The Great Rude Awakening
When Malcolm arrived at six o’clock that evening, Jane opened the door and let him in while Brielle, donning an apron over her little red dress, finished preparing dinner for the kids. Brielle smiled at Malcolm as she took off her apron, then looked at Jane.
“Okay, Jane. Dinner’s ready, so feed the baby and then eat. If you girls get hungry later on, there are Hot Pockets in the freezer and there’s a small cup of ice cream for the baby,” Brielle told them as she joined a smiling Malcolm in the living room, “Now, don’t let anyone in the house exact Grandma Bennett, Granny, or Uncle Jesse. And Jane, no boys.”
“What?” Jane asked, surprised.
“Just for future reference,” Brielle told her.
“And if my friend, Roxie decides to come over, then what?”
“Roxie is fine. You can let her in the house. But that’s it, Jane,” Brielle said before leaving with Malcolm.
Malcolm took Brielle to dinner at Bon Appetit in Bush County. When the waitress took their orders, Malcolm spoke.
“So, you work for Atticus, do you?” he asked with a smile.
“I do. Atticus is the best boss man I’ve ever had. I think it’s because of he and Jo that I enjoy working at Bobtail Bud’s so much. And I absolutely love my customers. The customers come from all over the country. We’ve even had a few from as far away as Canada- places like Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island- mostly truckers stopping in for a bite to eat or to rest. One came in from Alaska just last week. But a lot of locals come in too because of the friendly staff and the awesome food,” Brielle told him.
“I don’t doubt it, Atticus is a good man, and he has good business sense. People all over the country know about the Double Nickel Truck Stop and Bobtail Bud’s Cafe. Atticus and his business are known in all fifty states. Truckers have their own network and they sing praises of Atticus Carpenter, the DN and BB’s.” Malcolm said.
A Good Dinner
“We go out of our way to take care of our customers. And that’s something that’s rare these days. Customer service isn’t what it used to be. Businesses have gotten to where they just don’t care anymore, so people are going to flock to the few businesses which are left who still believe in taking care of the customers,” said Brielle.
“I’ve noticed. And it’s a damn shame the stuff Atticus has been through. And he’s been through so much, Brielle.”
“Yes, he has. The Crabtree’s, they have ways of ruining people’s lives. And I hope to the goodness that one sweet day, they get the karma they deserve.”
Malcolm gave Brielle a look of seriousness.
“Believe me, I do too,” he said flatly.
“Well, on to more pleasant things. When we talked at Kim’s and over the phone a few times, you mentioned that you worked in corrections. That’s something I could never do. I’ve heard that it takes nerves of steel to work at that prison, and probably any other prison.” Brielle said, changing the subject.
“It does. There are a lot of things that go on there that anyone who hasn’t worked there knows nothing about. It’s awash with corruption. And it’s not the inmates you have to worry about, it’s your coworkers. Oh, forget about that- let’s talk about hobbies. Do you have any?”
“Honestly, I don’t know, Malcolm. I stay so busy with work and kids that I haven’t had time to think about any hobbies. I do enjoy my job though.”
When the waitress returned with their orders, she sat their plates in front of them and Malcolm dug into his twenty-four oz. steak, sawing off bite sized pieces. A loaded baked potato sat on his plate beside the steak.
Brielle took a bite of her mega prawns that were covered in butter wine sauce and savored the goodness before looking at Malcolm and nodding in approval as she pointed to her plate with her fork. Malcolm, fork in one hand and knife in the other, looked at her and smiled before forking the next bite of steak and transferring it from plate to mouth.
Once they were finished eating, Malcolm and Brielle weren’t in any rush to leave. They just sat there and made small talk.
“So, do you have any children?” Brielle asked as the waitress took their empty plates and laid the ticket on the table in front of them.
“I have an eighteen-year-old son. But my ex-wife had an affair with this rich computer geek from Washington State who frequently came to Memphis on business. She ran off with my little boy when he was four years old. She married the guy and moved to Washington State with him and took our son with her. I tried to keep in contact with River- that’s his name. Even paid child support because I loved him so much. But she didn’t want us to have a relationship and always seemed to thwart my every attempt to visit and any arrangements I made for him to come spend the summers with me. Eventually he didn’t want to see me. I kept up the child support payments but never got to see my son,” Malcolm explained, “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him.”
“Malcolm, I can’t even imagine how painful that was. And I’m sorry that happened to you.”
Suddenly, the large bell on the front door of the restaurant ring loudly as someone entered. With their table that sat along the row of windows and just a few feet away from the door, Malcolm looked up to see who it was before an “oh shit” look suddenly spread across his face.