“Sorry, Kit Kat, I gotta close up.” Angie held the door open for Kit Kat, waiting for her to leave. She had arrived late to Mount Zen Cafe, ordered her dinner and slowly ate it, hoping to get a moment alone with Angie. The last remnants of the ski jackets had packed out of town last weekend, so things were slower at the restaurant, but even so, she didn’t get a chance to talk to her.
“I wanted to talk to you and Curly in private.” At her words, Angie shut the door, turned the lock and switched the neon sign off in one graceful movement. Kit Kat took her dinner plate to the clean up station. She scraped her food and the napkin into the garbage and dropped the dishes in the bin. When she turned around, she saw Curly furtively watching her from the kitchen. She rated the likeliness of him coming out of the kitchen to talk with the two of them and evaluated that he would probably just listen from there.
“Well, I gotta clean tables.” Angie walked out of the dining area into the back kitchen and returned with two buckets: one with soapy water and the other with fresh. “I hate sticky tables.” Kit Kat nodded. “I’m helping A.S. with Onion Days.” She saw Curly, in the kitchen, nod and fold his arms, looking at his wife. Angie replied, “Have fun. Hope she doesn’t bite your head off.”
Kit Kat laughed, “Yeah, I’m pretty much expecting her to bite my head off every time I see her. Knowing it’s going to happen makes it sting less when it does.” Angie scrubbed the table harder, running her bare fingers along the wood, checking for stickiness. Kit Kat wondered why she didn’t cover the tables with glass or get tables with vinyl tops that were easy to clean.
She scanned the dining room. It looked the same as it had looked for years. Kit Kat remembered coming to this cafe long ago when it was run by Angie’s aunt. What was her name? She couldn’t remember. She remembered coming here when she was a teenager and Angie was just working as a waitress. Nothing about it had changed and it felt so comfortable and warm because everything was the same, right down to those wooden tables.
Kit Kat said, “You should help us.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Curly nod and look at his wife desperately. Suddenly, she realized that she didn’t need to convince Angie. She had an ally in Curly. All she had to do was make it appealing enough to him to break his silence.
“I’m sick of ‘er getting all the credit. I’m not doin’ it anymore.” Angie wiped the table clean with fresh water and tested the table with her fingertips again. She seemed appeased and moved on to the next table. “Onion Days isn’t about A.S. It’s about MERRITON. Our town. Our history.” She saw Curly’s head shake ever so slightly, his hand running over his big, bald head. Wrong approach, she thought to herself, think, think!
“You been letting Elvis muck about in your brain? I’m not gonna help her.” Kit Kat nodded quickly, trying to think of the proper thing to say. “Okay, you don’t have any patriotism for Merriton. I understand that. Strange choice for someone who wants to be the mayor, but I’ll give you that.” Curly’s head was still shaking, unaware that Kit Kat was watching him. What did he think? That the kitchen pass through had one-way glass?
Angie scrubbed away at the table, not acknowledging Kit Kat’s dig at her ambitions. When Kit Kat had rehearsed this conversation in her mind, she had highlighted Angie’s duty to the town. Now that the patriotism angle had been shot down, she felt lost. She smelled the bleach in the water and tried to think of a different angle. Curly was pacing in the kitchen. What do people want? They want fame and money. Angie felt like she wasn’t getting enough credit for working on Onion Days and there was no way that Kit Kat could convince her otherwise. Could she offer her money?
“It’s a great advertising campaign…” At her words, Curly turned toward the window, nodding and focusing on Angie’s response. She was onto something there. Scrambling, she ran with the idea, “In exchange for your help, we could give you a booth, advertising the cafe.” She stood up and pointed out the window. “We could position the booth in front of the cafe, so all those hungry people at Onion Days could come HERE to eat. Just think of the profit you’d make in that one day.”
Curly pointed at Kit Kat and nodded. The movement was so distracting that she looked right at him and the two of them locked eyes for a moment. He ducked back into the kitchen and out of her sight, but she felt as if she had gained an ally. Angie had stopped scrubbing the table she was working on. Her fingers absent-mindedly ran along the grain of the wood. They found some sticky spot on their own and tapped at it. She grabbed the soapy brush and started scrubbing at the table again, bringing a rush of chlorine to Kit Kat’s nostrils.
“I could buy a booth of my own. All I gotta do is pay the five hundred bucks.” Curly’s surprised face popped into view again and Kit Kat nearly laughed at him. She kept her cool, however, “Why pay the money when you can get the booth for free? Plus, a booth right THERE,” she pointed out the window again, “is a corner booth. It’d be worth six hundred.” She lowered her voice, trying her best to convince with finesse, “You’ve got more time than money. Why don’t you spend a little of your time instead of a LOT of your money?”
Kit Kat looked up at Curly and the two of them exchanged a look that told her that Angie was going to help with Onion Days, no matter what she said right now.