No one is ready to give up on fall, or even summer. How this can be, in spite of it being mid-October, is beyond Blondi. As if we have some choice!
The cold, wet, snowy weather has been everyone’s first topic of conversation for the past month; the opener, the smoother of the way, the if-I-hear-this-one-more-time-I’ll-kill-myself provoker for anyone who works with the public. Blondi mm-hm’s and carries on back to the kitchen with her hands full of plates and cups and cutlery. Rueben, though, is getting cranky. It’s not like Rueben, who is always so even-tempered at work, so good-natured.
Oh well, she tells herself. Even the best of us aren’t always at their best. He hasn’t taken anyone’s head off or purposely spilled a hot drink on someone’s lap. Maybe it’s the coming of winter; lots of people react badly to the thought of the months ahead. If this is the case, it’s the first time she’s seen it in Rueben.
“I bought a decent bottle of wine for a change,” she says at the end of the day, as he’s locking the front door behind the last customer. “Stay for a drink?”
She knows she shouldn’t and he probably shouldn’t either; he’s got a wife waiting for him to get home, and Blondi has studiously avoided creating any kind of intimacy with him. They work well together but she makes sure they are never alone, never without the possibility that someone will join them any moment; she has her weaknesses, and opportunity is one she recognizes as particularly dangerous. However, she needs to find out if it’s something at work that’s bothering him and, while they won’t be interrupted, he won’t stay long either. This is as good a time as any.
“There go my nice white teeth,” she pretends to complain, sipping at the crimson liquid swishing around in her glass.
“Worth it,” he replies, lifting his own to his lips and taking a good long swallow. “We should do this more often.”
“For sure,” she says, not meaning it.
There’s no use beating around the bush here; he knows something’s up. “So, Rueben. Is there anything we need to talk about?”
He looks surprised, which surprises her. Surely he didn’t assume she wouldn’t notice?
“No. Why? Everything’s fine. I just — I don’t know — find myself tired of things. Doesn’t that happen to you?”
“Pfft. You know it does. I’m bored as shit some days. Clearly,” she says, “we need a murder or armed robbery to liven things up.”
He snorts. “I hate to say it, but that might not be so terrible. I’m kidding, but … don’t you ever find yourself just … disgusted with it all?”
“You mean people? Or the work we do? Or what?”
“Oh … people, I guess. I don’t know. Why? Have I messed up?”
“No no. You just don’t seem yourself, that’s all, and I want to make sure the air’s clear here. Is there anything I can do to make a difference?”
He leans over the table between them and grabs the wine bottle.
“You can spring for one more glass of wine.”