Last Summer: Back to Work

Carl picked JJ up for the night bake.  “She did it again,” Carl said.  “I go to bed early, get some pretty good sleep.  It’s her day off.  I wake up at 11:00, she’s already gone to the beach with her friend.  I mean, what the hell?  No note, no nothing.”

“Did you tell her you wanted to do something?”

“I thought I did.  I mean, it’s obvious.  We live together.  When we have time off we should do stuff together.”  Carl pulled into the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru.  Several cars in line, every night.  Night nurses, night construction workers, night bakers.  America really does run on Dunkin.  “How did you sleep?”

“I didn’t.”  The quality of sleep was always a topic for night bakers.  “I was too amped.”

“What about?”

“Take a guess.”

Carl stared at JJ.  “Not…No fuckin way.  Don’t mess with me, JJ!”  JJ tried to keep a poker face but the look on Carl’s face forced him to smile.  The car behind tooted gently to let them know the line moved.  Carl looked in the mirror.  “Eat me,” he said and moved up.

“It really happened.”

“No!”

“Yes.”  JJ took out an envelope and shook the ticket out to show Carl.  It was folded in a printout of the winning numbers from the lottery website.

“Holy shit,” Carl whispered as he examined the evidence.  Then, “Why didn’t you call me?  If I hadn’t reminded you’d have thrown the ticket away or smoked it or something.”

“I didn’t want to wake you.  And I knew I’d see you tonight.  And I don’t smoke anything anymore.”

“You kept this to yourself all day?”

“Well,”  JJ said and looked away.  “I told Lila.”

Carl hit the steering wheel with both hands.  “Moron!”  He eased up to the order board.  “Two large coffees, one black and one light and sweet.”

Carl said, “How much?”

“Six point seven million.”

They moved up to the window, paid and got their coffees.  When they pulled onto the street Carl said, “You know, that’s really not that much money.  For you.”

“That’s what Lila said.”

They pulled behind the bagel store and JJ looked across the parking lot at the skate park.  Less than 24 hours before he watched those skaters and felt chained and empty.  Now he felt…unmoored? Unhinged?  Still empty?  He located the familiar oozing sadness in the center of his chest, an anxiety or fear about what was coming, a dull dread that was always with him.

“Day off tomorrow,” JJ said.  “Me and you, we should go have some fun.”

“Day off tomorrow?  Why do you even still work here?  Why are you here tonight?”

“It seemed the best thing.  You know, carry on.  See what develops.  Besides, what would you do without me?”

They sat in the car looking at the kids in the skate park.  In the dusk the skaters were rolling silhouettes of dangling arms and bent knees, of sudden lunges and launchings, and all types of landings from the flailing to the flawless.  “One day soon, I will come to you for a favor,” Carl said.

“Are you supposed to be the Godfather or something?”

“No,” Carl said.  “Just a baker with an ingrate girlfriend.  Let’s go to work.”  And they went inside to fire the oven, fill the kettle, and bake 194 dozen bagels.

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