Life is still a bit hectic! If any of you caught the number of the bus that ran over me, let me know. Hope you enjoy this installment of Fenris. Back to our regular rotation of stories tomorrow!
Marty ran down the steps and headed towards her Volvo. She almost hoped that Graydon had changed his mind and she could just go home. However, there he was, sitting on the hood of her car, arms wrapped around his knees.
“What took you so long?” he asked.
“Dirk stopped me at the door and I had to give an excuse.”
Marty fumbled the keys as she tried to unlock the door. She realized that she should have eaten more. The brandy was hitting her way too fast.
“Are you going to be okay to drive?” Graydon asked with a tinge of concern in his voice.
She looked at him, a bit annoyed that he had noticed her being a klutz with the keys. Then she thought about it. “No, I’m probably not okay to drive. Too much brandy and not enough food. Can you drive?” she asked.
“Yes. I didn’t have any alcohol.”
“Then you drive and I’ll give directions,” Marty said as she tossed him the keys. Marty headed around the front of her car and the wind caught her hair, dumping it in her face. Marty brushed it out of her eyes and realized that he’d been watching.
“There once was a girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead,” he started.
“And when she was good, she was very very good, and I think that I’ll just be horrid,” Marty finished out the rhyme.
Graydon smiled and got in behind the wheel. She was feisty and that intrigued him. The car started up for him on the first turn of the key.
“Great,” she thought. “The car liked him.” Marty got in and buckled up.
“So, where do you want to go first?” she asked. Marty was racking her brain for places to take this guy she hardly knew. Where do you take a geek on a date?
“How about some place to eat?”
Marty looked at him like he had two heads. “What? We just left a party with enough food for thirty and you want more?”
“I didn’t eat much, and neither did you. Where to?” He was stopped at a corner waiting for her to give him directions.
“Fast food or a sit down place?” Marty asked. She didn’t have many choices to offer as she usually ate at the same place all the time. Marty just hoped he wasn’t too picky.
“Sit down food, but nothing fancy.”
“Okay, turn right and take a left at the first light.”
Graydon turned and realized that the first light was probably a mile off. They were heading out of town as far as he could tell. He turned at the light and slowed down, waiting for her to speak.
Marty was thinking too hard about how he must have read her mind and spaced out until he slowed way down. It suddenly dawned on her that he didn’t know where he was going. “Oh! Sorry. We have about two miles before we get to the Dirty Spoon.” Marty felt herself turning red.
“The Dirty Spoon?” It was his turn to give her weird looks.
“Yes. It’s really called that. It’s a Mom & Pop diner that serves good food. They have a warped sense of humor, so be prepared. Oh. Turn left here.” She’d almost missed the turn because she was too busy talking and looking at Graydon. “Gotta slow down those thoughts…”
“You weren’t joking about the name,” he said as he looked at the diner. It had a large spoon for a sign with what one hoped was gravy dripping off of it and the words ‘Dirty Spoon’ on the handle.
As they opened the car doors, smells from the kitchen wafted across the parking lot. It made her mouth water and she realized just how hungry she was. They walked up to the entrance and Graydon opened the door for her. Marty saw that the place was packed. Her normal corner was occupied. Vicky, the waitress waved them over to a booth on the far side.
“Here ya go hon. Haven’t seen you in a bit. Been busy with the ponies?” she asked as she put a menu down in front of Graydon. “Gonna have yer usual?”
“Yes, it’s been busy at the stables. The usual would be fine.” Marty ate there often enough that they usually had her food ready before she cleared the door.
“What is your usual?” Graydon asked. “I take it you eat here a lot?”
“Oh yeah. She eats here three or four times a week,” Vicky said before Marty could open her mouth.
“The usual is chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, green beans and gravy. Iced tea to drink,” Marty said once she managed to find the words. Why did she feel so odd? Must have been too much brandy. She couldn’t be reacting to Graydon. He was nice looking and polite and she had just met him.
“Hmm… That sounds good. I’ll have the same,” Graydon said as he handed Vicky the menu.
Vicky smiled and turned towards the kitchen. “Two cluckers covered, with whips and sticks!” she shouted.
Graydon just looked at her and started to laugh. Marty was turning red in the face, because although she’d warned him that they were odd, it was still embarrassing until you got used to it. Vicky breezed by with iced teas and silverware and was gone again before they could even say thanks.
“You said they were different. I just didn’t expect to warp back into the Fifties. I take it you don’t bring Jessie and Dirk down here too often,” he said as he looked around. The diner was a Naugahyde, chrome and neon dream. The Henry’s had refitted it to look like the diner had when it was first built in the early Fifties.
“Oh no! They love the food, but would never be caught dead in here. It just isn’t posh enough. They have been known though to have me pick up food for them and bring it over. Especially breakfast. Ma Henry makes the best biscuits and gravy.” Marty dunked her lemon slice into the tea and took a sip.
“Alright. Next question. Why do you eat here so often? Not the domestic type?” he asked.
“Well, I try to be, but I’m always running late. So, it’s easier to stop here and eat and then head to work. And most nights by the time I get done with the horses, I’m too tired to cook. If I don’t eat here, I stop at a pizza place near the house. I can cook, just never have the time.” As soon as Marty said it, she knew it sounded daft, but it was the truth. “I’m organized at work and around other people, but when I get home, I turn into a grade A space case.”
Graydon just smiled. “We all have to have our down time. When I get home, I park in front of my computer and the next thing I know, my tea is cold and the clock says 2am.”
He was about to say something more when Vicky came with their plates. Right behind him was Ma Henry. It said so right on her name tag.
“Well, I guess I owe you a dollar Vicky. I didn’t believe you when you said our Marty brought a date in with her,” Ma Henry said with a smile.
“He’s not a date Ma, just a friend,” Marty said trying to salvage what was left of her dignity.
Ma Henry gave Marty that look that said she thought Marty was full of it and then smiled at Graydon. “You just make sure you take care of our Marty. She’s a good girl. Best person I ever saw with a dog or horse. Keeps our Kenny every summer while we go on vacation. Wouldn’t leave him with anyone else.” Ma Henry looked back at the door of the kitchen and let out a whistle that would stop a train. From the kitchen, they could hear the click of nails on the floor. The door bucked and a brindled Great Dane came loping out into the dining room. He saw Marty and woofed. Next thing she knew, he was up in the booth with Marty, dropping his head on top of hers with a sigh.
“Kenny, get down,” Marty said. His head weighed a ton. Kenny sighed again and settled for putting his head in her lap as he stretched out across the seat. Marty looked over at Graydon and he was laughing.
“Don’t worry Mrs. Henry, I’ll be good to Marty. Anyone who can withstand the attentions of wee Kenny deserves my respect.”
Ma Henry smiled at Graydon. “You can call me Ma,” she said and turned to go back to the kitchen.
Vicky set the plates down finally and smiled as she turned to see to the customers at the counter. Kenny lay there quietly knowing Marty was pinned and all his. He knew if he was good that she’d save a bite of steak for him.
“I take it that this is the dog that ruined the picnic Dirk was going on about?” Graydon asked.
“Oh gods! He told you about that?” Marty asked wondering what else Dirk had told him.
“Yes. And about the horses you work with. I actually got a bit more information about tonight than you did. Dirk was covering his bets. Not only was I to be introduced to you, but a gal named Shelly.”
“Oh… The office slut. Aren’t you the lucky one,” Marty said.
“One of those eh? Well, I’m glad I got introduced to you first.” Graydon took a bite of his steak and got a look on his face that proved that Ma Henry had just secured another customer for life. “Oh my, this is good.” He took another bite and just smiled.
“Told you it was good food. Breakfast is better though,” Marty said. “You need an active lifestyle if you eat here often. Otherwise you’ll stop fitting through the door. Ma Henry doesn’t believe in low calorie anything.”
“I understand. This is just wonderful.”
Conversation died off while they ate. Marty didn’t dare pause too long, because Kenny would pop his head up looking for a bite the moment her fork stopped moving. The first time he did it, Marty thought Graydon was going to choke trying not to laugh. She got down to the last few bites and put the plate over to where Kenny could have his share. He very politely cleaned the plate. Then he looked over at Graydon.
“Oh no. You don’t get any of this,” Graydon said. He finished his last bit and then slid the plate with bits of gravy on it over to the dog. Kenny cleaned that plate too.
As if on cue, Vicky collected the plates and put two pieces of cherry pie in their place. Graydon looked at Marty with a question on his lips.
“Yes, this is part of the ‘usual’ too. Do you want ice cream?”
“No, this will do just fine. Will Kenny want any of this?” he asked.
“No, Kenny doesn’t like cherries.” Marty took a bite and held it towards the dog. He turned his nose up at it and laid back down across my lap.
Graydon just smiled and took a bite of his pie. “Kenny, you don’t know what you are missing. This is wonderful pie.” He took another bite and savored it. “Is this going to cost us an arm and a leg? Or will you just have to babysit Kenny for free the next time they go on vacation?”
“No, it is very reasonable. Otherwise, I couldn’t afford to eat here all the time. Just make sure you tip Vicky well. She’d never seat you again if you short tip her.”
“Ah. Thanks for the hint.” Graydon finished the last of his pie and looked for Vicky to get the check. She saw him and waved. Graydon looked at Marty with a puzzled look on his face.
“She’ll be over in a minute. That guy at the counter is a regular she’s been dating. Neither one will commit. I’ve got a dinner bet on when they will finally go to bed together. Ma says Christmas and I say New Years.”
“But that’s months from now. How long have they been dating?”
Marty thought about it for a moment. “Two years this April. Vicky’s been divorced three or four times, so she’s being cautious this time.”
Graydon just smiled. He looked over just in time to see Vicky drop a slip of paper on the table. He picked up the ticket and looked from it to Marty and back again. “This says we owe $18.75. Are you sure that’s right?” he asked and handed over the ticket.
Marty looked at the ticket and saw nothing wrong with it. “Yes, it’s double what I normally pay. Make sure you tip Vicky about $6. Any less and she’ll lock the door on you,” Marty said.
“This place is a real find. Thank you. I appreciate you sharing.”
“No problem. Here’s my share of the bill,” she said handing him $10.
“Put it back in your wallet. This is on me,” he said. He put $8 on the table and then went to the cash till to pay for dinner. He looked back to see that Marty still hadn’t moved. Kenny was asleep on her lap. He walked back over to the table. “Need some help?”
“No, I just have to get his attention.” Marty grabbed Kenny by the ear and gave it a tug. “Off you go Kenny!” she said. Kenny didn’t move. She shook his head with no change.
Graydon bent over and scratched Kenny on the ribs. He sat up so fast that the table shook. He looked at Graydon and then stepped off the bench seat. Kenny took a last look at Marty and then Graydon and walked back through the kitchen door.
Ma Henry had been watching through the hatch. She came up to Graydon. “You must be good with dogs. Normally Kenny would have had your hand for a snack,” she said.
“You’ve got to be joking. He’s a sweet dog,” Graydon said.
“Kenny is their watch dog and to be honest he doesn’t like many men. You’ve been given a real compliment. I was a bit worried to be honest when we first sat down and he came out. He won’t let Dirk come near him, let alone pet him,” Marty said. As she said that, Marty wondered if the dog saw something in Graydon she didn’t. Maybe she aught to give him a chance before she wrote him off her list of acquaintances.
“Nice to know that someone has a good first impression of me,” Graydon said. “Thank you for a wonderful dinner Ma Henry. I will be back. Good night.”
“Good night. See you in the morning Marty,” Ma Henry said as we headed out the door.
“Probably! Good night.”