Jake rolled over in bed and reached his hand out
but came up empty. With eyes closed, he groped about
until, at last awake, he realized that Josie wasn’t
next to him
and his palm was clenching a clump of empty sheets.
He sat up, shaking his head, and glanced at the
red digital clock on the milk crate next
to the bed. It was six-thirty, he didn’t have to be
back behind the wheel of the cab until
five that afternoon.
Swinging his legs to the floor, Jake coughed, a
short burst, and then reached for a cigarette. He
dragged deep, smoke filling his lungs. He knew he
should stop, but hell,
he thought of smoking as a protest against everybody
who seemed to know what was
best for everybody else.
He continued smoking, waiting, hoping that Josie
was in the bathroom, but somehow
he knew she wasn’t. She said she loved him, yet every
Tuesday, the one night her
mother-in-law baby sat seven-year-old Jason, Jake
awakened to find Josie sleeping
on the couch in the living room, a blanket covering
her slender body.
She claimed it was his snoring, that it had
nothing to do with him, she always had difficulty
sleeping whenever there was any noise. Somehow she
managed to sleep in a house
with her son and mother-in-law, he thought with
resentment, but she couldn’t last the night next to
Slowly, Jake stood up, his mouth dry from too
much beer. He walked into the living room and sure
enough, Josie was sleeping peacefully on the couch.
Standing over her,
an initial flash of anger subsided, and he brushed her
chestnut hair back off her forehead
and gave her a short kiss.
She moaned, turning toward the backrest on the
couch, the blanket slipping and exposing her long legs
running up to the flesh of her backside. Jake tried
to slip down
next to her but her body instinctively bumped up
against his and he landed on the floor between the
couch and the coffee table.
He looked up and she was lying with her eyes
open, a sleepy smile on her face. She stretched, arms
extended over her head, and kicked the blanket away.
Jake quickly mounted her, disappointment
disappearing with the joining of their tongues.
“What time is it?” she asked, her arms wrapped
around his back.
He kissed her again.
“You have plenty of time,” he said.
Josie worked at a diner, the Golden Eagle, which
she derisively called the Burnt Turkey,
where her shift started at four in the afternoon and
continued to midnight, or whenever, depending on the
customers and how many girls called in sick.
“I’m gonna take a shower,” he said. “I’ll wake
you in an hour.”
Jake went to the fridge and pulled out a can of
Bud, flipping the top off and downing
half of it. He wished things were different, but
overall he was satisfied. Part of him wanted Josie to move in with him, but the kid would have to
come and there wasn’t room, and Josie was still
married, though separated from her husband who was
serving time for B and E’s. No, for now, he was
content with the way things were, but he felt as if
they were treading water in the present to make it to
Money could change things, but he didn’t make
enough. He’d been driving a cab for two years, ever
since he lost his job with the municipal department of
public works. No sour grapes, it was in the past. If
he had to do it again, Jake honestly believed that he
still would have hit the foreman, only maybe with his
fist instead of a wrench.
The hot water rushed over his head as he stood
under the nozzle, balancing himself
with one hand around the curtain rod. His cousin was
a union rep who knew someone who knew someone on the
city council, and though Jake shelled out a grand, it
was well worth it when the assault charges
conveniently transformed into disorderly conduct when
he finally appeared in court.
So now he was a cab driver. That’s how he met
Josie, stopping in the diner late one night. He was
sitting at the counter and he couldn’t keep his eyes
off her, as she confidently
carried a pot of coffee. The other waitresses, by
comparison, were mostly haggard and heavyset,
methodically spinning on the hamster wheel of endless
routine, no smiles on their faces, but boredom
tempered with pain.
He asked for a cup of coffee as Josie shot behind
the counter. She stopped right before the doors to
the kitchen and was about to pour when the one marked
“enter” swung open and a busboy with a red bandana
tied across his forehead burst out carrying a stack of
dishes in a plastic bin. The busboy smacked Josie in
the back with the bin and her hand slammed down on the
counter shattering the pot and splattering Jake’s
sleeve with coffee.
Jake howled, more from surprise than pain, and
jumped off the stool, shaking his arm. Josie spun around and grabbed the bewildered busboy by
the neckline of his t-shirt and slammed him up against
“Why don’t you fucking learn the right door?” she
screamed, as the bin of dishes dropped between her and
the busboy, several bouncing and rolling across the
A bald man in a gold blazer, the manager, rushed
over, pushing his way between
Josie, whose long hair had come loose and was dangling
down her back, and the busboy who was mumbling
something about a “loco bitch” and shaking his head.
“Why don’t you train these people before you hire
them, Louie?” Josie demanded of the man in the gold
Louie was holding Josie by the wrists. Then he
glanced over his shoulder and noticed Jake, who was
drying his arm with a napkin.
“Please, forgive us, sir,” Louie said, releasing
Josie and stepping around from behind the counter.
“We will pay for the dry cleaning.”
Jake stared blankly at Louie’s ingratiating
“I think you should take the rest of the night
off,” Louie said to Josie.
“Why, I didn’t do anything?”
“It was an accident,” Jake said. “Nobody was
He reached across the counter and took Josie by
the hand, walking her down the length of it until they
met at the end.
“I’ll make sure she gets home okay,” Jake said.
Then added, “And I’ll make sure she’s back in time to
serve me tomorrow.”
Stepping out of the shower, Jake smiled as he
thought about how he had met Josie. He took her home
that night and began seeing her regularly, first
meeting for breakfast after
she had driven Jason to school, and then, finally,
after months of hastily squeezing in time together during early afternoons, Tuesday became their
Jake wrapped a towel around his waist and filled
the coffee pot with water from the sink. As the
coffee brewed, he realized that he had never spent
time with Jason except to say hello on the rare
occasions that he picked Josie up at her
mother-in-law’s. So what, he wanted to be with Josie,
not nursemaid a kid. It bothered him that Josie lived
with her husband’s mother, but what could you do,
Josie was a working mother and it wasn’t easy.
Besides, with the mother-in-law there, Jake could see
Josie more than he would if she was completely
responsible for Jason.
He poured a cup of coffee, adding milk, and
carried it out to Josie in the living room. Kneeling
by the couch, he lightly ran his hand across her head
and waved the coffee before her face.
She smiled, reaching for the cup.
“Did you sleep well?” he asked.
She sipped the coffee, turning her head away.
He lit a cigarette.
Josie sat up, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t help it, I’m a
He brushed her hand away. “Did you have trouble
sleeping with him?”
She stood up before him, her shirt barely coming
down to her waist.
“He didn’t snore.”
Before Jake could say a word, she kissed him,
then headed off to the bathroom.
He heard the water running in the shower as he
sat on the couch. She was with him, maybe not completely, but time would resolve matters
one way or the other, and beginning the night in bed
with one you cared about was better than many days of
waking alone knowing that there had never been anyone