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  • Five Micromemoirs
  • Beth Ann Fennelly (bio)

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[End Page 97]

One Doesn’t Always Wish to Converse on Airplanes

but this tanned, fit couple—white-sweatered, like tennis pros—seemed eager to talk, so we talked. No, their final destination wasn’t Denver. They’d continue to Hawaii after the layover. How awesome, I said, Hawaii. Is it a special occasion, an anniversary? They grinned at each other, like You tell her. No, you.

Their thing, it turned out, was scuba diving with metal detectors. They dove at popular honeymoon spots on Oahu, because, they said, the first time those rich Japanese brides hit the water, their new diamonds slid right off. The couple said they didn’t always find a ring, but overall they’d found enough to fund their vacations.

That’s . . . wow, I said.

They grinned at each other again, and she gave his biceps a squeeze. As they reached for their Bloody Marys, I envisioned how, after netting a big rock, they’d perform exceedingly athletic hotel sex. Their avarice was so unabashed that it was difficult to keep despising them, but I, large of righteousness and small of diamond, persevered all the way to Denver. [End Page 98]

Because You Asked about My Worst Job Ever

The summer after college, I tied my apron around my waist and resumed “Hi, my name is _______, and I’ll be taking care of you tonight.” It was a pricey Italian café in an upscale mall, but it was a shit job, and I knew I had to get out, away from coked-up Chef sidling over when my arms were stacked with plates and I couldn’t swat his hand from my ass, away from the casino-like, cast-adrift-from-time haze of no windows, no escape, away from clocking out and stepping into the parking lot, dully surprised to register the air as cool or warm, dully surprised to find the sky festooned with sun or moon, pockets crammed with dollars and my clip-on black bow tie. I made good money—great, actually—which rendered the job not merely shitty but dangerous. At every summer’s end, a few college kids said adios to college. As for me, I had a plan: Europe. I was saving my tips. In Europe, I’d teach English, and write poems, and begin my real life. Problem was, the restaurant was a closed system, not subject to any external force. The more I worked, the further Europe diminished into the realm of rumor, victim of some late-onset Continental drift.

But then came the day when Aimee and Rob and I served some wedding brunch and afterward snuck the open champagne into storage and got sauced. I’d pulled a double and managed to do my sidework, set my station, make my roll-ups, but my hangover ganged up with the dinner rush, me in the weeds with a ten-top of Mondays, and the expo hadn’t mentioned that salmon was eighty-sixed. Can you phase me, Nancy? But she couldn’t, the night stretching ahead like a tunnel, like the passage from the kitchen to the dining room, blocking the back of the house, protecting diners from spying hairnetted line cooks sneaking a joint or runners taxing the plates, as in “Hey, man, I’ll run this Reuben to your deuce, but I’m taxing it some fries.” Whenever we turned into this passage, we were to announce, “Corner,” to avoid crashing into someone coming from the other side with a stacked tray. Corner, corner, corner; though the lot of us was going nowhere slowly together.

What instinct tugged me—hours later, after clocking out and doing my books and tipping into the busboys’ envelopes, when I was dying to get home and off my flat-broke feet—what instinct tugged me back to the kitchen? I found only the bubble dancer, spotlit on his rubber mat, cocooned in steam, hosing down the trays. He wore headphones and couldn’t hear my question, so I stepped around and yanked the lever [End Page 99] into the walk...


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pp. 97-105
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