november 1k

nov 1k

Lewis was thirty-seven and stormed into the Waffle House late one quiet, Thursday night.  He stormed across the dining area and stormed up to the kitchen door marked, “EMPLOYEES ONLY,” except the “LY” was broken off, so it said, “EMPLOYEES ON.” 

“Rita!” he yelled.  “Rita!” 

A short, sixty-year-old with bleached hair, apple red lipstick lips and penciled eyebrows stormed past the “EMPLOYEES ON” sign and slugged Lewis in the guts. 

“Hush,” she hissed. 

Lewis looked at her nametag: RITTA.  The two Ts had a hypnotic affect he didn’t understand. 

“You’re in your jams,” Ritta said, waving her hand over his basketball shorts and #13 high school football jersey. 

“Sorry,” he said, still staring at her nametag. 


Lewis moved his eyes to hers and opened his mouth – 

“Wait,” Ritta raised a finger.  “Before all that, may I remind you that I told you not to marry my daughter.  I begged you.  I delivered sermons on her particulars and peculiarities, her principals and preferentials, and what did you say?  Put it in my ear what you said every time.” 

Lewis looked at his big toe peeking through a hole in his moccasin slippers.  He mumbled, “Ritta I’m in love.” 

“Huh?”  She dramatically leaned forward. 

“Ritta I’m in love.” 

She leaned back, satisfied, “Ritta I’m in love…” 

“Can I just unload what’s on my mind?” 

“Are you?”  She pointed that raised finger between his eyes.  “Are you still?” 

“Of course,” he bleated, “Until the day she dies.” 

“You will die first.  She’ll outlive us all, Lewis.”  She handed him a cup of coffee. 

He set it on the counter and wrung his hands.  “Now, I’m a nobody and generally have no right to complain…” 

“Stop it with that ‘nobody.’” 

“…but she’s awfully demanding, Ritta.  Especially at night.” 

“Oh?”  Ritta’s eyes widened and her neat, brown eyebrows arched high on her forehead.  “Is it cunnilingus?” 

“No!”  Lewis scanned the Waffle House.  “Sheesh, Ritta…no, Ritta not that.” 

“You don’t have to turn red over it.  Drink your coffee.  Want a Coke instead?” 

Lewis ran a hand through his oil black hair.  “I think I’m going nuts.  My head…my brains are twisted up in knots.  Nuts and knots and nuts and I pull the covers up to my chin and try to make out the ceiling fan blades in the dark but they might as well not be there because I can’t see a damn one of them and then I wonder if I’m going blind or if the moon just isn’t out and the shutters are closed extra tight and I know what she’s going to ask me and I know I could do it on my own without her having to ask but I can’t bring myself to do it and then I start to nod off…I just begin to drift off when I hear her say, ‘Lewis…’ and then my eyes open and I still can’t see even one of those ceiling fan blades but I know there’s five up there and then she says – real quiet she says this – even though it’s as loud in my head as ten thousand lions roaring – she says, ‘Tickle my back,’ and those three words fill the room with funk as thick as melted butter because – and I mean this with all due respect Ritta because you know I’m in love with your daughter – but every damned and goddamned night she asks me to tickle her back and I love her to death but I hate tickling backs.  I hate it, Ritta.  I do.  I really do.  It makes my arm tired.  I’m nobody, but this I cannot handle.” 

“Stop it with that ‘nobody,’” she said, then took his shoulders and led him to a booth.  “Drink your coffee or do you want an ice water or hot chocolate?” 

“She takes offense,” he mutters.  “Like me not tickling her back is the equivalence to me saying I don’t love her.” 

Ritta sandwiched his hand between hers. 

“It makes my arm tired real fast,” he said.  “Like freakishly fast.  Two minutes tops.  All day I’m wrenching and tinkering and banging those furnaces and water heaters, and that’s gravy compared to tickling a back.” 

Ritta pensively sipped some of his coffee. 

He ran his hand through his hair.  “Tell me what to do because it means an awful lot to her.” 

Ritta sighed out the heat from another sip of coffee and said, “Lewis…don’t say I didn’t warn you.” 

“Awe go to Hell, Ritta,” he said.  “You Nestor girls can eat crow and tickle each others’ backs to Armageddon.” 

Ritta leaned over the table, kissed Lewis on the cheek and then pinched the spot she kissed.  “Lewis, you’re a somebody to us Nestor girls.  If it weren’t for you, the two of us and little Russ’d still be living out of my dead daddy’s Buick on ninth and Prospect.  You taught my daughter how to be treated right by a man and how to be loved, and if that means she wants you to tickle her back then you have to be a man and tickle the lady’s back.  Even if it’s only two minutes before your arm gets freaky tired then that’s two minutes more every day than she’s been shown love by a man in her whole life.” 

He stared at her nametag.  She polished off his coffee.  

“Ritta, why do you have two Ts in your name?” 

“My name’s Loritta.” 

“Why’d you –” 

“Loritta lived out of her dead daddy’s Buick.  When her daughter introduced her to Lewis, she became Ritta, and Lewis became somebody.” 

“Stop it with that ‘somebody,’” he said. 

Ritta slapped the table.  “I have work to do.  You want some waffles or ice cream?” 

“Ritta I love you also,” he said. 

Ritta wiped surprise tears with her apron.  “Don’t keep her waiting or she’ll send out the Coast Guard.” 

She disappeared past the “EMPOYEES ON” sign, and Lewis headed home to tickle his wife’s back like a man in love.

13 Responses to “november 1k”

  1. 1 Leah 11/15/2009 at 8:47 pm

    a delightful read. very, very delightful.

  2. 2 Tara Thayer 11/15/2009 at 9:17 pm

    yay! nice one, you two.

  3. 3 Teresa 11/15/2009 at 9:41 pm

    Such a sweet story!

  4. 4 pom. 11/15/2009 at 10:34 pm

    oh oh oh! i just LOVE this!!

  5. 5 donna 11/16/2009 at 12:10 am

    you guys are so good. seriously.

  6. 6 beth 11/16/2009 at 12:28 am

    oh my. something about this one – i started and then all of a sudden i was bang in another world. made me think of an endearing flannery o’connor [life you save] – where i actually like the characters – but they’re all rather mad. and that last line made me laugh out loud. nice work. 🙂

  7. 7 Zia Meadows 11/16/2009 at 7:18 am

    absolutely as charming as waffles and ice-cream (as brought to me in bed at 5 am by a 4 year old!)

  8. 8 us 11/16/2009 at 11:38 am

    oh this one is wonderful! such a charming story.
    i’m going to have to show it to nathan, because i’m sure those are his three least favourite words at bedtime : )

  9. 9 Wanda 11/17/2009 at 10:00 am

    Smiling while reading.

  10. 10 Shanon 11/17/2009 at 4:39 pm

    My favorite so far! Thank you so much!

  11. 11 Cynthia 11/20/2009 at 3:40 pm

    All of a sudden my cubicle became a waffle house, and I can smell the cup of coffee, and understand his frustration. Thanks again.

  12. 12 claire 11/28/2009 at 3:30 pm

    good times…

  13. 13 heather 12/02/2009 at 7:31 pm

    this is inspiring and so lifelike it’s a little eerie. don’t we all have our own version of having to tickle someone’s back…yikes. we all just live on that edge. breathing to get through something that we just have to do, like a man in love. uuugh. makes me want to barf sometimes.

    i love that u do this as a couple. my husband and i would benefit SO much from a project like this! maybe i’ll propose a similar idea to him, just to bring in some freshness. he would do it, and he would make it alive, while i just made sure it happened.

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