It’s Short Story Thursday! Enjoy! Jordan’s Choice
Jordan Riesling had just finished work but wasn’t tired. Her shifts had been whittled down to four day weeks, five hours per day, and that’s not enough work to tire out a 26 year old. That left her with only one thing to do at 3:30 in the afternoon. The Get-Go was crowded with workers from the Perry Candle Company which employed over three-fourths of the population of Pittney Pennsylvania, including Jordan; just not Jordan’s close friends. All Jordan could think to do was to pick out a cheap beer and go home to watch TV. She grabbed a six of Pabst and took a place in line. Old man Ritter was buying his daily lotto ticket at the counter. He was well past 75 years old and Jordan knew he had spent most of his life hoping to win. She wondered why he didn’t find another way to spend his hard earned money. Shirley Finney was gathering a cart full of disposable diapers and wet naps for her three babies. Her husband had been a stay-at-home dad since the iron mill closed five years ago. Now it was up to Shirley to support them on her small income.
Rob Thompson, past class president from their senior year at Fillmore High, was browsing the men’s magazines in the corner of the store. Right after, he would surely head to Hudson’s Bar across the city limits to a “wet” town, as he had every day since he was voted Most Likely to Succeed. He bragged about the different girls he had nightly, but the truth was he never brought anyone home.
Jordan’s attention was drawn to a couple of strangers in the snack isle who stood out like two burning candles in a dim room. The taller of the two, wearing aviator sunglasses low on his nose, was reading aloud from a package of chips.
“Kettle chips have nine grams of fat and 180 milligrams of sodium compared to the Lay’s which have ten grams of fat and 170 milligrams of sodium.” His voice low, but each word enunciated with clear diction.
The other man wearing, a tattered Giants ball cap spoke up. “You make too much of that crap. Neither one of them are good for you. Just grab a bag and let’s get going.”
Aviator’s friend didn’t appear as polished. His baggie jeans sat low on his hips revealing the band on his Geoffrey Beene underwear. A tight washed out tee hugged his ripped muscular arms and chest. His square jaw line carried a couple days black growth which gave him a scruffy, but somewhat appealing look.
Jordan watched as they made their way to the checkout line. Aviator spoke directly to Ballcap. “Did you know that the potato chip originated in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1853 by restaurant owner George Crum? Mr. Crum had a chronic dissatisfied customer that complained about the restaurant French fries being too thick. Mr. Crum sliced his potatoes real thin and deep fried them to a crisp chip just to piss off his customer. Mr. Grumpy customer liked the chips and the word spread through town until everyone was asking for them”
“Fascinating story,” Ballcap remarked sarcastically.
“Okay, I’ll change the subject. Did you catch the game last night?”
Ballcap didn’t answer. He was eyeballing a woman bent over looking at the magazines on the bottom row at the counter. The smile on his face gave away his thoughts.
Aviator punched Ballcap on the shoulder. “Hey. I asked if you saw the game.”
“Man, you are persistent.”
“Just awaiting an answer.”
“I didn’t answer on purpose. If I tell you I didn’t see it, you’re gonna give me a blow-by-blow and I don’t really care. If I tell you I did, you’re going to want to go over the highlights and I really just don’t give a crap.”
“You wear their hat.”
“Your Giants’ hat.”
“Just a hat.”
“Next,” the clerk called out. The voice startled Jordan, but she quickly moved forward to pay for the beer.
She accidentally brushed against Ballcap, trying to squeeze past the line on her way to the exit. Once in her car, she decided to wait for the guys to come out of the store. Their black BMV sat at the pumps. Aviator flipped the keys to Ballcap and they took a right off the lot. Jordan’s house was to the left, but she turned right and followed. Two miles short of city limits they pulled into the state park. Jordan hesitated to do the same, fearful they might spot her following. Curiosity got the best of her.
The park road was wooded and winding. The trees ablaze with fall color. They pulled into the parking lot of what was known as Crooked Creek Trail. Jordan knew it well from her high school days. She and her friends spent many week-end nights hanging out after park hours. The police never patrolled the park, or if they knew the kids were there they didn’t bother them.
Only two other cars were in the lot and Jordan parked far in the corner. The guys got out of their car and headed on the trail that led to the river. Jordan grabbed the beer and took a short cut through the trees. If she got there first it wouldn’t look like she was following them.
A couple minutes after she arrived the guys came strolling out from the trail, Aviator leading the way. Jordan tried to look nonchalant and gazed across the river. Aviator wasn’t shy and called out to her.
“Hello. Beautiful day”
“Yes,” she answered. She wondered what they thought of her, standing along the river, drinking a beer and holding onto the plastic ring with the rest of the six dangling from it.
Ballcap picked up some small rocks and through them one by one into the moving water. He didn’t acknowledge her.
“I didn’t think alcohol was allowed in the parks,” Aviator was trying to be funny. Ballcap pulled a flask from his pocket and took a swig.
“I’ve lived here all my life and drink in this park a lot.” The words left her mouth before she had a chance to think about it. That sounded so lame. She tried to cover quickly. “Want one?”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
Aviator pulled one loose from its plastic holder and offered it to Ballcap. He took it without a word. Aviator took another for himself.
“I’m Frank and my friend is Dodger.”
“Jordan.” She offered her hand. That felt lame as well, considering the circumstances, but he took it. “You’re not from here.”
“It’s that obvious?”
“No, it’s just that I know almost everyone that is from here. Small town and all. Is Dodger your first name?”
He nodded. “My old man was a fan.” He popped the beer tab and took a drink.
“What do you do here for fun?”
Jordan laughed. “You’re pretty much looking at it. You all on vacation?”
“We took some time off to travel.” The sun ducked behind a cloud and Frank put his aviators in the pocket of this long winter-white overcoat.
Jordan had noted how sharply dressed he was for travelling, especially compared to his friend. Underneath his woolen coat he wore black dress pants with black wing tip shoes and a collared purple dress shirt with a pinstriped vest.
“You from New York?”
“How could you tell,” Frank looked over at Dodger and laughed.
“I mean, I guessed because his father is a Dodger fan and he’s wearing a Knick’s hat.”
“You are right.” Frank commended. “The City can get loud at times and we need a break.”
“You did the right thing then.” Jordan smirked.
Frank gave a questioning look.
“Pittney is just the opposite of loud.” Jordan laughed.
They finished the six pack, Jordan and Frank doing most of the talking. Dodger disappeared into the woods once during that time, maybe to use the facilities. The day grew into night.
“You’re telling me the entire county and Pittney is dry? No bars, and you can only purchase beer and liquor from a state store?”
Dodger spoke up. “You bought the Pabst at the convenient store.”
“I did, but that’s on the reservation and the owner pays somebody to sell it there. Everyone local knows it and they just let it go because we can get it when we need it. The state store has lousy hours.
“This is America and you should be able to get what you want, when you want it.”
“Dodger, we are not in New York City. It’s different here.”
“It’s still America.” Dodger took the last drink from his flask. “How far we have to go to get more?”
“About twenty miles, but it closed two hours ago.”
“Sucks.” Dodger said.
“It does, but people around here know that and buy accordingly.”
“You have any alcohol at home?”
Jordan thought for a minute. She didn’t and besides that she was living with her parents again. She was forced to move back when the company cut her hours.
“I’m not ready to call it a night yet.” Dodger tapped Frank on the shoulder. Let’s go have a look at that liquor store.”
Dodger withdrew the car keys from his pocket and tossed them to Jordan. “You drive. You know the way.”