Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 1

  Sharon Horizons, our heroine if you should choose to call her that, was sitting in a booth at Applebee’s near the corner of Illinois Avenue and Westmoreland Road, waiting on a man. After forty-three years of such activity, she had learned two things. Men were always late. And waiting was boring, whether for men or for food.

  She turned in the direction of the gaggle of servers standing off to one side, whispering and giggling among themselves, probably about drugs or unexpected pregnancies. She cleared her throat with gusto and force, intending for the noise to signify that she needed serving, them being servers and all.

  No response, other than the shortest girl gushing forth a bray of laughter at something that had just been uttered, then slapping the palm of the ugliest girl in that insipid manner that so many of the street folk had. Why, Sharon wondered briefly, did these people think that striking one another should be considered a form of approval? No wonder the apes were catching up. But anyway, there were more important things to ponder right at the moment. Like nourishment.

  Sharon took a deep breath, then bellowed “Excuse me!”

  The gaggle turned as one, looks of confusion on their unwrinkled faces, which shouldn’t have surprised anyone who had been observing this squadron of adolescence and dimness for any length of time. Other than that, not a muscle moved.

  Well, mused Sharon, there will be no tip for these people. She drew another breath. “Where are my wonton chicken tacos?”

  Still with the silence. Still with the dimness.

  Sharon sighed, then pointed at the short girl. “I informed THAT one that I required said tacos at least five minutes ago. Has she made it to the kitchen yet? Does she even recall where the kitchen might be?”

  Short One let out a small squeak, then stepped forward. She briefly touched her nametag, a reflex action of some kind. “Hi, I’m Brandi!” proclaimed the tag, along with both a heart and a smiley face scribbled in as accent pieces. Figures. “Um, yes, I placed the order. Let me go check on it now,” said Brandi, then turned with great relief to escape the confrontation. She clattered down some hallway and vanished, probably slipping out the back door, never to return, her life forever a meaningless wreck of disappointment and questionable relationships.

  Sharon dismissed the rest of the gaggle with a wave of her hand, then pretended to study something out the window while they scattered to the far corners of the restaurant, a few of them weeping and experiencing the first formative twinges of failure that would eventually lead to alcoholism. Then a structure outside that window caught Sharon’s eye, and her mild displeasure ticked up a notch toward outright anger.

  The taqueria restaurant next door. She hated it.

  Well, to be fair, Sharon didn’t actually hate the taqueria per se, or even the concept of tacos. After all, she had just ordered some miniature tacos as an appetizer, albeit with an Asian infusion, a variety which had probably not crossed the mind of the inventor of the taco, most likely some distant woman who had been pounding her corn on a flat rock one day and decided to throw the whole mess into a bubbling cauldron of animal fat, just to see what would happen.

  Yes, Sharon was fine with the neighboring taqueria. But she didn’t care for what the taqueria represented, and what it represented was that the original occupant of the building was no longer there, due to a horrifying corporate management decision that had forever changed her life.

  And that original occupant had been a Starbucks.

  Now, Sharon had always enjoyed her coffee, going all the way back to her wee days in the nursery when she would wait until Mamie, the governess, turned her back, and then Sharon would swill whatever remained in Mamie’s steaming, unattended cup. (This covert ingestion was probably one of the factors involved in Sharon being able to read and write by the age of two.)

  But what troubled Sharon, initially, about the Starbucks craze was the mere concept of paying large amounts of money for what was, essentially, water that had been filtered through coffee beans and then christened with a dollop of stiffened dairy product. And it wasn’t even a lack of finances that was the issue. (She had never had to worry about money, especially after assuming control of the trust fund.) No, what irked Sharon was simply the principle of the matter.

  Then one of Sharon’s less-imaginative friends graced her with a Starbucks gift card.

  At first, Sharon was simply going to throw it away, she would never have any use for it. But then she just chunked it in the glove box of her car, on the off chance that the rectangle of thin plastic might prove useful if she decided to become a cat burglar. Then one day, while Sharon was out shopping for crinoline, because one of the fashion magazines had indicated that you MUST have some, Sharon spotted the Starbucks on Camp Wisdom Road. In a rare moment of balanced insight, she realized that she couldn’t complain about Starbucks if she had never been.

  So she steered her car into the drive-through lane.

  There were technical difficulties at first, starting with the oddity of the cup sizes being in Italian, followed by none of the workers being able to speak Italian and thereby butchering the words. (Sharon had nearly married an Italian count at one point, and knew of which she spoke.) Then there was the overwhelming number of ways in which coffee could be served. Who knew?

  But all good things come to those who have the money to afford it, and eventually Sharon was presented with her toasty purchase, snuggled in a protective and environmentally-responsible sleeve. (Frankly, Sharon felt, that woman who sued McDonald’s because she didn’t understand that coffee was hot should have been shot, not rewarded.) Taking her first sip of the brew, Sharon’s taste buds awoke and sang praises. She was hooked.

  Thus a relationship began, and the once-a-day love affair went on for some time. It was a beautiful thing, with satisfaction all around, and Sharon placed a small fortune on her now beloved gift card, so that she would always be prepared to accept her lover’s embrace. But as with all good things, an end appeared on the horizon. The home office closed the local outlet, and her lover was ripped from her jittery arms.

  Sharon did not leave her home for a week, sitting in the dark and drinking Kahlua. Eventually, her closest friends intervened, and convinced her to walk in the sunshine once again. She even got to the point where she could hold the gift card in her hand without sobbing. There was still a small amount left to spend, and one day she would do so, but not now. It was too soon.

  Wiping away a tear of remembrance and high pollen count, Sharon turned away from the taqueria and the lingering ghost of passion. As her eyes swept the Applebee’s parking lot, she spied a man getting out of a car. A very nice car, from what she could see. (She didn’t know much of car makes and models, only that this one was shiny and had a nice line to it.) When the man stood, she caught her breath.

  He was gorgeous.

  The epitome of the tall, dark and handsome standard of attraction, he moved with a powerful grace that had her enraptured and slightly drooling. She stared, knowing it was rude but not caring, as he walked to the entrance. She squirmed around in her booth to continue her surveillance, common courtesy be damned.

  Much to her surprise, the man did not wait for the vapid hostess to figure out where he could be seated. Instead, he walked directly to her table, a look of introspection on his bronzed and chiseled face. “Sharon Horizons, I presume?”

  At the sound of his gravelly voice, Sharon knew that she would be purchasing batteries on the way home. Blushing slightly, she vacantly nodded her head until her vocal cords caught up. “Yes. Yes, I’m Sharon. And you are?”

  The man extended his perfectly-manicured hand. “My name is Hexom Breen. I’ve been waiting to meet your for a very long time…”

Click Here to Read the Next Chapter.

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