|(page 11 of 93)
Fiction by Lori Hahnel
Fiction by Lori Hahnel
(page 11 of 93)
Keywords: eleventh transmission, poetry, fiction, photography, visual art, spoken word, film, socially engaged,
political, human experience, writing, satire, photojournalism, activist art, activism, socially conscious, art
by Lori Hahnel
We follow the hostess to our usual table at the back, next to the
window, and the young dark-haired couple glances at us as we pass.
Rosellen’s taken me to Capa Roja for lunch every other Thursday
since Jake passed on. Always at 12:30, always the same table – she
says it’s quieter in the back. I think the poor girl’s lonely if you want the
truth, and with a husband like Chris, who wouldn’t be? If the man
doesn’t have his nose buried in a book, he’s looking at some fool thing
on the computer, or watching sports on TV every time I see him.
Glad to be out of the wind and rain, we inhale scents of garlic and
tomato sauce and chorizo as Armando comes to our table and smiles
at me. With his dark, straight hair pushed behind his ears he reminds
me a little of a toreador. As a rule I don’t care for long hair on men, but
he can carry it off. Of course, it wouldn’t matter how he wore his hair,
he’d still be a handsome devil.
“Good afternoon, ladies. Lovely to see you.” He sets the pale yellow
beeswax candle’s glass cover on the red tablecloth and lights the wick.
“Thank you, Armando,” I say. I’m sure my red cashmere sweater, with
the pewter brooch Jake gave me on our anniversary once, caught his
eye; I wear it when I want to be noticed. He’s always happy to see me,
but I try not to encourage him much. The mailman’s in love with me,
too. That’s why he brings so many flyers – an excuse to see me every
day. And he always rings my doorbell when there’s a package.
“Brett, you look stunning today. The usual sangria for you?”
He can’t help himself, poor man. “Thank you. And yes, please.”
“And for you, senora?”
“Just black tea for me today, thanks. I feel a cold coming on.”
“Of course,” says Armando, and leaves.
Rosellen shouldn’t let a little cold get her down. It’s bad enough she
looks so tired and frowsy, her kinky orange hair pinned up in a straggly
bun. And would it have killed her to put on a little lipstick? I think she’d
feel better if she took more time to relax.
“Red wine is good for you, you know,” I say. “I read it in Prevention.
Full of reversatrols or something.”
“Yes, it is. But If I had any today, I’d just fall asleep. You go ahead and
enjoy, Brett. I’m driving.”
“I don’t understand people now. Wine in the afternoon makes you all
sleepy. Coffee in the afternoon keeps you awake all night. I drink
whatever I want anytime and it doesn’t bother me.” I’m about to add
that people need to toughen up a little, but I don’t. I’m known for my
tact. “You can drink whatever you want and it doesn’t bother you?
You’re lucky,” she says with a shrug.
Then Armando brings my carafe of sangria and Rosellen’s pot of tea.
I order a salad and grilled chorizo, Rosellen orders paella. Apparently
she has some problem with allergies all of a sudden, and she won’t eat
a whole list of foods. I sip at my sangria while she goes over her order
with Armando: no wheat, no soy, no MSG. Honestly, she sounds like
Howard Hughes. Sometimes I wonder where people get all these
strange ideas. I eat whatever I want and I’ve never been sick a day in
my life. But you can’t tell people anything, that much I know.
“So,” Rosellen says after Armando leaves. “We haven’t seen each
other in a couple of weeks, Brett. How have you been?”
“Oh, Lord, I’ve been so busy. First of all, there’s my garden.”
“I guess it’s time to clean it up before the snow flies.”
“Oh, yes. Not just cleaning, though – there are bulbs to be planted and
perennials to be moved and hedges to be trimmed.”
“It is a lot of work, isn’t it? That’s partly why Chris and I live in a condo.
No yard work.”
“Yes. Well, my faithless children never seem to have time to come
over and help me. And with my arthritis and everything, it’s not easy.”
“They’re probably busy themselves.”
“That’s what David always says. He says he doesn’t even have time
for his own yard work. Well, what could possibly keep him that busy?”
“What could possibly keep him that busy? His job. His kids.” Why does
Rosellen always take their side?
“I know we would have helped my parents with their yard, if they’d been
alive by the time they retired. But you know they both passed on young.
And then Jake’s parents were up in Winnipeg still, so we couldn’t help
them. But if they’d lived here, we would have done everything we could.
Not like Jake’s brother who lived there. They didn’t even see him from
one year’s end to the next.”
She’s silent for a moment and I hear the young couple near us. “Are
you kidding me?” he asks. I’m about to turn to look at them when
Rosellen says, “It’s a shame the way people grow apart. Would you
excuse me for a minute? I need to go to the washroom.”
When Rosellen leaves our table the couple gets louder. He grimaces
and turns away from her, runs a hand through his close-cut hair. Her
dark eyes flash. She folds her arms, her red scarf flutters around her.
They’re on the verge of a full-blown argument. I decide I should help
them. People always appreciate good advice.
I step up to their table and they ignore me at first, but when I clear my
throat, they both look at me.
“She’s right, you know,” I tell them. “Just because she’s having your
child doesn’t mean she has to marry you.”
They look at each other and then back at me, say nothing. He squints
for a second and then says, “Excuse me?”
“I said, she’s right. Just because she’s – “
The woman interrupts me. “I can’t believe this. You’ve seriously been
listening in to our conversation?”
The man stands up. “Look,” he says. “This is none of your damn
business, you nosy old bitch.”
He’s a good foot and a half taller than me, but I pull myself up to my full
height, plant my fists on my hips. “Listen here. There’s no need for that
kind of potty-mouth language. No wonder she doesn’t love you.”
He slams his big hand down on the table. A full glass tumbles to the
floor and shatters, red wine spreads at our feet like a puddle of blood.
He takes a step toward me and I’m a little bit afraid. Then I feel a
gentle hand on my shoulder. “Brett? Is everything all right?” Armando
asks. Rosellen stands behind him, covers her mouth. He takes my
upper arm, leads me back to our table.
“That young man is very rude,” I say.
Armando speaks quietly. “Some people just get excited, Brett. Don’t
take it personally. Here, sit down, dear. Let me pour you some more
“Will you be all right? They want me at that other table.”
“Of course. Go ahead. I’ll be fine.”
Rosellen stays back and talks to the couple. I can’t make out much of
what they say, but I hear the woman say, “It’s all right. Don’t worry
The couple get their coats and Armando brings their bill to the bar.
Rosellen comes back to our table, her face red. She looks even more
tired now. She should have listened to me and had a drink with lunch.
That would have perked her up.
“Did they apologize?” I ask.
“Not exactly, Brett. No.”
On the drive home Rosellen doesn’t say much. She was ever one to
keep things to herself, and that’s a fact. Sometimes it’s up to me to
carry the whole conversation; I’ll come home from lunch and realize I
haven’t heard any news from her at all. She’s a quiet person and she
just leads a quiet life, I suppose.
“Here we are, Brett,” she says as we pull up in front of my house.
“That was a lovely lunch. Except for that rude young man. But what can
you expect? No one cares about manners anymore.”
She picks at a loose thread on her coat sleeve. “Uh-huh. That’s true.
Listen, this cold is dragging me out. I need to get some rest.”
“Of course you do. Of course. So I take it we’re on for Thursday after
“Thursday after next. Um. Can I call you about that later?”
“Oh. All right.”
I watch her red El Dorado pull away, turn the corner. She must feel
awful, poor thing. She doesn’t even wave goodbye this time.
“Rosellen. Thank you,” I say. Then I realize it’s too late. She can’t
hear me anymore.
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