The Scarecrow & George C
At least I don’t have to worry about my bosses wanting to get busy with me. They’re too passionately busy with each other. How fucking sweet. “Sounds like a blast. Have fun.”
This is about the extent of small talk I’m capable of. I hurry to my locker, where I pull out my messenger bag, lift the flap, and after untying my apron, I pour in the cash that’s weighing me down. Not that I’m complaining. Then, I pull on my flannel coat and oversized top hat, change into my boots, sling my messenger bag over my shoulder, and head back through the restaurant to the front door.
I hate that I have to come and go through the restaurant. That I have to be the real me—not food server me—in a place where I have a well-defined role. Not a role I’m exactly comfortable with, but one I can deal with. And I can “fake nice” when I’m working, but beyond that, it’s too much of an effort. And when I finally step onto the street and pull in a long-awaited breath of cool air that doesn’t stink of greasy food, he’s beside me.
“Van,” I say and sigh.
“I’m George…George Curaco.”
“Whatever.” I pull the flannel shirt around me tightly and turn away from him. But I have a job to do before I storm off. “You need to leave me the fuck alone, George C…or find a new job.”
I wonder if he steps back or gasps or covers his mouth with his probably greasy hand in response to my rudeness, but there’s no sound of movement.
“You can’t stop me from looking at you. Or asking you if I can carry your bag…to wherever it is you’re going tonight.”
I grit my teeth—it’s a trick I learned when I was a kid. To prevent me from screaming.
“Can I carry your bag?”
My jaw still clamped, I shake my head.
“May I carry your bag?”
“Leave me the fuck alone.” Since I’ve voiced everything necessary on the subject of him and me, I brave a final glance. I need evidence that the puppy is down on the sidewalk, writhing in pain, having been kicked by the lying little bitch. But he doesn’t appear even slightly pathetic. The kid is studying me—his eyes seem serious, even sad, as usual, but he’s wearing a smirk. It hits me that George C isn’t sad at all. “It’s just your eyes…they look sad, but they’re not.”
“Just like your words. They make you seem mean…but you’re not.”
Oh, yes, I am!
George C pulls my bag from my shoulder by the long strap. “So where are we going?”
I snatch it back with a hiss. It’s louder than I intended. “I have no clue where you are going, but I am going home. Alone.” George C has succeeded in getting under my weathered, burlap scarecrow skin. This surprises me, as it hasn’t happened in years. I don’t curse at him again or spit on his shoes, which I’ve been known to do. I just storm down Depot Street in the direction of our duplex. To the second-floor suite I claim as mine. The Batcave. My safe space.
“I enjoyed our chat, Van. Really, I did.” His voice is soft and raspy, yet it carries all the way to me, and I’m at least ten steps away already.
It must be the direction of the wind.
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