I awoke about ten on Maggie’s couch. I heard shower water in the back so figured Maggie was getting ready. I grabbed the TV remote control and turned the set on. I began surfing through her channels and realized how much I sincerely missed television. I heard the water shut off and the door creak open.
“Jeff, are you up?” Maggie hollered from the bathroom.
“Yeah, I’m just watching television if that’s okay.”
“That’s fine. Hey, do you want to take a shower here and then we can stop by your place for clothes before we head to Lawrence?”
“God, that’d be great!” I replied back. “As much as I love showering with a garden hose…”
“All right, there’s a fresh towel in here for you so the bathroom is all yours,” Maggie came into the front room with a towel wrapped around her body. I turned off the TV, stood up and couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She had little water droplets lining her cleavage. I kept staring at her wet, stringy hair and dripping chest as I walked past her to the bathroom. I misjudged the turn and ran into the wall. Maggie giggled and I just tried to pass it off like I meant to do it.
At Baker, Kathryn and Darrell had the staff, which included everyone but me and Maggie, gathered around for a meeting about their recent performance. “We are really very happy with the way you all have but you do seem to be slacking in some of your less crucial parts of cleaning,” Darrell said.
“And,” Kathryn began, “with new people starting next week we need to make sure they are properly trained for the Vespers.”
“It’s nothing major just a couple of points we need to touch on: please clean the machine baskets out after every shift. It maximizes efficiency and gets the dishes cleaner,” Darrell explained.
“Why isn’t Jeff here giving us these orders?” asked Alyson.
“I will inform Jeff of our meeting and tell him he needs to check the Dish Room, and that includes The Nasty, dish machine and trough before he lets any of you leave after a shift,” Darrell said.
“So is Jeff in trouble?” asked Wendy.
“Certainly not but he needs to be a supervisor first and a friend second. Also, we need to talk about the Grill. It turns out that it has become too much trouble than it’s worth and the budget doesn’t support it so at the end of today, the Grill is closed,” Darrell revealed.
“What about Karla and Jenna?” Jason asked.
“They have been invited to work up here and they accepted until the Vespers leave so they will be here for another week or so,” Darrell sighed as he shuffled through the papers on his clipboard. “That’s all I have. Kathryn?”
“Nope, let’s all get to work.”
Heading north toward Lawrence, I thought Maggie was asleep but she reached over and rubbed the back of my head, twirling her fingers around my long hair. “Have you ever thought of getting a haircut?” she asked.
“Yes, I have and stop rubbing my head, please,” I smacked her hand away and smoothed down the hair. I had been letting my hair grow since I came to Baldwin partly because I looked good with longer hair and partly because it was getting expensive to get your hair cut these days. Maggie reached over and rubbed the back of my head again. “I said stop it!”
“Why? Don’t you like it?”
“That’s the problem, I love it,” I sighed and smoothed my hair down again. “It’s one of two places that make me really horny when you rub it.”
“What’s the other place?” Maggie asked.
“Now if I told you that, you’d try to rub it all the time,” I smiled at her.
“You wish,” she smiled back.
“So where is the health department?” I asked.
“You know where the hospital is?” Maggie questioned. I nodded. “It’s across the street from the hospital.”
“Okay, I can find it from there. Are you okay? You seem kind of distant,” I reached over and took Maggie’s hand.
“I am distant. I may be pregnant with a child I don’t really want, have no idea how I’m gonna pay for and no idea how to care for it.”
“It’s not that bad. You’ll think of something. And I know it’s not much but you always have me,” I brought Maggie’s hand over to me and kissed it, looked at her and smiled.
“You don’t have to do that. The kid’s not yours so you are not obligated to stick around…”
“Maybe I want to…” I said forcefully but staring straight ahead at the road. Maggie looked at me with her eyes wide. She turned her head to look out the window and smiled.
Jason and Nathan opened the door to the Nasty and frowned. Puddles of goop filled the basin where the gears and chains met to move the belt. Small particles of food floated on the surface and a concentrated smell of dirty water, food and rusted metal wafted up. “Ugh, it must’ve been awhile since we actually did a good job under here,” Jason said.
“Just sop up as much water as you can with a towel and pick up the food. Once we get the Nasty and dish machine baskets clean, it’ll be a lot easier to keep them clean,” Nathan explained.
“I hope you’re right…” Jason took a towel from the shelf behind him and began sopping up some water and directing a majority of it down a small hole that led to the floor.
Nathan opened the two doors to the inside of the machine and began removing the baskets and sitting them next to the sink in the sprayer area. He dumped the food down the garbage disposal and began spraying a basket. A good-sized piece of lettuce dislodged from the basket, ricocheted off the stream of water and hit Nathan in the cheek. “Sometimes I wonder if this job is really worth it…” he said, peeling off the lettuce and dropping it in the disposal.
I was reading an issue of Highlights for Children while waiting for Maggie to get done. I was thoroughly enjoying ‘Goofus and Gallant’ and ‘The Timbertoes’ when I saw out of the corner of my eye Maggie leaving the office. I put the magazine down and stood up. She fell into my arms and cried softly.
“So what’s the verdict?” I asked hugging her tightly.
“Negative. I’m not pregnant.”
“Yes, my doctor switched me to a different birth control so they’re gonna switch me back,” Maggie stepped away from me and wiped her eyes.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’m fine. A little relieved and a little sad but I’m fine.”
“Well, that’s good. Let’s get out of here.”
I took her hand and we walked out of the building. It had really warmed up since we arrived. “Jeff? Now that I’m not pregnant, you can tell me the truth…did you really mean it when you said you would take care of me and my child?”
“Every word,” I replied.
“Why? Why take on a responsibility for something that you don’t need to?”
“I have my reasons…” I said mysteriously.
Maggie rested her head on my arm as we arrived at my Jimmy. “You are so wonderful, Jefferson Franklin,” she said softly.
I pretended like I wasn’t listening. “What?”
“Nothing. Can we get something to eat?” she asked.
I dropped Maggie off at her place so she could take a nap while I went to work to give those interviews. When I arrived, the four interviewees were in my office. The girl with straight brown hair was yelling at the guy sitting in the extra chair while a girl with curly brown hair sat in mine.
I stood in the doorway and cleared my throat to get their attention. “You all the new applicants?” they nodded in compliance. I looked at the girl sitting in my chair. “Could you hand me those applications and a pen?” the girl took the papers in her hand, leaned forward and handed them to me. “Thanks. All right, who are you people?” I looked at all of them and pointed to the guy sitting on the extra desk with unruly black hair and glasses.
“Jay Anthony,” he answered.
“Emily Reece,” said the girl standing up.
“Chris Ingalls,” said the guy with the buzz cut sitting in the extra chair. Heather had sad-looking eyes but a smile to die for. I was addressing everyone but was looking at her.
“Okay, well, welcome aboard. I would like you all to start as soon as possible so would Saturday be okay?” all agreed except for Heather who mumbled something and then showed blatant disrespect by taking my only pencil and snapping it in half. “If you could all be here Saturday at 10:30, we can get you all set up. Thank you for coming and I’ll see y’all Saturday.” Jay, Emily, and Chris pushed past me. I took a couple steps toward my desk and caught Heather as she brushed past. “Hold it, Miss Wilmot.”
“What?” she asked forcibly.
“That was my only pencil and now I have to steal another one from Darrell,” I said sitting down.
“Sorry,” she said quietly.
“No you’re not. Why’d you do it? I’ve never done anything to you except hire you…”
“I’m mad at my parents for forcing me to get a job. I swear, when I find an apartment I am so moving out.”
“Now you’re sorry. And I forgive you so get out of here. I’ll see you Saturday at 10:30.”
“Okay, uh…” Heather froze on my name.
“It’s on my door,” I smiled.
She looked at the door and then back at me, “Jefferson.” I didn’t correct her and waved to her as she left out the back door.
Jeff is angry after a visit to his mother's and tells his friends what he's looking for in a relationship.