruising down the sidewalk…waving my arms wildly in the air…and shouting to anyone who cared to see…”LOOK!!  NO HANDS!!”

I also remember “being a passenger” on my friends’ bikes…I just jumped on the handlebars or on the bike’s cross bar.  See?  Easy…

No…being a passenger on this motorcycle was not going to be a problem…provided I could actually get on it.

A few seconds passed as I continued to look around for something to grab.

Then…my “no-name biker”…flipped down the kick stand on his side,  got off the bike and came over to me.  (Jesus!  What was he going to do?)

In one swift motion…he grabbed me around the waist, picked me up and set me on the back of the seat.

“My name’s Hank.”  He said grinning, as he got back on his bike.

“You?”  He asked, turning slightly around to look at me.

“Cooper.  I just love bikes!”  Oh my God.  I sounded like I was five years old.

But Hank smiled at me and said, “Yeah, what’s not to…”

Then he looked over at Bob and gave him a head nod.

The light had changed a couple of times as the four of us had been talking, but now it was green and Bob took off.  I saw that Franny had her arms around Bob’s waist so I did the same.

Hank looked back at me.  “Ready?”

“Absolutely!  I’m ready.”

“Well, Cooper, hang on.”  And I did.

We went around the block and rode back towards Lake Nokomis, the lake where Franny and I had just spent the whole morning and a lot of the afternoon.

We circled it and then headed for the freeway which would take us south…thru the southern suburbs and then out to the farm fields that surrounded the city.

Obviously, we weren’t going to cruise around the ‘mean streets’ of Minneapolis.  I was fine with that.  The speed of the bike was exciting!

Before I knew it, we were whizzing through one yellowing corn field after another…no longer on the interstate.

Hank had passed Bob and Franny a ways back and then had abandoned the colorless freeway.  He shouted to Bob over his shoulder that he was taking a more scenic route.

In the distance, I could see lots of hills vibrant with the early, bright colors of Fall.  It was spectacular.

(Okay.  Here’s the part when you, as the reader, might be saying…perhaps even out loud…or thinking…

“Hey!  These two nit-wits don’t even know these guys!”…And…if you did say OR think that…well…good for you.)

Exactly what the holy hell were we thinking?  Aside from how cute these two guys were…we were thinking absolutely nothing…zero.

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 7

Feeling so relaxed after laying in the sun all day…and then having a late afternoon, slightly chilly breeze blowing thru my thin tee shirt…my eyes slowly started to close and I just ‘ever so lightly’ put my head down on Hank’s back.

Before I knew what was going on…Hank had abruptly pulled over to the side of the road on the gravel shoulder. My semi-closed eyes flew wide open.

I quickly raised up my head and looked around…wondering if “we were there” or at least “somewhere”.

“What the hell were you doing? You can’t fall asleep on a bike! You want to fall off and hit that asphalt going 70 miles an hour?”

Hank was yelling at me and pointing angrily to the black highway next to us. Just then a car flew by us so fast, I couldn’t even see who was driving.

“Were we really going that fast?” I asked. “Wow!”

Yes. Yes. I know! I was obviously missing the point since Hank was not smiling…nor was he answering my question.

Bob and Franny had driven past us but now had turned back, circled around and parked next to us.

“What’s up, man?” asked Bob. Franny was peering out from behind his shoulder…she looked pretty happy. Well good for her.

She wasn’t getting yelled at…by a complete stranger no less.

“She started to fall asleep…” said Hank. He had gotten off his bike and was trying to light a cigarette. I could see his hand was shaking a little…

“Didn’t you give her the “passenger instruction” spiel?” asked Bob…looking first at Hank and then at me.

“Why would I?” said Hank…sounding totally exasperated and talking about me like I wasn’t even there.

“She’s ridden hundreds of times on her brother’s Harley!” He looked over at me…and shook his head in disbelief.

It was at this point, that Franny…my FORMER best friend…burst out laughing…and she really shouldn’t have done that.

“Sometimes the truth can be 

so boring…”

Chapter 8

“Oh my God!! Are you kidding me? Cooper hasn’t ever ridden on a motorcycle…and she doesn’t have a brother! She doesn’t even have a sister!” Franny was laughing so hard she almost fell off Bob’s bike.

Unwilling…at this point…to make eye contact with Hank, I gazed…with what I hoped was some degree of nonchalance…off into the distance at the bright, yellow, sugar maples that dotted the area where we had stopped.

How very pretty they look, I thought…trying to at least mentally absent myself from this situation that was becoming increasingly unfriendly.

I knew full well that Hank was looking daggers at me.  I was surprised I wasn’t actually bleeding.

I also knew…it was probably not a really good idea to suggest to Hank that this would be a good time to  show me the “ins and outs” of being a proper passenger on a motorcycle.  I had some brains…

So…I kept that suggestion to myself and chose a different strategy.

As I made an attempt to get off this damn motorcycle…I indignantly declared with a voice full of totally, undeserved self-righteousness…

“Well then!!  If you’re going to get so mad…forget it.  Who wants to be here anyway?   I’m going home.”

Again.  Today.  What the hell was I thinking?

Like a lot of my good ideas and intentions…I had overlooked a few facts.  In this particular case…the simple fact that there was a considerable number of miles between “here” and “home”.

Also.  I continued to find it extremely difficult…if not impossible…to get off of this fucking bike by myself…without falling flat on my face!

And I was surely not holding out any hope that Jake was going to lend me a hand any time soon…

So, there I sat…trying to ignore the now muffled laughs of my ‘former best friend‘…what’s her name…?

And, of course…trying not to bleed from the wounds I had suffered from Hanks’ disappointed looks and reproachful words.

No one said anything.  As they say…”the silence was deafening”…except for the damning whoosh of cars speeding by us…

Yes.  Yes.  I know!!  Going really, really fast.

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 9

“You know…I saw a sign advertising a restaurant just a ways back,” said Bob, starting his bike.  “I think it’s just a few miles ahead off the next crossroad.”

“Let’s head over there and get some burgers and beers.  We’ll all feel better then.”

I saw Franny pat his shoulder in agreement and without waiting for us to say anything…they took off.

“Well…aren’t they just the two little love birds,” I muttered sarcastically under my breath.

Hank looked at me and I saw the beginnings of a smile…

“Owen?”  he asked.

“Well…” I said, lifting my chin up a little defensively.

“I read somewhere that if you’re going to lie…you should make it as believable as possible and Owen is a really believable name…”

Then I rashly continued…with just a trace of pride in my voice.  “I’ve used that method before…:

“Oh, I just bet you have.” Hank said as he got back on his bike.  The hint of a smile had turned into a full grin.  I liked this look a lot better…it was ‘dagger free’.

So off we went…but not before he gave me a couple of motorcycle “PASSENGER RULSES” as in…NEVER fall asleep and NEVER grab the arm of the biker…while you’re in motion.

Well!  That all made perfect sense to me…now that I knew.

In a couple of minutes, we turned off the main highway and headed down a smaller country road.

Ahead of us in the distance, I could see Franny…my ‘former best friend’ and Bob.

I was hungry…we hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and then it had only been coffee and a…

Hang on…wait a minute…brain engaging...

Had Bob said “beers?”  He had.  He had definitely said “burgers and beers.”  I remembered that very distinctly.

Dammit!  I wonder what small town jails were like…

“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.

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 11

Bob and Franny were waiting for us on a bench outside the restaurant.

They were talking a mile a minute and laughing…like they had been friends for years.

In my paranoid, self-centered world, I prayed Franny wasn’t sharing any personal information about me…like how old I was.

Hank got off the bike and then before I could make any attempt to get down…or should I say…before I wasted any more time trying to get down…he just lifted me off the seat and placed me on the ground…like I was three years old.

I swear…I though he was going to pat me on the head…as in ‘good little girl’…but he instead just smiled at me and then walked over to where Bob and Franny were sitting.  I followed.

“This looks like a good place,” he said, peering inside the restaurant windows and then turned to me.  “What do you think, Cooper? he asked. 

He said my name so…so pleasantly.  Much better than before…when he was yelling at me

“Looks great to me.  Let’s go in.” I said.

Then I almost fainted when Hank grabbed my hand as we headed to the door…like this was an actual date.

There were booths along the back wall of the restaurant, tables by the front window where the family was sitting, a couple of tables in the middle and then a long bar than ran from the front to the back.

There were three men sitting at the bar and they all turned and smiled at us when we walked in the door.  I just love small towns.

I bet their jails are nice too…not that I would be seeing one…but just saying…for the record…I don’t mean ‘a record’ as in ‘ a police record’…I mean…

(OH SHUT UP COOPER!!!) *

* As the author of this piece of fiction, I give myself full permission to yell at any character I have created.  It’s just one of the perks of the job…along with raking in piles of cash…

“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…

“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.

“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!!!

“Sometimes the truth can be

so boring…”

Chapter 19…The 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