Josh shook hands with Chase and Storms and climbed back into his car. He followed me into town and parked behind me in my driveway.
"Miss Olson, I think we need to talk."
"Do you like barbecue?"
"No, ma'am, I hate it."
"How about Chinese?"
"Miss Olson, could I just talk to you?"
"No, you can talk to me and buy me dinner. I'll be right out."
I locked the door behind me and ran into my bedroom. I didn't have too many nice dresses, but I did have one with a lace collar and pearl buttons that looked as Victorian as rayon can get. I had to search for my only pair of hose. (I usually wear socks and sneakers with everything.) Lipstick and a quick struggle with my hairbrush and I returned to the front door where Josh Dylan, FBI was waiting.
I couldn't find my keys.
Josh tapped on the door and jangled the missing keys.
"Second time you've lost them this week, ma'am."
"Somewhere in the universe is seven sets of keys and about a thousand socks, and God knows what else I'm missing because I've forgotten it's gone."
"Yes, ma'am." There was no humor in his reply.
I excused myself to the ladies' room just as Wan Lee came toward us with menus. I waited until Josh had been seated and Wan left before I joined him.
"I take order now?" Wan's son David asked.
"David, we are not tourists, so don’t try that atrocious pig-grammar on us! I have taught you better than that."
"Miss Olson!" Terror oozed from every pore. David turned and raced back into the kitchen only to return in moments, cowering behind his father.
"Miss Olson, Golden Corral has a special on their steak and shrimp today!"
"She can't go to Golden Corral anymore, Pop,” David whispered loudly.
Josh lifted an eyebrow.
"It was just a misunderstanding,” I explained, studying my menu.
"Misunderstanding between the hood light over the salad bar and the pickle tongs,” David laughed.
Josh covered a smile with his hand.
"The Chalet Monet serves very romantic dinners," Wan suggested.
"Oh, no!" Mrs. Bauer commented from the next table. "Chuck Monet said he'd have her arrested if she ever entered his restaurant again."
Josh, Wan, and David looked at me questioningly.
"I must admit, I have since learned that escargot is not on the endangered species list." I calmly turned the page in my menu.
"King's Cuisine serves liver and onions on Saturdays." Wan smiled wistfully.
"No, don't send her there! That's right next to a pawn shop,” Mr. Prescott scolded from a table to our right.
"Oh, I had forgotten about that." Wan shook his head in despair.
"Forgotten?" Josh asked, folding his hands in front of him.
"They sell guns at pawn shops,” Mr. Prescott nodded sagely.
Josh pressed his fingertips into his eyelids and sighed deeply.
"Barbecue Buddies is just down the road,” Miss Ruth Wellington's ancient voice boomed from a table behind us.
We looked at each other. Wan looked to the tables on his right; David looked to the tables on his left. I turned around and gazed at the people behind us. No one offered a rebuttal.
"I --” Josh cleared his throat and started again. "I don't like barbecue."
"We'll have the Volcano Appetizers."
"No, Miss Olson. After your last visit, the Fire Marshall made me take it off the menu,” Mr. Lee said politely.
"I like the new curtains."
"They match the new wallpaper, Miss Olson."
I drew a deep, steady breath.
"We'll have two empress chickens, egg rolls, and wanton soups." Josh's voice rumbled across the room.
“Would you like beer with that?” Wan offered.
“Mr. Lee, you know I am too young to drink!” I snapped indignantly.
“What?” I blinked and tilted my head as if I couldn’t have heard Josh correctly.
He sighed and lowered his voice. “Ma’am, I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but I’ve read over your vita. You’re two years older than me and I’ve been able to drink for two decades.”
I sniffed. It usually worked on second graders, but Josh was far from that. “If you read my vital statistics, you would have noticed my birth date: February 29. Therefore, I am barely a decade old. Far too young to be served alcoholic beverages.”
“The beer was not for you, Ms. Olson. I will die a slow death cursing my ancestors before I would serve you beer.” Wan Lee squared his shoulders bravely.
"We'll have two empress chickens, egg rolls, wanton soup, and a pot of hot tea." Josh's voice rumbled across the room.
"Hot tea?" Mr. Lee looked deeply into Josh's eyes.
"A pot of hot tea,” Josh repeated.
Mr. Lee nodded in defeat and left.
Possum Playing Poker
© Evelyn Rainey
Available for publication.