She toyed with the skin of her chicken. In the corner of her vision, a tourist dropped a plate of mealy iceberg lettuce and began pretending she'd been bumped by the oblivious summer hire. She hated it when he told her how sh(more)e felt.
"It's not that it bothers me. It's just that I wish you weren't."
"So it does bother you--"
"No," she said. "It doesn't. You wouldn't be who you are if you were younger, I just...the fact that you're older doesn't bother me, the fact that there's a gap does."
For a moment, he was lost in the middle distance between her and the little old ladies fussing over each other or the waiter or who even cared what. He caught himself, shuddering, and ran to the shelter of his iced tea. He was old enough to be her father, just barely. If he'd made some bad decisions in 10th grade, she could call him Dad.
This wasn't what she'd envisioned, at all. In her mind it was all cigarette smoke, martinis and stockings, the glamour of an older man, an experienced lover. Instead it was retirees and piped-in adult contemporary and Mr. Pibb. Salad bars, not cocktail bars.
"It's only for a few more days. We can go home and pretend we never--"
"I don't want to pretend we didn't. I want to know how to make it what I wanted it to be."
"We try again?" he asked. There was too much happening in his timeless, clear eyes.
"Another time. More honesty, less speed. A different hotel."
He returned to his iced tea, this time with a nervous chuckle. The hapless summer hire coughed as he swept fallen iceberg into a butler.(less)
To the Bhagwan, the citizens of The Dalles were all just rednecks. The salad bars were probably past their prime in the first place; lettuce going brown at the edges, a bit of a crust developing on the potato salad container, a sad slice of cucumber limply edging the(more) dish. What was a little salmonella? Who would notice?
The Dalles was the county seat, and the empire of Antelope was just not big enough for him. The Share a Home program was a stunning idea; bringing in the homeless by the thousands to vote in elections the Bhagwan way was a stroke of genius. The Dalles County government just didn’t see it that way, and Oregon changed laws that affect voter registration to this day. Don’t forget to file that change of address long before the election, or you’ll be sitting out on a chance to vote against Bush.
Since that little plan didn't work out, he sat and pondered his salad dressing thoughtfully.
“Ma, those little so and so’s just will not give us the permits we want. Let’s ask for spiritual guidance, and by the way, pass the bacteria please, there’s a dear”.
“Bhagwan, baby, you got it”.
They say life is stranger than fiction, and this is true, especially if you live in The Dalles.