Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cafeteria Buddies

Let’s go for a short story this  week. Hope this gives you some reading pleasure.

*****
CAFETERIA BUDDIES

Handsome face, loopy grin, great build.
That was my reaction when I first laid eyes on Billy Watts. As a new transfer to the high school, I didn’t know anyone, and the hunky guy sitting all alone at a table in the corner of the bustling cafeteria immediately drew my eye. He was likely waiting for a bunch of buddies who hadn’t showed up yet. Nonetheless, I walked over and sat down. He looked up and smiled. Wow! Green eyes like cut emeralds.
“Hi.” I extended a hand. “I’m Sally Bealls.”
“Hello,” he rumbled in a baritone. “I’m Billy. Billy Watts.”
I faltered as he grasped my small hand in a broad, firm one. Something about the way he spoke. Very deliberate. Was that why he was sitting alone? Because he was… slow? Too late now. I’d chosen a flowerbed and was stuck in it. “I’m new. We just moved down from Albuquerque.”
“Big city girl, huh?”
I laughed at the thought of Albuquerque as a big city, but I guess it was compared to New Mexico’s small towns. And this berg where we’d ended up when my father was transferred by the power and light company was definitely a small town. Now that I had to create my own space in a brand new environment what did I do? Sat down with the slow guy on campus. Too bad, because he was a real looker.
Making the best of the situation, I chattered as I worked on my lunch. Billy answered questions with carefully enunciated words. His speech might come at the speed of a racing turtle, but the answers were lucid. He never initiated speech but responded patiently.
On Monday, I sat at a table with a girl from my homeroom who seemed friendly. I’d no sooner squared my tray on the Formica top than she elbowed me.
“Not eating with Low Watts today?”
“Why do you call him that?”
“Duh. He’s a dim bulb, or didn’t you pick up on that? Should we call you Dotty Sally?”
I sniffed and speared a baby carrot with a fork. “Can if you want, but I’m warning you. I’m gonna raise the grading curve in English.” While we ate and joked and talked about boys, my eyes wandered back to that lonely table in the corner.
The next day, I walked past the girls and sat down directly opposite Billy Watts. He glanced up, smiled, and then frowned in concentration.
“Hello, I’m Billy Watts. You’re that girl from the big city.”
“That’s right. I’m Sally.”
That big loopy grin came back, making me shiver. “You’re pretty, Sally.”
“Why thank you, sir. You’re quite handsome yourself.”
Billy Watts blushed like a three-way bulb switched from low to high.


I spent a lot of time with Billy after that, not only at the cafeteria but also hanging out after school when he didn’t have to rush off to  help his father carpenter or to finish something he was working on in the wood shop at school.
The first present he gave me was a small wooden ladybug pin he’d fashioned and painted. I wore it with pride. The next was a spider, but he saw my frown before I complimented him on his—unfortunately—realistic work and next gifted me with  a small bluebird pin. It was so absolutely perfect it caused my heart to stutter.
Charles Edward Street, who dubbed himself Ched, stopped at our table one day and looked down his long—but handsome—nose at me. “If you can separate yourself from this dim bulb long enough, I’ll take you out for a good time. After I finish quarterbacking the team in tonight’s game, that is.”
I looked him up and down. Twice, actually, because he was worth a second look. “Thanks, but Billy and I have something planned.”
Ched’s jaw dropped. “This guy? Why are you wasting your time on him?”
I stared right into his disconcertingly attractive brown eyes and stroked Billy’s latest gift pinned to my sweater. “Rather spend time with someone who can create beautiful things like this than one who runs around worshiping an odd-shaped ball and thinks that makes him a hot shot.”
Of course, that finished me with the smart set at Mountain View High.


I was brushing Jeanette’s hair when I heard a car door slam. The child ran right out from under the brush shouting “Daddy! Daddy’s home!” I walked to the window to watch Jeanette and her older brother William greet their father.
Bill welcomed them with his eternal beaming smile and wrapped them in his arms. I’d quit calling him Billy years ago. It hadn’t taken me long to figure out that my cafeteria buddy suffered from a mild form of autism—probably with a dose of the Savant Syndrome thrown in. He could create anything with his hands, but he didn’t fare well in the rest of the school system. He wasn’t dumb. In fact, he possessed a keen intelligence. It just didn’t show well. For example, he drove a car like a pro, but it had taken weeks of working with him before he was able to pass the written test.
We lived in the big city now—Albuquerque. He still thought of it that way, even though it’s simply an overgrown town. He worked as a carpenter for a local contractor, and while he would never be a supervisor, all the foremen wanted him on their crew.
Every day after his shift at the company, he came home and fashioned the most intricate little creatures from exotic woods and paint that anyone had ever seen. They flew straight out the door as freebies until I took control. Other than to family, he sold them now. Or rather I did. Bill didn’t realize he made as much from his “hobby” as he did working for a wage. He’s kind, amiable, and an altogether fitting father, neighbor, and husband. Me? I’m perfectly happy being his wife and soulmate. He’s more than a handsome face, loopy grin, and great build… much more.


*****
Keep on reading, guys, and let me know what you think at dontravis21@gmail.com.


New Posts published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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