Mac's stomach pulled at him to check his pockets. In reaching, and having to reach pretty far down, he kept going through the light at the foot of Louisville and only realized when he heard the grating beneath the tires that he was on the drawbridge, cars everywhere. All there was to do was keep gliding with the momentum. Even though he hadn't made the drop-off to the lawyer's office on North Second yet.
Hendrix's BarBeQue was there, right there, in the old filling station with the pig in the hat sign.
Stepping inside, he kept digging in all four pockets, hoping for more change than was there.
Mac always stared up at menu signs a long time, as if guessing at foreign words. He recounted his change.
"Uh, I'll take that half plate of links."
"Half order sausage," the woman said, and watched as he continued to re-count the change.
The woman did not say anything. Mac began to look at her face. He had not seen her before here, he was sure of it. She seemed to be the only one working.
"Uh--could you take fifty cents off if I don't get the beans?"
"The beans is the most filling part, if you don't have the money."
"Oh," Mac said, confused. "How 'bout the slaw?"
The woman shrugged. "Okay." And took Mac's money and went to the back.
He was a little disappointed. He preferred the slaw to the beans. Nobody else came in. He watched the cars go down Stella street in the gray winter air. The glass by the door was dirty. It seemed to be only a thin wall holding back the cold.
The woman came back, but without the food. She was doing something with the cash register keys.
"Hey, that Jimi Hendrix. You ever see him in here?"
"Look--I got a boyfriend. I don't know no Jimmy. I really can't stand it when guys come on just cause I don't have a ring on. I got two kids and don't get no support or alimony."
"Hey, no--I was just asking--he's some guy I heard of--but he's black anyway."
Mac felt loose inside. Like some string had come untied. He didn't know how to say that wasn't what he meant.
The woman went to the back again. Most of the food here was takeout, and the restaurant section, where the office to the filling station had been, could only hold three small tables.
She brought the food on a paper plate.
"Thank you," Mac said, trying not to look at her.
Mac ate. Everything outside seemed far away on winter days. He was about to remember the envelope for the lawyer's he was supposed to drop off for Meyer.
"Is the sausage okay?" He was startled by her voice from behind the counter.
"Hmm? Yeah, it's good."
"Look--I didn't mean to jump at you. I'm not used to this. I never worked the register. Or cooked."
"Where's the old man I always seen in here before--had that gray spot on his face?"
"That's my Daddy. He owns this place. He's sick."
"Got cancer. In his lungs. And maybe other places too, we don't know yet."
"That's a shame," Mac said. "I'm sorry for him."
"Thanks. There's a chance, I guess. But it looks bad."
"In the lungs is always bad. It goes fast there."
"Well, you know. Maybe the faster the better. Suffering is pretty hard."
The woman spoke a little more softly. "It's painful, but-- I just mean, he wasn't expecting this." She laughed a little. "We weren't either. At least, I wasn't. He didn't even smoke."
"I might have figured," Mac said.
"It tasted different than before. I guess cause he wasn't the one to cook it."
The woman's face went to ice. Her voice fell low. "You son of a whoring bitch. Just get on out."
"Wait--it's still good. I didn't mean it wasn't good."
"Get the fuck out! And don't come back."
He was through anyway, on account of the reduced portion.
Later, after getting fired by Meyer once more, he went over it again and again, talking to everybody he could find at the Coney Isle, unable to shake the picture of the woman's face, and for the life of him could not understand why he could not understand what not to say.