Welcome to Great Falls – A Serial Novel – Part 11

October 26, 2014, Sunday

The customers started filing into McNally’s a little after nine o’clock to get their favorite seats. Hector Lopez thought it would be a slow Sunday because the 49ers had a bye week, but he didn’t account for the drunkards, gamblers and early Raiders fan, even though the team was winless for the season and were actually playing an afternoon game. As such, he made only two-thirds of what he needed for the all you can eat breakfast special, which was nothing special. Just scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns. Coffee was extra.

George Franklin took a look at the stamped and turned to Brandon. “You want to help Hector peel potatoes or do you want to work the bar?”

“I’ll do the bar, but we can switch whenever you get tired,” Brandon said.

“Sounds like a plan. Holler if you get slammed.”

An hour after opening, almost all the tables were taken and there weren’t but a few seats available at the bar. Luckily, Amy McCoy showed up to check on things halfway through the rush and decided to stay and lend a hand. You would be hard-pressed to find a woman move so fast in a sundress and heels. All the men’s eyes followed her bouncing red hair as she weaved through the tables.

“Must not be your first rodeo,” Amy said to Brandon when she went for another carafe of coffee and noticed everyone at the bar had been served.

“Just trying to keep up with you.”

Lizzie Fair and Kristen Ferguson entered and took the two remaining seats at the bar. It was their third bar of the morning.

“Brother, is it true? Is there really an all you can eat breakfast?” Lizzie asked while smiling with glassy eyes.

“Only if you have coffee and water with it,” Brandon said.

“I’m kidding. I’ve had one beer, I swear. Had to save this tall drink of water from a dive down the street. Have you met Kristen?”

Kristen widened her eyes and shook her head with a smile.

“Hi Kristen. I’m Brother Brandon.” He shook her hand. “Breakfast?”

“Two plates with coffee and screwdrivers,” Kristen said.

“Don’t judge me!” Lizzie said as she dramatically dropped her head on the bar.

Brandon watched the two women scarf down two servings each and several cups of coffee. Lizzie asked about his writing, and Brandon sent a rough draft of a short story to her phone.

Lizzie opened the file and pretended to read out loud. “It was a dark and stormy night.”

“The rain fell in torrents,” Brandon added.

“Go away. Let me read this in peace.”

Outside smoking cigarettes, Kao asked Kristen how she knew Lizzie.

“Sometimes we party with some mutual friends.”

“My sister has friends?”

“Your sister’s pretty awesome. Didn’t know you were related. Also didn’t know you started working here.”

Neither of the women had been to sleep. Kristen worked the previous night and didn’t get out of her bar until almost four in the morning, and Lizzie’s nursing shift didn’t end until six, when she went home for a quick shower. Less than half an hour later, they walked into their first bar to meet up with friends.

Back inside, Lizzie yawned as she finished off her screwdriver. “I liked it, but I’m in no shape to give you any criticism right now.”

After a few minutes of playful arguing and agreeing to take a shot, Brandon finally convinced his sister and Kristen to take a nap in his apartment.

***

Rubia’s had a sparse Sunday afternoon crowd. Most of the people were waiting to go see a movie or had just gotten out of one.

Jenny was frustrated with her physics homework and even more frustrated because Saan wasn’t studying. Instead, he played with the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle and drank a hazelnut café mocha spiked with Jack Daniel’s from his flask. She kept thinking of the scene from Good Will Hunting, where Skylar refused help from Will with her organic chemistry homework, except Jenny was upset Brandon only offered help when she asked.

“How long did it take you to do this assignment?”

“An hour and a half to read the chapter and half an hour or so for the questions.”

She turned her attention back to her assignment, and he continued with his puzzle. She wished he was more talkative, but he didn’t want to be a distraction.

“So why does everyone call you a man whore?” Jenny asked.

“It’s probably because I’ve slept with a few girls. Why else?”

“Girls at school say you have VD.”

Saan laughed. “I can assure you I do not. But who said that?”

“I don’t remember, you little slut.”

“I just let them use my body so I can be popular. And after they realize how boring I am, they leave anyway.”

“Oh, my poor little Homecoming King.”

“Slept my way to the top.”

“Hey, this is kind of a serious question. Is it true you’re named after your uncle?”

“I suppose so,” he said. “I mean, Saan is a pretty common name for Mien people. Usually it’s for the third son, but my father did say they named me after a great uncle of mine. Some businessman who died a year or so before I was born.”

“That’s kind of cool.”

“Not for my great uncle.” Saan smiled. “Wait, are you going around asking questions about me?”

Jenny laughed. “Right. No, I was just talking to my mom and dad about how they knew your parents, and it came up.”

Saan nodded.

“By the way, I can smell your whiskey from over here,” Jenny whispered.

“I sure hope so. What’s an eight-letter word for comeuppance? Second letter ‘o’, last letter ‘l’?”

***

The loft was unlocked, and Brandon worried he had been robbed until the TV’s sound provided relief. Kristen sat up from the loveseat and put her two together to signal that Lizzie was still sleeping. Lizzie’s snoring carried to the hallway.

“I’m going to make dinner,” Brandon said. “Please stay.”

Brandon cleaned red potatoes in the kitchen while Kristen scanned the bookshelves.

“By the way, your story was very good,” Kristen said. “The time travel was very logical.”

“Thanks, it was just an idea. I don’t really write science fiction.”

“I liked the way narrator’s emotional capacity.”

“How did you feel about the ending?”

She looked over and tried to find the right words before saying, “It worked.”

Brandon dried and quartered the potatoes.

“Can I borrow this?” Kristen held up The Barbarians are Coming.

“Sure,” Brandon said. He walked over to her and took out his phone. “I hope you don’t mind, but I take pictures of each person with the item they’re borrowing.”

Kristen laughed. “That’s a pretty good idea.”

She put the book next to her face and grinned widely.

“I like what you did with the place.”

“Thanks, but the credit goes to Vanessa.”

“Vanessa huh?”

“Hah, no nothing like that. She works at the gym. Grilled chicken and asparagus okay with you?”

Kristen nodded.

***

The Giants fans in the Cantina got louder with each batter Madison Bumgarner retired, but Brandon was more impressed by Josh Walters’ ability to keep up with customers and their never-ending order of micheladas. Josh was even taking orders for the kitchen and delivering the meals himself. The guy moved non-stop with a smile on his face.

After Bumgarner finished his four-hit masterpiece, Dennis and Vanessa went outside to smoke, while Brandon sat at the bar with Elaine. After a few minutes of small talk, Elaine laughed and said, “Go outside and smoke.”

“Fine, just throw me out!”

Vanessa was alone. Dennis left after his ex-fiancée showed up with the guy who made the winning bid on the house Dennis sold, which he had planned on buying when they were still engaged.

“Just let him be,” Vanessa said. “He’ll get over it. Besides, there’s no telling where he’s going.”

Brandon called Dennis but it went straight to voicemail.

“It’s happened before,” she said. “He always becomes a wreck when he sees her.”

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