Quarter to Two

Archie and I were sitting at the counter in MarJo’s Diner having a cup of bright-eyes, when Bobbie walked in, looking everywhere, like she’d lost her puppy and expected to find him sitting at one of the tables sipping on a cup, reading the Whitmer Dispatch.

“Seen Margie?” asked Bobbie.

“Yunh,” I offered, “she went off to the corner booth to brood over Stan dumping her again.” I nodded Bobbie in the direction of the corner booth where Margie was filling a well-crumpled tissue with Margie’s-been-dumped-again raindrops.

“No, it’s not!” interrupted Archie.  Arch gave me that ‘you stupid twit’ look he’s mastered over the last seventy-odd years.

“Not what, Archie?” I asked.

Archie rolled his wrist to take a gander at his Timex with the Twist-O-Flex band and advised, “Not quarter-to.  Pert near ten past.”

“No Arch,” I corrected, “I just told Bobbie, Margie went off to the corner booth to brood over Stan and her having yet another spat.  Put your damned hearing aids in, Archie!”

“Not what I heard, Walter.  You said quarter-to.” Arch was righteously indignant.  Hard of hearing folks are that way – they can’t hear – it’s your fault.

“Put your damned hearing aids in, Arch!” I repeated.  “Get tired of hearing you say, ‘What?’ ‘Huh?’ and ‘Whasat?’”

“Huh?” Arch said.  I suspected he knew damned well what I’d said.

“Gets pretty damned insulting, normal folk having to repeat themselves ‘cause you’re too stubborn to put your hearing aids in.”

“What? Oh, the squealers?”  Got’m in. See?” Arch twisted his head so one ear faced me and Clanton, who’d just walked in for his two-fifteen nectar. Then, nodding to Clanton, Arch turned to show his other ear, smiling like a crazed squirrel.  Both ears were empty.  Except for the long hair Jimmy Winston, town barber would trim back next time Archie slid into his chair.

Clanton snickered. Everyone in town heard Archie and I go through this routine daily.

“Ain’t there, Arch,” I said.  Arch stuck a finger in one ear then the other, frowned and started patting his shirt front. Like the little boogers escaped from his ears to hide in his pockets.

“They was,” declared Arch.

“It’s insultin, Arch, you don’t put the damned things in until everyone in the shop starts laughing at us both for the sideshow we put on. Insulting!”

“I read that article too,” offered Arch, looking at me like we’d picked up on a normal-folk kind of conversation.

“What?” Arch had me.  I had no idea how he’d misunderstood any of that.

“’Bout that sultan or potentate or pooh-bah or whatever visiting the city.”

“What, Arch?”

“Now who’s hard of hearin?” grinned Arch. 

Clanton shook his head and took a seat two stools down from Arch and me.  Jeannie came up to make sure Clanton was still taking his coffee black after twenty years right as rain at two fifteen in the afternoon weekdays.  Maybe she’d try to sell him a piece of Lemon Meringue pie while making eyes at him – or with him.  Sometimes, watching the two of them, I wondered why they just didn’t spend twenty bucks, get a license, and get married.  Whole damn town would turn up for that.

“Insulting, Arch.  Insulting.  Not sultan, you boob!”

“Whyn’t you say, so?” asked the pain in my side these last forty years.  First, I lost Emmie.  Arch and Evelyn held me together through some rough times.  Then Evelyn, rest her soul, too, died shortly after Emmie.  Never figured out what the ladies had against me, leaving me to deal with Arch all by my lonesome.

“Lookit! Margie pining away over Stan.  Again.”  I tried to redirect the conversation to something Arch could guess if not completely hear.

“Well, if you want my opinion… “

“What opinion?” I asked.

“About the pooh-bah buying the old foundry in the city.”

“What?”

“Sure you don’t need hearing aids, Walter?”

“Archie!” It was near two thirty. My patience gave way.  I did a ‘head nod’ to Lou, who was standing in front of the grill working two grilled cheese sandwiches. I picked up the check and headed to the register.  Lou followed, walking the other side of the long counter, his ever-present toothpick pinched between his lips.       

“Archie!” I yelled down to my life-long buddy.

“What?” Arch started walking to meet Lou and me at the register.

“Put your damned hearing aids in.”

“Okay, okay!”

“And turn’m on, boob!”

Lou grinned and shook his head.  I handed him the check and a ten.  He glanced over at Margie now being consoled by Bobbie. He asked, as if he didn’t already know, “Margie whining over Stan again?”

Arch complained, “Hell, I offered my opinion on the sultan and nobody wanted to hear!”

Shaking my head, resigning myself to a lost cause, I accepted my change from Lou and said like this time it would make any difference, “Put your damned hearing aids in, Arch!”

Arch and I left the diner, Lou, Clanton, Jeannie, Bobbie, Margie, and someone who’d ordered two grilled cheese sandwiches.

“Come back again!” Lou tossed through the door at us as Arch and I stepped out into the August heat.

“No.  Don’t think so,” began Arch. “Don’t look like rain at all to me.”

© SP Wilcenski 2020

Originally posted to P**** 6/26/2020
Blogged for 12-17-2020 on spwilcenwrites

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