Jane Snitly parked her blue Dodge Omni with its broken passenger window at the A & W Root Beer. She always had a broken window on all her cars. Not her fault, just some weird curse or something. The large overhang at the drive-in restaurant was nice protection from the hot sun. During summer, you could literally fry an egg on the sidewalk, though she’d never tried and had never seen anyone else do it either. And why would you do such a dumb thing anyhow? Less dishes at home for the washing up? And if you did consider the idea of frying an egg on the sidewalk you’d need to be especially organized with a tray to carry everything out to your sidewalk, like: salt and pepper, oil or butter (butter was tastier) and a spatula to turn the thing over and get it off of the sidewalk! Then you’d need a pitcher of water. Jane always cooked her eggs using a bit of water. You had to have that to get the crustiness on the bottom of the eggs. She liked hers’ crusty on the bottom and the yellow part runny ; but not too runny! None of that transparent slimy stuff on her eggs! No sir-ee! It had to have a slight white covering over the yolk. The trick was to add a bit of water to make steam after the crusty part was done, then cover the eggs with a lid. So, you’d need a lid out there on the sidewalk as well.
She thought about the cleaning up the sidewalk. Wouldn’t neighbors complain about that? A greasy left over egg mess right in the middle where people were supposed to walk? Neighbors were always finding things to complain about.
A high school aged waitress with brown hair and brown eyes came towards here on roller skates. She was slim and confident with pretty tan legs, an A & W Root Beer uniform and a big pink ribbon in her pony tail. She screeched to a stop near the drivers side of Jane’s car.
“Hi ma’am. What can I get for you today? You must be thirsty with all this heat!” Her shiny white teeth glowed from their sockets. Her whole life waiting to unfold like a giant pancake.
“I’ll have a roof beer float hon’ – medium sized, please. And a glass of water with lots of ice. I know, isn’t this heat something?”
“It sure is. And it’s so quiet today. Everybody is hiding out inside with their coolers to stay fresh. I swear it feels like it’s been two ‘o clock for two hours!…Anything else with that ma’am?”
“No thanks darlin’,” and Jane smiled. She had a smile to win the hearts of any man – or woman. Instantly likable, she was the real deal when it came to sincerity. The girl waitress lit up with another smile and hurried off.
The streets of Fresno were paved, long, hard and flat. From a distance the roads seem to shimmer with the heat. They really did. So many roads. So flat. Concrete everywhere too. The city just kept moving north with the white people following it, like cattle answering a silent call, while the black community stayed on the West Side of town. It was nastily referred to by racists as ‘Nigger Town’. Jane never said that, not once. She was not racist, not one degree in any of her bones! She accepted everyone for who they were, but she’d grown up with another generation and from people like that came from the south. Those people were used to putting others into categories, like : wops, jews, red face, niggers or coloreds, spics and wetbacks for the Mexicans… Chinks too; if they were oriental (after the period of slavery where all the orientals were forced to work on the railroads – like, a chain link in a chain). In the San Joaquin Valley, nobody knew the difference between Japanese or Chinese or Koreans really; though you’d think they should have especially after the second World War ! Àt least to be able to recognize a Japanese. But no; chinks were chinks, if you had slanted eyes, you were a chink. But Jane was not racist towards them either, they were hardly any in Fresno. She had a dear, dear friend who was Philipino, Elsa.
Yes, America had a bad side, a dismal and violent one that the country was still struggling to accept. It hadn’t gotten where it was today by being nice with everyone, especially when the invaders took over land that belonged to Indians, an entire continent in fact through bloodshed. But Jane, she did have one moment or moments when she uttered racist words, though she hardly noticed it. Always when she was driving! She hated it when people were rude on the road. “Those damn wetbacks” she would cry out to herself. “Don’t they know they have blinkers for turning before the turn??”
Sucking down the last of her root-beer float and crunching some ice from her water, she thought about recent events. Normally she was working at the hotel where she was the bookkeeper, but she’d used an errand as an excuse to get away to herself for an hour. Besides, she did enough over time to deserve a break now and again. She needed to think alone, without anyone around her. She was considering how things rarely, if ever turned out the way you thought they would. In her case, it seemed like never. None of her husbands (the drunk’n lot of ’em) or even her kids for that matter. Even the flatness of the valley began to play on her nerves. She needed some curves and hills, some water to gaze upon. And her family, they were always disappointing her. She loved them, but not their actions most of the time.
And now momma was gone. She teared up for the millionth time refusing it. “I’m so sick of crying! I’ve already cried myself a fuckin’ river and then some!” She didn’t usually curse like that but it sure did feel good. She pulled out a tissue in her purse, wiped her eyes and blew her nose next pulling out a Saratoga Light and lit it up. “Thank God for cigarettes,” she said leaning back for a moment, her right free hand twitching nervously. She stretched for a minute her arms and legs, wanting to escape the emotions under the surface of her; like waves of wanna be tears, they pricked her with their tiny claws.
The images came upon her anyway seeing Mom in the hospital for over nine years wasting away to nothing, most of the time with a blank look on her face. “Blank, blank, blank”, she thought. “My loving Mother with no fucking expression on her face!” The tears broke through the wave like little blond surfers in a race on the surface of her skin. They rolled and slipped and sloshed down her cheeks, across her nose.
The events leading up to her death were none the less amusing. Then there had been Dave Medvikoff her ex-sweetheart from high school. He’d been the saxophone player and she the star of it all as the soloist for the high school band at roosevelt High. David was the potential husband number four. They found each other again after thirty years by chance while grocery shopping at Safe Way in the produce department. She would never look at egg plant in the same way… But their marriage was not to be. Even after relocating to Morro Bay, getting a job there too, not to mention the leaving behind of one of her sons in Fresno because he had a good job at a super market and the putting to sleep of Sandy, the family dog who suffered from after effects from distemper. No one had wanted her, not even Herb’s parents who wanted nothing to do with her or her life choices. The new apartment wouldn’t allow dogs. It had been a death sentence for Sandy, her son Herbert never really getting over that one. Ans she felt responsible for that too.
Dave, the drinking Dave, a bar tender at the Blue Oyster. He’d met of course a younger woman and was an alcoholic. Janie always fell in love with alcoholics – she had to somehow relive the lost love of her Father who had run away from her and her sister. Then, sadly, many years later hung himself in a closet. On the table an unopened bottle of Jack Daniel’s and in his pocket a picture of two little girls. Janie and her older sister Jessie.He’d left nothing behind, only a trail of broken bottles and unanswered hugs for his two daughters.
Anyway, so they’d broken up, then Cal her step Dad died. More tears. Then she was diagnosed with having cancer cells in her uterus and the doctors said it all had to come out. It did and it changed Jane for good. Her body had begun attacking itself. Without her uterus, she felt a part of what made her a woman was gone. She ran back home to Fresno, leaving Morro Bay – needing the arms of her Mother. So much pain, but then Momma was there. But not any more.
No pain could compare to that: to that loss. An internal ripping of the most profound. The tearing out (like her uterus) of that which connected her to her Mother. That connection between a mother and a child. It was irreplaceable. She could not find the words for it when she tried to say the words – it was all tears away, emotions away; a dark curtain of blood with eyes a squinting. But instead of the sun blinding her, it was darkness of her suffering. Those waves were forming again in her mind and she was suddenly like a strand of hair in its midst. Floating, twirling, waiting perhaps to be sucked down into the abyss.
“Ma’am, are you alright?” The young girl asked while waiting for the bill to be paid. Jane hadn’t seen her.
“Oh,” and she grabbed for her purse still not seeing anything as her consciousness was still swimming in those waves. But she settled herself. She had to deal with this money thing. The young waitress was waiting for her.
“There you go,” she said. She smiled again, the young girl had brought her out of her own thoughts. She was thankful and left her a tip.
“Thanks Ma’am. That’s very kind… Are you…okay?” she asked. “You seem upset.”
“Oh no! Honey I’m just fine. An old lady has her moments, you know. Tears cleanse the soul, right? I’ve been thinking. I need a change and guess what?”
“I’m moving to San Francisco!”
And that was that.