Eat No Evil, a Flash Short Story
Eat No Evil, by Beabe Thompson
a flash short story, copyright 2015
Dorothy Anne was studying her iPhone, avoiding the eyes of the restaurant owner and his employees. 12:30PM her iPhone said and no messages from Emily. Her stomach was growling, and diners had eaten and left since she’d seated herself in the tiny Cypress restaurant . Emily was hardly ever late, but she was forgetful.
Another thirty minutes, and she ordered some lunch. Salad, soup, and iced-tea, and not the sweet tea favored by locals. She took her time eating it, savoring the good food. The crunchy owner and his family did a farm to market menu, using beautifully colored organic vegetables, artisan cheeses and sausages, hormone free chickens, and other menu items. You never knew, other than breakfast, what was going to be on the menu each day. The restaurant was situated in an old house, at the rear of a patchwork cluster of businesses, beneath huge live oak trees that ringed the little block. Sunlight was blocked out by the trees, but the room was brightly and softly lit, adding to the homey ambiance and feel. Even if Emily was late, it was nice getting out of the house and be around people for a while.
Thirty minutes went by, and she was finished with her meal and ordered a latte’, promptly forgotten by the server. She took out a loose-leaf manuscript clipped together with a purple metal clamp, a royal blue gel pen, and adjusted her bifocals. Might as well do some work until Emily showed up. The server brought more water, and then remembered the latte’, scurrying off to make it.
After an hour and a half total, DA, as her friends called her, had to admit that she’d been stood up. Dorothy Anne had to give Emily the benefit of the doubt. Maybe there was an emergency, traffic, but in an age of IM, texting, and Smart Phones, there really wasn’t an excuse to just let her know something. She packed up her manuscript, pen, phone, ate a handmade, homemade piece of pie and a cold latte’, then walked slowly back to her car.
Are you okay? I waited over an hour and have left the restaurant, she texted Emily.
Immediately she got a response.
Oh no! I was taking care of Penny’s boys this morning, went home for a while, then completely forgot. I’m so sorry!
DA studied the message. Emily was forgetful, but she frequently dropped everything to rush to her dependent and grown daughter Penny’s side. Penny had frequent medical, social, childcare, household emergencies from which only Emily could rescue her. Barker, Emily’s second husband, had resigned himself to be permanent second fiddle to his stepdaughter’s real or invented drama, but sometimes one noticed a facial tic when Penny got particularly intense.
I’m going out of town, but I’m going to take you to lunch when we’re back. Okay? I’m so sorry. Such a dumdum. Emily texted back after no response from DA.
DA studied that one and sighed. Okay, let’s get together then, she typed out, then started on a message for Joseph.
Got stood up by Emily, but I did have an excellent lunch. Got some work done, she typed out.
Good you had a good lunch and got some writing done. Are you really surprised about Emily? This is her MO, he typed back. Sorry she did that. Know you’ve missed her.
Thanks, will see you tonight, she replied. She sat in her car for a while and pondered her options for the afternoon. Over two hours lost on Emily, but at least she’d gotten dressed and put on makeup for the first time in a couple of weeks. She started the car and wove her way out of the complicated parking lot, and heading back home.
“So tell me again what happened,” Joseph showed her the label of a chilled bottle of Chardonnay that evening, his eyebrows lifted. She nodded and watched as he filled two wine glasses part way.
“Emily said she got busy with her grandkids and completely forgot.”
“Why do you keep trying to be her friend? She always lets you down, always backs out of lunch dates, parties, usually when Penny or one of her kids has a hangnail. I feel bad for her husband with all the constant crap. Must make him feel like dead last in their marriage.”
DA took the glass of wine from his hand and took a sip. The flavor rolled over her tongue, and she swallowed it; one of her favorite vineyards. Joseph had picked up a couple of bottles at Specs on the way home.
“I love Emily. We have so much history between us, Joe.” She grimaced. “She’s so sweet and kind. And vulnerable.”
He harrumphed and made a wry face. “Yeah, a kind friend who constantly dumps engagements other than Penny’s. And don’t forget about how she treated you with your brother.”
DA finished the little bit of wine left in her glass and held it out for a refill. “When Marty and my nephews were murdered, she did kind of abandon me, but then she claimed Father Ross told our entire women’s group that I’d ask for help if I needed it.”
Joseph just stared at her and waited.
“Yeah, that hurt.” She looked up at him, a pained expression on her face.
“Your brother and his sons are murdered, and your friends, your ‘church’ friends didn’t even bother to call you? Remember how that hurt? That was just cold, freezing cold. For a parish that prides itself on being friendly and helpful,” he paused. “It just didn’t make sense.”
He pulled DA into his arms, taking her glass away and putting it down on the kitchen island. “I’m sorry, that was really poorly worded, but those hypocrites made me feel so angry. Right when you need a church family, right when you need help getting through a crappy situation, our priest and your women’s church group completely dropped the ball. Didn’t even call you back until the day of the funerals.” He stopped and thought. “When you said you didn’t want to go to church there anymore, I was relieved. Completely relieved.” He kissed the top of her head, feeling her burrow against his chest.
“I really don’t think God loves me anymore, Joe.” She said into his chest. “Most of the time I feel so lonely. I used to talk to him all the time, then I noticed he’d stopped answering me back. It just made everything that much worse.”
“I’m here, I’m listening.” He said and leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Look, let’s get out of here. Go get some dinner with me instead of cooking.” She kissed his cheek back, then his lips.
“I love you very much,” she said and hugged him one more time. “Thank you.
“I love you too.” He caught her hand and pulled her back gently as she started to walk away. “If you want to find another church, I’m all right with that, but I’m kind of tired of the Yada Yada Jesus music, let’s all hug and be friends kind of church. It doesn’t feed me spiritually, it doesn’t feel real, and I’m definitely tired of churchy pretend friends, okay?”
“I know you’re lonely, and you feel really sad and depressed, but you know not everyone’s going to be a real friend. Someone who doesn’t want to be there for you, they’re really just acquaintances. Facebook makes people think superficial relationships are more than they are. More than they ever can be. It’s easy to ‘like’ something, egg someone on, but it’s all artifice underneath.” He hugged her again. “You’ve got to let go of some people, DA, especially if keeping them means hurt and rejection.”
She burrowed back into his arms and hugged him. “You always pick up my pieces, don’t you?” His arms were around her, hands rubbing her back, soothing, and she relished his touch. “Thank you.”
“That’s what I’m here for.” He kissed the top of her head again, one more tight hug before releasing her. Go get your jacket, because it’s cold outside.”