Even with the windows open and two fans going, we still woke up early the next morning because it was pretty warm in our room. The sun was just barely up; I could see that. I carefully tugged my Bill over onto his back, and rested on his chest for a while. I don’t know why, but I was soon in thought, really trying to remember how I ever survived last summer, those nights that were hot anyway. Well, the fans helped then too, when I accidentally put them where they would actually pull cooler air inside. That didn’t happen very often. And Edna insisted that I always sleep in jeans and a t-shirt. Every taxing day really demanded sleep, but I think I sweated in my sleep a lot. Well, I sweated a lot every day at the Diner anyway; I was doing everything my Bill was doing for me now… Still, I ended up saying quietly, like that little girl… “Bill, I don’t know how I ever survived without you…” And it was very difficult to avoid crying, even a little, as these words came out. Bill gently, slowly rolled away from me, and got up, then gently helped me up. We were soon out on the swing. I curled up in Bill’s lap and tried not to… Well, I cried some for a while. Bill hugged me tight. But it was a lot cooler out there. Bill said I could fall back asleep if I wanted. I said quietly that I just wanted him. That made him cry. Then I remembered about Delores and Victor. That made me cry.
Calming down, we just relaxed there for a while, together. The sun was shining from the other side of the house so we were in the shade, and it was coolish on the front porch, with a slight breeze. I was very comfortable curled up next to my Bill. I think I sighed a few times. But I realized that I shouldn’t even want to remember about last summer, or just about everything, anything that had happened to me up until my Bill came. Wow, I really needed him. I wondered if I would be clingy again today. I was pretty sure Bill wouldn’t mind.
We did finally need to get ready for work. While Bill collected our work clothes for the day, I followed him around, working on waking up. I still don’t think early and I get along very well. Bill must have wanted me to dress first, and so he sat down in the rocking chair and smiled. Well, he was naked too! I got my jeans on, then mumbled something about using the restroom. Well, in the bathroom, I put my man’s white t-shirt on, the one that smelled like him but that he had trimmed so it was shorter. I came out of the bathroom like that. Bill smiled big, then said quietly “Oh Maude, I wish you could wear that to work…” I sat in his lap, and we hugged and kissed, maybe even felt some. After a little while, I did change into a clean blue ‘the Diner’ t-shirt, then motioned for Bill to get up. I wanted to watch him get dressed. He got one of his white t-shirts on first, then walked over to me just like that, helped me up, and we hugged, well a little while. I told him that now I wanted to take all my clothes back off. He chuckled, then said we could tonight. Well, it was just a nice way to start our day. And I remembered that it had been a few nights since we had some just together, alone and close time in our rocking chair. Maybe tonight we could do that, too.
By the time we needed to head to the Diner, it was already heating up outside. Bill drove us in the little wagon instead of walking. Bill mentioned that getting to the Diner even earlier might make it easy on the AC. So, driving to the Diner was a good idea. Well, Bill did stop the car right in the middle of the road, half way there, and picked one of those beautiful white and gold flowers for me. We both agreed it would probably not last long. But my man told me I was beautiful, and we kissed maybe a little more than briefly. And it was really hot inside the Diner when we got there, and it did take a little while to cool down to tolerable, Bill said. Still, we were able to get the AC on and everything closed up just before our first customers pulled in the parking lot. Saturdays are usually busy, but I was pretty sure we were ready.
The lunch rush started soon after we got the Diner closed up and let people in. I think even the locals are not fond of the hottest part of the summer here. We were busy, every table stayed busy… Bill even pulled a few stray chairs out of the kitchen, and set them up next to the locals annex 2p tables so we had a little more room. And if a locals annex table was free, other customers would grab the booth. We were that busy. There is a small awning over the front porch of the Diner, and that provided a little shade, but… Well, it was a really hot day. Some folks spread their groups across the low singles table, rather than having to wait outside. I couldn’t blame them. And in the middle of all this, Bill and I talked briefly. He asked that I help him by cleaning tables after people left, if he was in the kitchen doing dishes. I smiled, hugged him tightly, and gave him a kiss. I think he realized that was a yes.
I remember that I was actually picking up a small order from the order up shelf when I noticed that the warming lamps above the order up shelf went out. I sat there and just stared at them, until felt Bill’s arms around my waist. Bill asked calmly “How does a power outage sound this afternoon, beautiful?”
It didn’t take me long to do the math… “Oh, my goodness, the AC… Bill, how will we…” Bill was quickly opening all the windows, and doors, even. He walked back over, and I said quietly “Fans next, I guess…” Bill chuckled, then I realized… Without power, we couldn’t use fans either. Bill hugged me again. I remembered my shorter shirt from this morning. “Can I go home and get my short, white t-shirt on?” I asked softly. I felt Bill respond to that! But I knew that wouldn’t work. Bill had calmed the salesmorons down and we didn’t want them on the prowl again.
From the locals annex, one of the men yelled “Bill, central transformer down, they sayin’ 1-3 hours, which probably means 1-3 days…” Most everyone in the Diner laughed at that, and so I never heard exactly how long… Bill smiled and said we would get power when we got power. Until then, we just needed to hope for a nice breeze. We could still make food. The grill was gas, and the sun gave plenty of light inside the Diner. I couldn’t use the cash register any more, but between the customers and I, we rounded to the closest dollar or two, and called it even. Most folks tipped the change anyway. I remember thinking at one point that’s what Edna would have done. I tried to let that memory go, though. I realized I would probably remember Edna for a long time…
And the mail lady still came in later and dropped off our mail, then got a soda and relaxed “in the dark” she said with a laugh. She did find a booth, it just wasn’t her usual one. It was next to an open window though, so she didn’t complain. I took the mail she gave me, and found Bill. I always give it to him. That is his job now! Bill opened one of the mails right away. I guess it was the power bill. “Maude, it looks like the AC and the Grill Vent fan… Well, that added $200 to our power bill.”
“Is that a problem?” I asked cautiously
Bill smiled, and pulled me into a tight hug. “Only if the power goes out” he said with a chuckle. Well, power was out now! But I understood his point, and I remembered our conversation about this, weeks ago now. We could afford the extra to help the cook (very important) and bring comfort to our customers (also very important). And Bill’s estimate about how much more it would cost was actually not that far off. Bill took the rest of the mail, and walked me to the office where he left it. Wow, it was very hot in our office!
Bill and I were soon sweating, just like I remember from last summer. I told Bill he looked… Then I remembered why he didn’t want me to wear any of his white t-shirts here at the Diner. Then I blushed! Bill said I looked so cute when I blush. That made me blush again. Even though it was stinking hot inside the Diner, Bill and I made the best of it. Bill even promised me grass time right after work if I wanted! I was pretty sure we would both be ready for that.
With no power, and so no AC, it seemed like fewer people came, fewer locals anyway. Bill suggested that I started explaining to everyone that our power was out. We could still cook them food, but it would be warm in the dining room. Some thanked us, got up and left. Bill explained that most cars have AC too, and they probably climbed back into their cool cars and went elsewhere. I don’t know how that works, but I guess I couldn’t blame them. Bill said it was around 85 in the dining room, and we couldn’t keep all the cooking smoke out without fans. This all probably explains why we were pretty slow that afternoon.
Earl and his horse slowly wandered into the parking lot in the middle of that hot afternoon. He tied up his horse, found a booth next to an open window near his horse, then sat down. I started to apologize. but he laughed, and said “ya, powers out at my place too… Makes me want to fire up my tractor just to enjoy a little cool!” He still wanted coffee though, and mentioned he wanted to talk to Bill and I “when we got a free minute”, then he chuckled.
Bill was cleaning a table across the dining room, so I hugged him, got a kiss, then we both scooted in across from Earl. Bill put his arm around me right away. The breeze from outside felt amazing. But Bill also tried… “Earl, thanks for the amazing grass up near the house. Maude and I really appreciate that!” Well, I blushed right away. I remembered, I thought — cherishing each other there in that grass… I hoped Earl couldn’t read my thoughts, see what played out.
Earl chuckled, anyway. “Well, my horses will appraciate it, too, when it’s tall enough to bale. I’ll leave your back yard be, though.” Earl’s thoughts were clearly elsewhere, and he pulled a large picture out of a faded brownish envelope, then layed the picture down on the table, facing us. It was Ed and Edna standing in our back yard, with their ‘operation’, their chicken farm all going behind them! Earl started right away talking about the pens, then the ranch hands, then the building where they…
Bill said what I was thinking about though; maybe Bill just knew what I was… “Eduardo” Bill said quietly. Well, Edna’s Ed wasn’t exactly the same color as Bill and I. Edna loved Ed dearly, I remember that. But Edna never said anything about that, about him, anything that I could remember. I guess I had always assumed… And when Earl put that picture down, that… I kept looking, I don’t know…
Earl eased back, took a sip of his coffee, and started explaining. “Ya, Ed was, what, second generation chicano… well, hispanic is what people like to hear now… That’s just so funny… I called Ed ‘Admiral Chic’ all the time. He was in the Navy a while. He called me ‘his Gringo” all the time too — we joked about it a lot, back and forth… Never meant nuthin’ by it, we both knew that, was just good natured fun…” Earl stopped in thought, then added “Don’t much matter what color a body is… If they’s responsible, considerate, friendly, work hard like the rest of us, law abidin’… Color don’t matter at all. Ed was a hard worker, a good husband… We met at church, and got along fine.”
I was in thought briefly, then said what I remembered… “Delores said Ed and Edna moved here to see if they could have kids…” I couldn’t say anything more; I was fighting back tears anyway.
Earl sighed deeply right away. And maybe this was hard for Earl, too. Earl explained slowly. “Probably ok to talk now… I’m the only one Ed told anyway… Well, Ed’s family was rough… Some terrible things happened to Ed when he was younger. He and Edna came here to get away from that, from his family, hoping Ed could shake those memories off. Maybe it was too late, I don’t know. They never had kids though…”
That explanation did make me cry. Bill hugged me tightly right away. Still, I tried to put into words… “Edna seemed like the only mother I could remember… Hearing her cry at not having kids… That was –”
Earl interrupted me. “Maude, those were tears of joy. You gave that old woman so much, just by waking up on her porch, and coming back to life on her couch. You were her little girl… And when her time came, she said she was ready… because of you…”
That did make me cry… I was glad we were slow, because I had to cry on Bill’s shoulder for a little while. Bill and Earl were back to talking about that picture. I had heard Edna remember most of it, and it was amazing for my Bill to actually see it. But I did slowly calm down. I was sweating, crying on Bill’s t-shirt.
Earl said that picture was for us to keep. After he paid for his coffee, climbed up on his horse and left, I put that picture under the glass that the cash register was sitting on. It would stay there if I had any say. But hearing the whole story, Earl explaining things to us, well that made it a little easier for me to let Edna go, I guess. I guess I realized I had given to her the same way as I felt she had given so much to me. I guess that was ok. We needed each other. I think I have mentioned that in past journal entries.
Dinner rush was slow, and also short because we had to close the Diner when the sun headed to the west, making it hard for the cook to see what he was doing. We were really slow by then anyway, and it was actually a little cooler outside. Bill helped the cook with his cleaning using our big new flashlight, then Bill did the bathrooms and dining room with what little sunlight was left. Bill also made sure the lights, AC and such were all turned off, too, so they didn’t run all night. Well, I would not have even thought about that. Cleaning when it wasn’t bright slowed that whole process down; we locked the Diner up near our normal closing time anyway. As we turned around to head around back, all the lights at the motel across the street came on. We could hear cheering just from that. Well, we heard cheering from town, too. I guess not having AC here in the middle of august wasn’t appreciated. It had cooled some, but was still warm, even as it got dark. Bill had to use the headlights as he drove us home in our wagon.
Bill let us in and guided me to the bed where we both undressed. Well, I undressed while Bill opened windows. Bill was quickly naked too, and he gently picked me up and carried me to the swing on the front porch. I… That night was, well I cried for a few hours. I still missed Edna, but hearing more of her story… All I could do was cry. Maybe my Bill had planned ahead for this… I slept in my man’s arms most of that night. I would wake up, cry some, sense Bill’s arms, and / or something else (and giggle, then sigh), then fall back asleep. Bill had picked up a pillow from a chair in our living room. He said he dozed on and off, so he got some sleep, too. I think I needed all of that.
1. Maude: Revelations is copyright 2017 by Shysage.