Dinner goes sour


Lesli guardedly watched him as Keith coughed on a mouthful of fries, spitting out bits of short-rib. Managed to wash it down, wiping sauce from his face. He looked in his whiskey glass at specks of meat.

What good mood he’d held onto since leaving the show, waiting for this shoe to drop, was gone. He sipped water and summoned the waitstaff, beckoning for the first person handy. Thinking, wasn’t this the greatest news? On this enjoyable evening?

“Lesli,” he declared, taking the napkin from his lap, dabbing at the tablecloth, “long as I’ve known you, baby, girl, you full of surprises.” She sensed that was not quite meant as a compliment. Kept watching him.

“What in the hell,” he asked, “did I ever do to your mother?”

Lesli wouldn’t look at him. The host materialized, smiling, visibly tense. “Is something wrong with your meal?”

“No,” Keith said. “Somethin’ sure wrong with my digestive system out of nowhere. Please, help me with this mess I made. Not doin’ well cleaning it up.”

“Of course.” It took a twinkling of the proverbial eye for the help to meticulously whisk Keith’s and Lesli’s dishes away, pick up and put the plates on a cart. Spread a fresh cloth and put the food and utensils with a refreshed double-Jack-rocks back down. “We’ll reheat your meals.”

“No, that’s not necessary. Thank you so much.

“Not at all.” The host smiled. Keith didn’t, shaking his hand, palming the guy a Benjamin. Then gave Lesli, who was still watching him, a searing look. “Why in the holy hell–?” He heard his voice raising and took it down several notches. “Les, why would you ambush me with something like that on a night like this, when we’re having such a nice time. Having…having…dammit, girl, why?”

He said that last a little louder than he meant to. A few heads turned, none terribly alarmed, then went back about their business. “Is it you just not happy unless you unhappy?”

She didn’t like that. Raised her voice: “What’s that supposed to mean?” Heads turned again. He raised a palm in peace. They both knew this was the kind of joint where you didn’t come in off the street and raise hell.

Lesli dissembled. “Let’s just have dinner.” Women, he rued, can do that. Upset the whole apple cart, themselves as well, then calmly let the world go back to serenely spinning on its axis.

“Hi!” They both looked around. At the lithe Sarah Sargeant, spirited a soul as ever there was one. Easy on the eyes, too. Poor thing, Keith thought, peacock pretty, skeleton thin. But sings a hole through a brick wall.

He’d never worked with her but always wanted to. Word was, she was in the studio, recording an EP. He would kill in cold blood to be on board for that. They’d met while working together a while back at Kenny’s Castaways, behind Helen, him on guitar, Sargeant filling in for missing-in-action, perennial-pain-in-the-butt Samantha Smith.

Ever since then they somehow kept bumping into each other. Sargeant had been banging around, picking up the odd job here and there. Filling the blanks by modeling. “Hey, lady! Come on over, have a seat.”

“No, but, baby, thanks. I’m with someone.”

“Lucky whoever it is.”

“Call me.”

“Count on it.” To tell the truth he wasn’t sure he even had her number.

Sarah smiled, gave him a friendly kiss, looked at Lesli’s ugly expression and without another word left. Keith watched her walk away and seriously wondered whether his lady would ever really get her jealousy under control. Some things, he told himself, take time.


Next week: Are love’s complications worth lost peace of mind?

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 

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