Okay guys I know you wanted more of my other little ditty, but this story just wandered across my mind the other day, so I thought I'd present it to you. I think it's just going to be a one shot, sorry, but you never know maybe it thre thousand years something will come of it. Until then, don't keep your hopes up for more of this...I've gotaa work on my other story anyway...
MASH isn't mine...:-(
"What'll it be?" the young woman asked. It'd been a long day and the checkered, dirty table clothes were beginning to burn into her retinas. She was craving a cup of chaii tea, warm bed socks and the ripped arm chair sitting next to the street-side window of her apartment. Scratching at her aching head, she cursed the inventor of bobby pins and waited impatiently for the dark-haired man to take his order.
"Well gorgeous...Frances," he glanced down at her name tag
"What would you suggest?" he asked a lecherous glint in his eyes.
Frances new exactly what she wanted to suggest, but even with the little pay she earned hourly, she didn't feel like being fired today. Swallowing back her gutter-mouthed answer, she forced herself to smile.
"Well, the burger's always a good choice" she gestured to a misleading picture of a burger and fries. Everything about this plastic-fantastic diner was misleading, beginning with the shop front; clean and brightly coloured, it contrasted greatly with the stark white light that bounced off the stained walls and the shabby-chic decorum. Frances would rather paint the walls fuchsia with puke-green polka dots than have to keep staring at the water marks on the roof.
"Than I'll take your word for it, doll face. One burger and fries combo and a coffee thanks" the man folded his menu shut and handed it back to her. He would've been quite handsome if it wasn't for the sleazy attitude, Frances was convinced that in his time he was probably quite the looker. Now though, dark circles rimmed his eyes and more than a few gray hairs were spreading from his temples. The crows feet framing his eyes hinted at better times and the frown lines starting to embed themselves around his lips proved that he'd faced his share of obstacles recently. Maybe if he stopped acting like it was the fifties and pulled himself forward to the seventies, he'd be a little less out of place.
"That all sir?" she asked, feeling the pull of her armchair and a good book even more as a steady drizzle began to fall outside the smeared window.
"Well, actually..." he smiled devilishly, thankfully her boss called out her name at just that moment. Frances had dealt with her fair share of lecherous middle-age men; they weren't all that bad in this part of town, a few lewd suggestions and thousands of sexual innuendos but nothing more. She just wasn't in the mood to deal with today; something told her cutting out a customer's tongue during her shift just wouldn't win her points with her boss.
"Coming Paul!" she called and nodded at her customer curtly, high-tailing for the dilapidated kitchen. In all seriousness she had no idea why anyone in their right mind would eat here, she sure as hell didn't. Paul, her boss, stood in a greasy wife-beater, a stained apron tied around his large girth and a hair net placed haphazardly on his thin hair. His gut hung low and his arms were so large they looked more like four than two, this topped with piggish eyes combined to something that reminded her of a Star Wars character.
"Frances, I've gotta leave early today, I was wondering if you could lock up" he growled, if this man smoked any more cigarettes he'd begin to actually sound like a Star Wars character; she promised herself to commend him on being consistent. Sighing she nodded her consent, just hoping her persistent customer would be gone by then. Turning on her heel, she remembered to call out the order for the grease-ball hamburger and mud-like coffee. Taking a seat at the counter she waited for the order to be cooked and thanked god that there were no more customers.
"Why so glum?" the man took a seat next to her, pulling a salt shaker into his hands and playing with it idly. Just great, now she was going to have to annoy the customer by explaining to him the benefits of personal space; that or tell how she had just contracted an instantaneous case of explosive diarrhea; very contagious. If he laid a hand on her, the night's enjoyment would lessen some.
"With this cafe's interior design, wouldn't you be glum too?" she asked, her voice monotonous. The customer smiled slightly in response and nodded a little.
"Yeah, I'm not so sure it could be described as...anything other than gloomy" he agreed.
"Maybe, depressing?" she suggested, what could it hurt talking to this guy, she could always protect herself with one of the blunt kitchen knives if the occasion called for it, that was if the food didn't take it's toll on the guy first.
"May-be" he nodded. They sat in silence a moment, the sound of sizzling hamburgers only adding to the ambiance. The rain was now pounding steadily on the glass of the window, rivulets reflecting on the walls of the diner. Glancing at the clock above the counter, the words EATIN' TIME printed across the middle, Frances wondered if she'd been here so long that time had actually stopped. If she looked at the clock long enough, maybe the second and would begin to tick backwards... She jumped when Paul rang the bell on the counter, pulling her from her melancholy reverie.
"Oi! Dreaming beauty, order's up!" he called, waving a swollen hand before her eyes. Jumping up, she scooted around the counter, shook some salt over the slick chips and slid it down the long ledge until it stopped directly in front of her talkative customer.
"Well, I'm outta here. You be okay on your own sweetie?" Paul asked, leaning out of the kitchen window.
"Yeah, yeah" she nodded, wishing he wouldn't announce her state of loneliness to the customer, she was sure that if she handed the guy the keys now and lay down on the floor, and he wouldn't have been at a better advantage. Smiling tightly at her thick-headed boss, she bid him goodbye and turned back to the silver-tongued fifties-slicker.
"So, what is a guy like you doing in this delightful part of town?" she asked, genuinely interested. Slipping off her apron, she started to wipe down the bench.
"I have my reasons" he answered evasively.
"Let me guess; if you told me, you'd have to kill me? Not very original you know" she added seriously. The customer laughed.
"Well, Frances, we can't all live up to your adventurous expectations" he pointed out, popping a tomato sauce drenched chip into his mouth.
"No, we can't" she agreed.
"Anyway, what is your name partner? You've had the pleasure of learning mine" she reasoned.
"Yeah, you" she smiled, moving from the bench to the tables, collecting various cups and saucers left behind by previous customers.
"My name's Benjamin Franklin Pierce" he answered,
"I'm a thoracic surgeon, I'm fifty-one years old, enjoy long walks on the beach and pillow talk" he added jokingly.
"Don't we all?" she sighed. Throwing the dirty cloth over her shoulder, it landed directly in the bin, hitting it with a soft thwack.
"Good shot" he nodded, pointing at the bin with a food laden fork.
"Takes years of practice" she answered semi-seriously.
"So, seriously. What brings you to nowheresville USA?" she prodded.
"To tell you the truth, I'm looking or someone" he answered after a beat of silence.
"Anyone in particular or just someone - more coffee?" she held up the almost empty pot.
"Yeah, fill 'er up" he offered her his cup.
"Someone in particular, funnily enough. She's about five foot six, bottle blonde; seriously bottle, if she used much more bleach I'm sure her hair would fall out, icy blue eyes and a motor mouth. Know her by perchance?"
"You just described half my neighbourhood" she shrugged.
"Just as well, I'm not so sure I'm ready to see her...I'm not so sure she's ready to see me..." he shook his head, the frown lines deepening around his lips. Frances held back the urge to laugh cynically. This man had no idea how many men she'd seen just like him, unlucky in love, searching for that one woman they'd let slip away. They were all the same, local lotharios in their time; all regretted their past ways when they succeeded in breaking the heart of their one true love, driving her away for good.
"Ah, how long has it been since you last saw her?" she asked, opting for the sympathetic ear approach.
"Eighteen years, give or take a few months" he answered sullenly.
"And she was the one who got away?" she asked.
"Oh no, never. She was the one who floated in and out of my life for about two years, than disappeared completely" he explained.
"Ah, don't hear this one very often" she admitted.
"No, I wouldn't say so. She liked to do that, act out of the ordinary; God forbid she just act like everyone else" he cursed.
"So, what happened? Why'd the beautiful princess leave her prince charming?" Frances asked, figuring that the only reason this guy had chosen to eat at this diner was because he had the intent of pouring his heart out to a stranger. Who cared, they'd never see each other again.
"That's just the problem, I have no idea. I've been asking myself the same question for about seventeen years and eleven months. It was perfect, we were finally getting along - we ha a slight tendency to butt heads, constantly, both stubborn as mules - and than out of the blue, she up and leaves. No warning, no note...nothing" his shoulders shook slightly and Frances pushed the serviette dispenser in his direction. Benjamin pushed it away with a careless action and it crashed to the floor, paper towels flying everywhere. He jumped up to help, but Frances waved him off.
"Go on, why'd you decide that today of all days, you'd come looking for her?"
"Well, I didn't actually. I had to call around first, just to find out where she was staying these days. No one knew, not even the Colonel - we met in the army you know, she was head nurse, I was head surgeon - it took a lot of detective work" he smiled at her as she stood up, placing the newly fixed dispenser beside his plate.
"The army, huh?" Frances asked, something about this story was becoming unnervingly familiar.
"Yeah, we didn't manage to actually to form a functioning relationship there - Korea by the way - no, we weren't emotionally mature enough at that point. It was months later, we met up in my home town by chance and...well, our common passionate nature took over from there" he smiled, a blush rising in his cheeks. Frances grinned at that, she could imagine this guy courting the elusive woman; flowers, chocolates, late nights and big fights. Ha! It even rhymed, he was the archetypal lover.
"Anyway, despite our thousands of problems, her being a previous major and myself being a misplaced civilian during the war and her father's obvious disdain for my lack of military character, we actually managed to pull ourselves together and form a somewhat functional relationship, for us anyway" he shrugged and Frances nodded accordingly.
"So, as I said, one night she just left...and that was that. After a lot of hard work, endless phone calls, I finally pulled up a lead. So, I'm here, in the hopes of meeting up with my ever elusive princess" he sat back, looking proud. Frances gave him a small congratulatory clap and he bowed his head. They fell back into a comfortable silence as she made her way around the kitchen, making sure all of the appliances were turned off and that the stove wasn't cooking up all of the age-old oily stains. Turning off the lights to the kitchen and turning the sign on the glass door to 'CLOSED,' she took a seat next to her customer.
"So, how would you rate our fine culinary cuisine?" she asked with an inquisitive tone.
"You probably wouldn't believe me, but anything was better than the refried boot I used to get in the army" he laughed.
"Oh, I'd believe you" she answered cryptically.
"Well, thank you for the open ears darling...you'd be surprised, but I did appreciate it a lot" he stood, picking up a woolen coat and pulled a floppy hat over his messy salt and pepper hair. There was a definite twinkle in his eyes when he asked her if she needed a ride home. She had to decline though, sadly, her boyfriend was picking her up and he'd be very upset if she blew him off like that.
"Pity" Benjamin shrugged, but judging by his tale of woe, she was sure he wasn't all that devastated.
He held the door open for her as they exited and waited patiently as she switched off the lights and locked up.
"Well, it was nice talking to you" she said politely.
"Vice versa" he nudged her with his elbow and winked.
The long beep of a car horn interrupted them and Frances turned to see a blue Chevy parked at the curb.
"That's my ride" she sighed dramatically,
"Good nitrous my sweet prince" she bid him farewell, wiggling her fingers in a small wave. Benjamin blanched at her odd use of words; there was something painfully familiar about that phrase.
She opened the door to the car, bending her head in to greet the inhabitant and thank him for coming to pick her up. From the back seat of the car, a pair of icy-blue eyes examined the man on the sidewalk. They took in his piercing blue eyes (no pun intended of course) and lithe build. They analysed the button-like end of his nose and wondered if under that floppy hat was a mop of black hair...well, black and gray hair by now. Slowly opening the door, the back-seat passenger felt her heart jump to her throat. She could hear tom-toms in her ears and felt butterflies flitting around her stomach; she hated the fact she'd monetarily reverted back to her teenage girl ways. It took her three tries to get the words out and once they did, her voice sounded choked and shrill.
"Hawkeye?!" she cried. The man looked up from Frances and her 'boyfriend,' who were greeting each other rather enthusiastically. The knowing smile that had previously adorned his lips was wiped from his face in an instant and was replaced with a shocked expression.
"Margaret?" he whispered, his voice just as hoarse as hers.
"Mum?" Frances had stepped out of the car, not even realising her mother had been there in the first place.
"What are you doing here? Do you know this man?" she asked, looking between the frozen pair. It hit Hawkeye all at once, like an anvil that had just fallen from the sky, or maybe a jeep. Eighteen years, it had been eighteen years...well eighteen years and nine months.
"So this is why you left?" he managed to get those few words out. Margaret looked as if she'd been caught with her hand in the cookie jar, more than a little guilty. Swallowing back a bout of tears she shook her head.
"I'm sorry Hawkeye" she whispered.
"I'm so sorry."
Now press that little purple button, please do.