Manny Valdez was carefully sprinkling two drops of tabasco on to each of six Nutter Butter cookies he’d lined up on his desk for a late afternoon snack when Rhea walked in, in need of her check. He offered her one. “Nutter Butter?”
“Sure.” She ate it and nodded, nominally impressed by the added heat.
“I know.” he agreed, “Stuff is magic, right?.” He handed her a check and asked if she had anything in mind for the following week.
“Possibly going sweet.” she told him as she opened the envelope with the check. “Someone’s doing polenta donuts in Grand Central then there’s those mango stuffed glazed logs at Yummies or Koos’ pancakes or….” she checked her check. It wasn’t all she hoped it would be.
“Ummmm… a hundred twelve dollars?”
“And seventy eight cents….” Manny added. “Look, you gave me three hundred sixty words, minus taxes you get a hundred and twelve seventy eight.”
“I have rent to pay–” she protested.
“Use more words.” he advised and handed her a copy of the newly printed Pulse with her review, titled “Toolong? by Rhea Porter.” She took the paper and left.
On her way to her car, Rhea passed by Yummie’s donuts, at the end of the strip mall. They were baking. That smell, that divine perfume wafted out. Irresistible. It drew her in. Well, that and remembering the sinewy young hunk who was sweeping up when she first walked by a few days ago. It was summer, surely he’d be wearing a T-shirt and jeans. Her favorite.
As luck would have it, the mango logs were just being stuffed and young Mr. Sinewy was stuffing them – squirting that thick yellow fruity cream into freshly fried sweet dough. She took a seat at the counter. Both he and the waitress looked up. The waitress gestured she’d be there in a sec but Rhea kept her eyes on him. She smiled.
“You’re a pretty good stuffer.” He smiled back then looked away. She moved a seat closer. Leaned in to him. Talked low.
“Stuff me a good one. Fill it up.” She leaned even closer and whispered. “I tip good.”
He kept on stuffing. The waitress came over and took the pastry stuffer out of his hand.
“Go in the back and finish glazing. I’ll take care of her.” He did as he was told.
Rhea looked at the waitress, a little defiant, totally cocky but the waitress’s glare creamed her.
“Just a coffee.” Rhea ordered, “To go.”
This wasn’t good. And Rhea knew it. She had to stop this bullshit. Gallows was right. She’s was gonna end up in jail. Broke. And never find a guy who loved her… though that last part was OK with her. She didn’t need or deserve love and that was the way it should be. What she needed was her old job back.
She got in her car, swung up Lucille, meandered down to Temple then headed east through downtown to Little Tokyo.