Age 17-19

Working at the restaurant was a relief and a challenge. I had less money to live on, but I was happy to be working legally. I was glad to be away from drunks, but I missed some of my regulars. In general, I felt okay, though. I considered it a wash and I quickly started making friends and enemies at my new job.

For starters, there was a gal who had worked in the restaurant for twenty years. She was in her fifties, a real company store type and a pain in the ass. She was a waitress and I was a hostess, so I was isolated from her to degree, but I watched as she dominated the other waitresses who were all under twenty-five years old. It was like they were in her Army now, and no one was ever good enough.

She was a simple animal, so wholly predictable. A creature of habit, she liked it the way she liked it, and if anyone dared put the salt in the wrong place, she would ream them without mercy for the rest of the shift. Around here we spit three times to the left, tap our feet and then we restock the sugar packets. It was like that. Turnover was high in the place, so she was constantly put out, trying to train yet another idiot young girl. She wanted it done her way and each girl was stupider than the next – just ask her.

The Assistant Manager was the pick of the crop. He had a dry, droll sense of humor, which is something I liked. Often times, he’d tell jokes about the Battle-Ax I just mentioned. He wasn’t really disrespectful. It’s just that with someone like her, you’d better find a way to poke fun, otherwise they’ll suck the life right out of you. She was a taut bear trap that would snap closed on somebody’s body part, on a daily basis. This made her fun to study, fair game and perfect fodder for jokes.

We had a new girl start work at least once a week. Inevitably, she would approach the Battle-Ax all bouncy and cheerful and full of sweetness. How these girls mistook her for Grandma, I’ll never know. The assistant manager would stand next to me on my little hostess podium, cupping his hand in front of his mouth like a microphone and call the whole scene like it was a sports event.

“Okay! We have an innocent approaching on the left. Will she do it? Will she come to her senses? No! It’s not looking good, folks! She’s headed right for the trap! Oh no! This is going to be ugly! You may want to avert your eyes. There’s still time. She can still turn back. Whoops! Looks like it’s too late. Battle-Ax has spotted her from the corner of her eye and she’s licking her lips. She appears to be readying herself to unleash upon the unsuspecting young girl. I’m afraid that’s it, folks. It’s all over, now. She’s walked right into the trap, having tragically mistaken it for a human being! So sad. Yet another young girl falls prey…”

He was discreet and kept his voice down, but I would roar laughing which caused the Battle-Ax to stare at us and seethe. Seems enjoying yourself on her shift was not on the menu. She’d glare at me, and the result was more jokes and…you get the idea. We would rate the red fury in her face on a scale of one to ten, and we’d try to get it up there.

After lunch rush, we’d hook up again. I’d tell him stories about underage bartending, and we’d laugh some more. How did you lie, and who did you lie to? How did you get caught, lying? I would cruelly wait until he was eating his soup and then crack a joke. My wicked goal was to make him laugh and spill soup on his tie. This happened enough that eventually I was forbidden to approach him until he’d finished his cup. I called him a wimp about that, which led to more teasing.

We enjoyed each other immensely. He was a bright spot in my life, someone I looked forward to seeing each day.

My Divine Roommate, Tammy

The apartment I rented when I left Vader was furnished, but the landlord explained furnished apartments brought “riff-raff”. Because of this, he’d decided he didn’t want to rent them that way anymore. He said this was my lucky day. I could rent the furniture for $75 a month or I could buy it all for $500, by making payments of $50 a month until it was paid off. This would be roughly at the end of a year’s lease, which is the only thing he offered. At that time the furniture would be mine to take with me when I moved and he would be through renting to riff-raff.

I took his deal and it made me sort of dizzy. It was an enormous step, because all I owned was some clothes from the thrift store. If I had furniture, was I more real? I thought so. I was obviously growing right up.

My apartment had two bedrooms, which advanced me in another way. The landlord suggested I rent the extra bedroom to another gal. He explained if I could deal with the riff-raff, they would in effect be buying the furniture for me.

I understood this and I would definitely have to deal with riff-raff, because I couldn’t afford the place otherwise. I was already supporting my mother, in part. This was a constant financial drain, so I was exceedingly poor. Not that I much cared about that, because believe me, I didn’t.

I chose one of the waitresses I worked with for a roommate. Tammy was twenty-two and a devout Lutheran. Not that I had any idea what that meant. I had no exposure to organized religion and was nearly completely ignorant on the subject. Okay. There was no “nearly” about it. I didn’t know anything about “Lutheran” or any other religion and I didn’t think this especially remarkable.

Tammy was a sharp contrast to the life I was living with Vader, just two weeks prior. She played piano in her church, which I took as major proof she was not riff-raff. For that matter, I thought this indicated double or even triple glory for her and I kind of hoped some of it would leak onto me. After two years of lying and what I’d been through with Vader, I figured I could use some help.

The closest thing I had to religion was the Thomas Paine quote that my grandfather, Henry, lived by, “The world is my country, and to do good, my religion”. Remember Henry? I stole his truck. Anyway, my religion made sense to me, but it was like wearing a homemade dress next to her store-bought version with a label; I projected all sorts of holy qualities onto her.

This is not to say I envied her, or wanted to do what she did. I never had those feelings. I just thought she was on the inside as far as God was concerned. I thought I had a superior being buying my furniture for me, and this was curious. It was slightly unbelievable to me. It was stimulating and even entertaining in a secret joke kind of way. Okay. Actually, I thought it was a hell of trick!

Tammy spent an inordinate amount of time in church, practicing piano and going to various meetings. Knowing nothing about her world, I figured she was a member of a special and exclusive club. I was curious and I quizzed her from time to time. “What’s church, anyway?” I’d ask.

She’d speak of the church with great reverence in hushed tones. I was fascinated and listened, wide-eyed, though I didn’t understand a word she said. I noted she never invited me to come to church with her, but that was okay, because I already knew I didn’t belong.

For one thing, there was the matter of her white pantyhose. She had at least thirty pairs of them, and I had none. She had two dozen dresses with frills and ties in the back and fancy shoes and ‘Little House on the Prairie” hair. I had gym shorts from Goodwill. She knew what went with what, and she left the apartment looking like an adult sized eight-year-old, off to play recital. I couldn’t see myself in the role. Mostly because of the purity factor, but also because of the cost involved in getting decked out like that. I just didn’t see how it would be possible for me, so I just stayed “as is” while I imagined she was a marvelous creature who held keys to a secret society.

Tammy sensed this and cultivated her image. She answered my questions about her religion in a vague manner, the gist being that it was all much bigger than me and hopelessly complicated. I had the impression the gulf between her and I was vast. We’d used dry ice in high-school dance production once, and I thought the Lutherans were like that. The inside of the church must fill up with fog now and then, so magic stuff could happen…stuff I could never understand.

I decided that if I started running that day, I couldn’t possibly catch her, so I just accepted this situation and we settled in as we were. We both went to work. Several evenings a week she went to church and several evenings a week I went on dates.

The Creep

With Vader out of the picture, the situation at home stabilized, but I had another problem at work. Crap! It was the General Manager at the restaurant. The Assistant Manager was a pal, but this other guy was bugging me. He was bothering me. He was a thirty-five year old blonde with Glen Campbell hair – and he was a creep.

I’d ride my bike to work, come in through the back door and try to slip by him, but I rarely made it. He always seemed to be available and armed with an off-color comment. What kind of comments? If I were looking down, or around, or frowning I was greeted with “No cock last night, Elsa? Come see me in my office. I can take care of that.” If I came in smiling he’d suggest that I must have gotten laid the night before and he’d inquire how I liked it. “Did you suck him? Do tell. Did he have a big dick?”

See? I couldn’t win.

I’d heard the term “sexual harassment” but it was a new idea and the validity of the concept was under great debate. It was only the most fervent feminists that really thought it was a problem.

It was most definitely a problem for me, but one that had to be tolerated, so this is what I did. And it was surprising to me in a way. It was ironic this would occur in this innocent environment. In a bar, it might be expected, but I was working lunch in a cafeteria, for chrissakes! I’d never had this sort of problem tending bar and because of this, as the comments grew more and more graphic and offensive, I had the impulse to bolt and go back to bartending. I imagined a bar as a safe haven of all things and before long, I was just marking time until I was legal age.

The frequency and intensity of The Creep’s comments increased. My self-esteem weakened and I began to project even more holiness onto Tammy. She was clean and pure. She was an ultra special vehicle for light. I was unraveling bit by bit, but I couldn’t really see this. Sexual harassment wasn’t a real thing. It was a nebulous sort of notion, so I was uncomfortable seemingly without cause, and not only that: I found myself straddling one hell of a divide. Again.

On one hand, I had this boss who was repulsive. On the other hand, there was Tammy. The raciest thing I ever saw her in was her modest waitress uniform hemmed at the knee, so this ought to tell you. Off work, it was high necks, long hems, skirts with two layers or a layer with an apron on top. She wore her white pantyhose, or the occasional pale pink pair and lots and lots of full slips too.

All this, and it was summer in desert with temperatures over 100 degrees. Starch too. She used lots of starch and meanwhile the boss spewed filth. It was perplexing for sure, but my furniture was half paid, and I liked Tammy more and more.

I had the idea she was doing the best she could, just like I was. We were an odd pairing, but we had an affinity. We were both sort of good, hard-working people; one of us was just blessed and stuff, that’s all. Since I didn’t exactly know what “blessed” was, I didn’t worry about it. We were different, but I didn’t envy her because I couldn’t imagine her coping with my life any more then I could imagine myself in those pantyhose.

I was okay with Tammy, but I did get pissed off at The Creep and I took action. I tried cussing him out, but it didn’t get me very far, when he came back with comments like “You’re cute when you’re mad,” and “you’re hot when you get hot, Elsa.” I tried everything I could dream up. I tried something every day, but nothing ever fazed him.

In fact, it got worse. I was pouring the unfrozen dairy mix from a clear plastic bag into the soft-serve vanilla ice cream machine one morning, before we opened. He said it reminded him of semen in a condom.

“Doesn’t that look like cum? Think you could swallow that much sperm, Elsa?”

Oh brother. It was demoralizing, but each time I tried some sort of remedy it failed, so I’d shake my head, shrug my shoulders and head back to calendar to check how old I was again. I wanted to go back to the bar, and bad. This “living inside the law” was bullshit and it was starting to hurt, big time.

I could have quit and looked for another job at a restaurant without liquor, but this one was convenient. I could get to work on my bicycle and sometimes catch a ride home with Tammy, who drove an old beater car. The assistant manager was a pal, but more importantly, I was on the verge of medical benefits, so I was trying to hang in. I wanted to make my mother my legal dependent, so that I could get her coverage.

Besides this, I just didn’t know what I was dealing with. I was too naïve to be able to predict this guy would not stop harassing me. Instead, each time he said something, I thought it was possible it would be the last comment he was going to make because…come on. The innuendo was sicker all the time.

As the comments got worse, the effects started to bleed into all areas of my life and I was furious. Eventually, I went to bed thinking about the son of a bitch and woke up same way. The Creep crept into my every waking moment and eventually he crept into my dreams as well. I just couldn’t shake his words.

Instead, I absorbed his comments. I internalized them. I lie in bed at night playing them over and over in my head, trying to puzzle out a way to make him stop. I thought there must be a secret door, or some brilliant thing I could say, just right, that would effect change. I wanted this to be possible, but in fact it was a fruitless pursuit.

The Creep was married too, and his wife was pregnant. She came in about once a week and besides being quite attractive, she was kind and she was friendly. She would always stop to chat with me about her baby, or whatever. She was respectful and pleasant and I just couldn’t fathom what she was doing tied up with The Creep.

It pained me to listen to her chipper sort of chat, knowing what I did about her husband. By now I hated him. I loathed him. I’d glance over at him when she was around. I wanted him to worry I would tell her, but he didn’t. In fact, he would look back at me smugly, smiling, looking ready to chuckle about the whole thing.

I would like to report I was going to fry his ass, but to tell the truth, I just felt helpless and trapped. The whole thing was getting more killing to me, every day. It was like standing on a sinking ship, too small to have an effect. I was supremely frustrated and becoming depressed over it actually, so mostly I had my eye out, looking for a way to escape.

The Plot Thickens…

Then one day, Tammy came home from work looking battered. She flopped on the couch and started to cry, so I asked her what was wrong. She told me. I learned The Creep was harassing her too and I was totally shocked and floored. The possibility of this had not occurred to me at all.

“He said what to you?”

“Oh, Elsa, don’t make me say it again.”

I felt my blood start to boil. “How long has he been talking to you like this?”


“How often does he say things to you?”

“Every day.”

That was it. My boiling blood boiled over and I decided on the spot I was going to take the bastard out. How? Come hell or high water, that’s how. I had two reasons.

First, in my mind Tammy was a pristine holy sort. It was one thing to say these things to me, quite another to degrade her. I felt protective. Me? Well, I was a lying bartender, and girlfriend of a guy who left a woman brain dead. That’s one thing. But Tammy was a gal who played piano in church. This had to be engraved-in-stone, code for “off limits”. How dare he! I was going to defend her honor!

Second, there was my own benefit. I had an innate kinship with legal process via nature and via nurture. I’d have been quite happy to kick his ass in court; but I didn’t want to lose. It’s true I was incensed he would bother her in this way, but I also recognized her as someone a jury would sympathize with.

I knew better than to instigate something I couldn’t win and I knew that, fair or otherwise, her case was better than mine. The reason was simple. I inspire people in a variety of ways, but sympathy? Never. I imagined a jury would say, “I don’t know about that dark girl, but the white one there…well, she’s been mistreated, for sure.”

The way Tammy lived couldn’t possibly be perceived as asking for anything but a first class ticket to heaven. To see the possibility of exploiting this was in my blood. I play cards, right? You can be sitting on the crappiest hand in eighteen states, but one card can get played that changes everything. Tammy was that card.

Get The Bastard, But How?

I decided to spy. If The Creep was bothering me and he was bothering Tammy, then who else is he bothering? Before I did anything else, I thought I should investigate, so I went to work the next day and I started surreptitiously quizzing every girl in the place.

It wasn’t easy. Never mind I had to keep it quiet. Some of the gals in the kitchen didn’t speak English, and the ones who did were afraid for their jobs. I pushed, though, and another gal sheepishly admitted that he made comments to her as well.

Okay, well that was good, but I wanted more. The new gal just wasn’t that dynamic. She was too meek to be compelling. I was trying to stack the deck in my favor, so I was forced to expand my sphere.

I decided to talk to some of the older ladies and when I did this, I struck gold. Because guess what? Turns out The Creep had fired two young girls for not putting out. Yep. This was before my time, but the older woman gave me their names and I almost kissed her.


That night at home, I took a deep breath before I picked up the phone to contact both women. The first started to cry when I mentioned The Creep, but she agreed to sign on. The other gal was matter of fact about it. Matter of fact, she was very interested in going after him, but she was afraid.

I understood. I assured her I wouldn’t do anything unless I was sure we could burn the bastard down. She believed me, and that was it. We were five, and I was amazed. Twenty-four hours earlier I was in this alone and the marvel of how this was developing was not lost on me.

Stage one complete, I moved along. The Pianist was back in town. We’d gotten back together and then broken up. We’d sworn each other off until the end of time, but that was just our normal posturing. In whatever case, he was around, so I dialed him up – because he was a great thinker. I wanted his opinion on what I was doing, but I also hoped to access to his sister, who was an attorney. No, not Sexy Gal. This was a different sister, a totally different woman.

I called him up and he told me what I already suspected.

“She’s not going to help you, Elsa. She should, but you know how she is.”

Well, yeah. I knew she was conflicted. She wasn’t a bad person but she was political and consumed with becoming successful. If she touched “sexual harassment”, she would be labeled a militant lesbian in two seconds. This is how it was and this was something she would never risk.

“She won’t even talk to you about something like this,” he explained. “She’s not going to waste her time. Don’t get me wrong. I think she ought to help you. I just don’t think she’s going to.”

“I know, I know. I get it. But just ask her anyway, okay? You never know. I don’t expect that, okay? No help! But you can probably get something out of her if you try. I really want to get this guy, so just try find out anything you can.”

“Okay, Elsie, I’ll do my best. But I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.”

I understood her position. The idea of sexual harassment was like a seed being tossed around by the fringe of society. No one knew if it would take root or not. Public opinion was stacked against the woman’s side of this issue, that’s for sure. Getting involved in something like this could have spelled career suicide. It would be utterly and totally out of the question.

I knew this, but I also knew the Pianist was her baby brother and he knew how to work the women in his family. His skills were finely honed and I knew he could and would use them, because he strongly supported what we were doing.

“It’s the little people who have to stick their necks out and get things done.” he explained.

“I’m a little people?”

“Well, yes, Elsie! Yes, you are.”

I roared laughing. “Okay. Well that’s funny and I’ll keep it in mind. You can call me that, but just come back with something I can use, okay? Work her, because I’m not kidding about getting this son of a bitch. I’m going to go crazy if I don’t get him.”

The next day, he contacted her and she put out. Not much but something. She said there was nothing I could do, which was exactly what we expected. Her real advice was to quit the job. “Didn’t mom offer her a job in the kitchen?” But he pushed her, and she said if I really wanted to waste my time I could go to the State’s Attorney’s office.

State’s Attorney, huh? What’s that? I didn’t even know where to find them in the phone book. Are they under the name of the state? Being a desert kid who grew up without a phone, I had no idea where to look. I felt stupid, believe me, but in a flash I had the number in my hand; so I dialed it up and started talking.

I talked fast. Too fast of course, but I said the right things. Five women with the same story is no joke. The fact that one of them played piano in church was a big plus, as I knew it would be. Tammy was key. I mentioned her white pantyhose, and her lace covered bodice dresses. I could feel the hook go in this gal’s mouth, so I cut the conversation short and told her I was coming to her office to speak to her in person. What the hell? She was right downtown. It was only ten miles away, and I had a bicycle.

I hopped on it and I was flyin’.


Arriving downtown, I hopped off my bike and padlocked it to a pole. I walked in the office and was escorted in to see the attorney, without delay. Ten minutes of questions, asked and answered, and the news was good. She said our case was terrifically strong. She agreed that Tammy’s status in the church helped, but pointed out that beyond that, I was also a minor child. I had to laugh at that, because I’d forgotten. How old am I again?

So the case was great, but there was no money in it. I was told this up front. The attorney explained: this is the point of filing. She felt women and girls should not have to put up with this sort of stuff and she was fairly rabid about it. This was her passion and basically she and other people interested in this issue were using loopholes of existing laws to try to create precedent.

“We’ve managed to make a dent in convention, and were hopping to punch a hole clean through.”

She outlined our options. We could sue The Creep. We may be awarded damages, but what we could collect would be limited to what he had – which was most likely not much. Outside of that, it would be a long shot, because no one was handing out settlements to women for sexual harassment, anyway, and I knew this was true. The attitude prevalent at the time was that any half-attractive woman should expect this kind of thing, and perhaps even be flattered. Very few perceived a real injury, so the odds of being awarded any money were poor, and the odds of being awarded something significant were even worse.

As an alternative, she said we could file against the corporate entity. We could make an example of them and increase awareness of this issue, although the damages would be limited if we chose this option.

Hmm. This was an easy decision for me. I wasn’t after money. I was after The Creep. I wanted him to stop, and I wanted him to have trouble and grief. The attorney assured me that filing on the corporation would have exactly this effect. Provided the case was decided in our favor, she added, the corporation would be liable for any loss of wages.

“If we win, and we should, based on what you’ve told me…well, let’s say we file this next week, and a week later you decide you can’t stand it anymore and you walk off your job.”


“The corporation would be held liable. They would have to pay you for your time out of work.”

I smiled. “Cool.”

“And if you make less money at your next job, they’ll have to make that up as well. And this holds whether you quit or get fired. See, we have to prove the harassment took place. But once we do, the corporation is considered at fault if you leave the job, regardless of how employment is terminated.”

“So, I can quit the day after this is filed and they would have to pay?”



What I heard was some sort of protection was on offer. Before I walked into her office, we were powerless. We’d been forced to take whatever The Creep dished out, in order to keep our jobs, so this was a significant improvement in my mind. It was something I could bring back and sell to the other women.

I thought it a major favor this attorney was taking our case and I let her know this. We had a nice fit. All sides win, but what really clinched it for me was when she told me The Creep would be served at the restaurant – and further, he would be served five times. Yes. There would be a separate suit for each of us, and this especially thrilled me, for some reason. Hot Damn! Take that, asshole!

The attorney wanted to move quickly, before any of the gals had a chance to get spooked, and this suited me. She’d explained once the lawsuits were filed, upper management would likely rain down hard on The Creep’s head and comments would stop abruptly. He seemed omnipotent to me so I asked, “Do you really think he’ll stop?”

“Yes. We’ll use his own words against him, and this’ll stop him cold. Believe me, these guys don’t like it when people find out what they’re up to. We’re going to quote him verbatim and this stuff is really ugly. This stuff is grotesque.”

“Okay, well, I sure thought so.”

“It’s one thing to say this stuff when no one can hear you. It’s another when your boss reads it in black and white off a legal letterhead. If you want him to stop, this’ll do it. His boss will come down on him like a ton of bricks. If that’s what you want, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll get it, but anything else you want is very iffy, if at all.”


The whole thing sounded ideal to me. I wanted to be certain I was there to witness, so I made the attorney promise to serve The Creep on a day I was working. Once she agreed to this condition, I agreed to get each of the other women into her office to sign, and she promised to have the papers ready to go by noon the next day.

We shook hands and I left her office feeling proud and thrilled. I was thinking how nice it would be to be vindicated, and I was thinking about Tammy and the other gals. What he’d said to me was mild, compared to what some of them had tolerated. I was thinking about the two gals I didn’t know, and hoping they held up; but mostly I was thinking about the smug Creep.

Five lawsuits. Five trains converging on one target. Pretty hard to stop a train, isn’t it? He was dead meat. The bastard was done, like dinner.

I was smiling, nearly giddy, when I walked outside and the sun hit my eyes. I unlocked my bike, hopped on and jumped the curb to merge with the traffic.

I felt exhilarated, because justice is so cool.

Next? Signatures. I needed five signatures as fast as I could get them. I understood the girls might change their minds, but that was just for starters. If there was a way to have the guy off my ass, I was anxious for it to happen as soon as possible, and besides that, I had momentum and I knew it. It’s like bike riding. Once you’re flying, you should fly. So this is what I did. I plotted on the way home, pedaling as fast as I could, while thinking my favorite way; on adrenaline, that is.

I got home and I produced. I easily sold Tammy, and then spent the rest of the evening on the phone with the other gals. I rode my bike back to the attorney’s office after work the next day, and signed the complaint. Tammy drove herself and two of the other women to the office, to sign the morning after. The last gal, I’d never met in person, but she turned out as well. Apparently she arrived by bus and signed on, so that was that. We were five for five, and it was going to happen. We were going to take him down and I’ll admit I was highly pleased with myself.

On The Job

The attorney told us to write down everything The Creep said. She wanted specific quotes to cite in the complaints. Now, when he said something particularly raunchy, it was hard not to smile. All of the sudden, instead of blowing our day to pieces, we considered his quips choice bits.

The Pianist was a major support, a progressive man. You could barely find women to stand up on this issue, never mind a man who would support it – but he did and he never wavered. He gave me an itty-bitty micro-geek tape recorder and I had fun whispering into it in the restroom like some sort of spy.

Tammy jotted Creep comments on the last page of her green waitress pad, and we would come home and compare notes. This is pretty funny, isn’t it? Who got the grossest statement today? Tammy and I would laugh like hell. Er…I mean not like hell exactly, because that’s a loaded concept for her, but you know what I mean. We’d laugh, together. We’d shriek even, because The Creep said the grossest stuff you could possibly imagine and he didn’t seem to notice it didn’t bother us anymore. Dummy.

The thing about dummies is they’re just so damned dumb.

Time passed as our complaints were being prepared. We were initially fired up with The Creep comments we were collecting, but soon the attorney had more than she needed. We quit taking notes, but the guy would just not shut up.

Tammy and I marveled over how he could continue to run his mouth full blast, not perceiving a damn thing. We watched him dig his hole deeper and deeper and then, I’ll be damned, the whole thing turned on us. See, this guy was in trouble, thanks to us. He was in major trouble and getting himself in more all the time, and what happened was we started to feel sorry for him.

Tammy began to unravel. She got twisted with the religion and the guilt of having filed on this pig. She wondered if she could have found another solution. If she might have forgiven him or prayed or preached or did something with the lord for him. I’m not clear on exactly what, but this was dangerous talk, because it was all I could do to hold on to reality myself, though my bead was slightly different.

My concern was for the pregnant wife. I was thinking various irrational things. I was wondering if maybe we should have waited until after the baby was born, and thinking that what we did wasn’t very “nice”.

Tammy and I both went down hard in this way. We found it very difficult to stay focused and went back and forth, shoring each other up. It was challenging but we managed. We rode the waves. We didn’t recant. We didn’t burn our tapes and notebooks, or refuse to testify. And then one Monday, without warning, I got a call at work. I learned the summons were to be mailed that day and would arrive the next, or on Wednesday at the latest.


Mail Call!

The attorney had provided each of us a draft of our complaints in advance. They were virtually the same, except where specific comments were quoted. I don’t know what to say, besides they were brutal. The attorney said the impact of the complaints in black and white would be stark, but I thought this was beyond that. The complaints were breathtaking. With the papers in hand, the magnitude of what we’d done was apparent to us. Tammy and I both swooned and then I hoped, and she prayed.

I didn’t sleep all night. No big deal, it was a bit of a theme. I showed up for work the next day and The Creep said something disgusting to me. Dumb ass.

I kept walking. I’d quit reacting three weeks earlier, but he was one thick son of a bitch. You’d think he’d have sensed something; I mean c’mon. On the other hand, this kind of arrogance is part of the profile, I suppose. In whatever case, I wasn’t used to being around people this stupid, that’s for sure.

Standing at my hostess podium, I saw the mailman coming in through the glass in the front door. I actually saw the envelopes in his hand as he pulled the first of the two doors open – and there was a bonus! I felt a little thrill, because it looked like five complaints got you five envelopes!

Yeah, I know this is normal, but not to me. I was a teenager and a poor one at that. If I were mailing five things to the same address, I would use one envelope! The five matching envelopes cause my heart to clutch up and a little giggle to spill out, right before I winced, because uh oh. Damn it! The mailman was headed right towards me, and I panicked. Crap! I’d tried to think this whole thing through, believe me, but I’d forgotten this part!

See, it was customary for the mailman to leave the mail with the hostess in front. That’s me! Then I’d give the mail to the assistant manager, when the opportunity presented itself. You know. My bud – who had no idea this was going on. Well, today this wouldn’t do, so I tried to think quickly.

Should I take the envelopes and act as if I don’t know what’s in them? If I gave them to the assistant manager, he would definitely comment. We always chatted and these envelopes stood out, for sure. Of course they did! They were five matching envelopes from a court!

Should I play dumb? Should I tell him what we’d done? Should I pee my pants? What?

It was about 10:45 and the restaurant opened at 11:00. The Creep was sitting at one of the tables, doing paperwork. The mailman approached and that Libra of mine kicked in, bless its sweet little superficial heart. I greeted the mailman politely and motioned to The Creep.

“Hello.” I smiled wide. “Leave it with him, please. The mail. Those are his. They go over there.” I smiled, and blinked sweetly. “Thank you.”

The mailman turned and headed towards The Creep. Whew! As he approached him to deliver the mail, I rounded the corner of my little podium and made a beeline for the restroom. Turned out I couldn’t watch after all.

There was a hallway leading to the restrooms. There was a payphone in the hall, and people who worked in the restaurant knew it was broken. You could pick it up and dial out without paying, and this is what I did. I called the attorney. I’d call her from this phone to report the Creep’s activities from time to time and I knew her number by heart. I was pretty freaked, really.

“They’re here! They’re here!”

“Good!” she said. I could feel her smile.

“What do I do?” I asked, all panicked.

“Just go to work, Elsa.”

“To work?”

“Yes. Do whatever you normally do.”

“What I normally do? Oh! Oh yeah. Right! Okay. Gotcha! Bye!”

This is when I decided I could watch after all. I wondered what the hell I was doing in the restroom hallway anyway, and I decided to go back out on the floor. I walked out with my head up, too, because I knew I was going to tell this story. I was going to tell the Pianist for one thing and if I’m supposed to be a hero in this, then I’d better leave the toilet, right? Right!

I felt dizzy as I headed back to my podium. My stomach was past my throat, all the way into my head, which felt completely ready to explode, but so? It was a little too late to whine.

Standing at my podium, I glanced over at The Creep who was sitting in a booth turning beet red as he read the complaints. He was doing more than turning red. In fact, he looked like he was going to have a coronary, and I started to panic. His face was beet red and I could see the sweat forming on his brow. I wondered if he might die. What if he dies on the spot, huh? Then what?

But he didn’t die. He just looked up with his eyes darting around, probably wondering, “Which one of these little bitches…”

He had the complaints in a neat stack. He was opening them, reading them, and placing them in his pile in methodical fashion. I was watching, and thinking the scene was surreal, when he looked up and stared right at me.

I smiled involuntarily, courtesy my nerves. I felt completely agitated, like I was plugged into too many sockets or something, and that did it. I lost control of my poker face. Fuck! I noticed my heart was pounding, and when I chuckled nervously – well this is when he knew I was the head little bitch and all of a sudden I couldn’t take the heat.

I’d already been to the restroom and, stupid or not, I was still trying to play this cool; so I planned to duck into the kitchen and disappear somewhere. I’d figured I could hide in the walk-in cooler, if necessary. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d ducked in there to avoid him, but I’d have to pass by him to get there.

I debated and decided it was worth making a run for it. I was red hot in the cheeks, but I may find Tammy in the kitchen. If I did, I’d be able to tell her what was going on. You know. I could spread the joyous pain. At least I’d have a chance to breathe and ground and regroup, so I told myself I was going on the count of one… two… three!

I marched towards the kitchen with my knees shaky, and I couldn’t help it. It was like a car accident. I had to glance as I walked by. I wanted to see the seals and letterheads and stuff. I wanted to VERIFY. What if I was having all this drama and this isn’t them? Yipes! No more hero, I’d be a silly putz. I’d be a foolish fool, but I glanced over and it was them all right. It’s them!

Another laugh leaked out. It was a release, not gloating, but Creep didn’t know that and part of me was glad of it. Kiss my ass, you bastard! I might have felt like puking, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t happy. Truth was, I wanted him to see my hand in it. The other women were twenty-two to twenty-seven years old. I wanted him to know it was the teenager that nailed him. He’d called me “sweet young meat” and I wanted a new name.

I made it back into the kitchen, and relaxed just as he came up behind me. He brushed by me on the way into his office, off the side of the kitchen and nearly scared me out of my skin in the process. Holy shit, the drama!


He slammed the door to his office and I smiled. Fuck it. At least he was in his cage.

I spotted Tammy and she raised her chin and her neatly plucked eyebrows to ask if what she thought had happened had happened. I nodded to answer, and we both blushed and broke out in huge grins. She shrugged and I shrugged back. I laughed and rolled my eyes. She grinned, and then burst into a nervous chuckle and shook her head. We’d done it. We’d pulled it off.

Hearts pounding, we were frantic to communicate, but it was time to open the restaurant. Since there was nothing we could do, we silently agreed to contain ourselves and talk later. We gave each other thumbs up before she went back to setting up, and I headed back out to my podium to meet and greet customers.

I pasted a superficial smile on my face and loaded my sweet Libra “Good morning, how are you?” voice in my mouth, so I could work lunch. My head was spinning. I hoped he stayed in his office all day, because my heart was pounding too. I figured we should be that lucky, at least.

The customers streamed into the restaurant and the traffic built to the lunch rush. Tammy and I gestured and mouthed comments across the dining room as we did our jobs, smiling at the regulars, not missing a beat. We raised our eyebrows, smiled, shook our heads, shrugged and giggled and everything else you might imagine. We were grand friends by now. The spear had hit the target and we were in it together, both exhilarated and embarrassed at what we’d done. We communicated as a way to release and cope with our intense emotions – because this was it. This was the day we’d been waiting for.

The assistant manager, always keen, saw something going on between Tammy and I. He caught my eye from across the dining room, and gestured, “What?” I opened my eyes wide and shrugged back at him because the story was just too long to tell in code.

Remember Battle-Ax? Well, she saw this going on, too. She knew beforehand something was up, and she was not part of it. Now she knew whatever it was had grown, not otherwise. This pissed her off, of course, so she did the only thing she knew how to do. She shot me her routine disapproving “mean frown”. Can you imagine? But I managed not to laugh at her, out of pure kindness. She’s another dumb dummy, you know? That’s what I thought.

Tammy and I finished out the day and when we got home, we toasted to celebrate. Tammy with her Seven-Up and me with my OJ.


What Happened Next

The next day, Tammy drove and we showed up at work together. As soon as we walked in the back door, it was clear that everyone knew what had happened. We were pretty sure of this, based on the way people were looking at us while not looking at us. We glanced at each other and then Tammy left to go stash her purse in the cabinet. I moved through the kitchen, out to the floor, and over to my podium, holding my breath the whole time.

The first few days were mighty intense as everyone shifted into his or her new role and reality. The comments stopped abruptly and they were replaced for the most part by silence. Creep grunted an instruction when absolutely necessary, which was maybe once a week.

He sent Battle-Ax to tell me he was a good guy and ask me to make it all go away. All the complaints were alike, but he sent her to me to negotiate, because he knew. He knew I’d orchestrated the thing, and she verified this.

“You did this, didn’t you Elsa?”

“Did what?”

“You’re the one who started this whole mess.”

“If he wasn’t a fuckin’ pig, he wouldn’t have a problem, would he?” I smiled defiantly.

She glared and I glared back. She asked me to stop the lawsuit. She said it was causing a lot of problems for the restaurant. The Creep didn’t mean anything by his comments. She waved her hand and said we’d just taken them wrong, is all. She said I’d gone and blown things out of proportion and that the thing had gone far enough.

I told her it was out of my hands. She called me a troublemaker, but I didn’t mind. It was a heck of a lot better than what I was being called a week, prior. A certain type of pussy, I mean.

Passing the Time

I was eighteen now, and my furniture was paid for. Nope. No news yet. The attorneys were still wrestling behind the scenes. I called our attorney now and then, and she told me to be patient. She said these things took time. What teenager wants to hear that?

Work was excruciating. The Battle-Ax held me responsible. Mostly for stealing her limelight, I think. No one gave a damn about her sugar packets anymore. We had a real problem now. The status quo was on its ass, for starters.

The Assistant Manager still talked to me, but he had to balance his loyalties. We didn’t have fun like we used to. The air was just too thick in the place and he said he was staying out of it. He couldn’t be seen laughing with me because of what I’d done. He specifically said I’d gone and ruined our good time and I took it hard. I’d hoped that The Creep would get fired and he would be promoted. This was my plan, so I took his rejection as a fine thanks to a friend and felt sort of betrayed.

Then I got a letter from the attorney. We all did. It said the case had been reassigned. Huh? To who? And why didn’t she call me? I didn’t know. The whole thing just sort of turned ugly. It turned south on us, and I tried to think it through. Did I mess up?

I tossed it around. I mulled it and I came to understand The Creep was losing. He’d lost, but it didn’t mean we’d won. This was especially apparent when I saw The Creep’s wife. Man, did she bug me out.

She still came in the restaurant, but far less frequently. When she did come in, she’d walk past me at my hostess podium, looking white as a sheet. She was about seven months pregnant, now, and it was a pure agony to see her. Life was starting to hurt again and months passed.

We thought this thing would be resolved quickly. We thought The Creep would be fired, right away. We expected results! We thought his bosses would be outraged. We thought he’d lose his job, leaving us vindicated and able to work in peace.

Instead, the process was slow. It was so slow, I couldn’t perceive any movement at all and pressure began to build. I was almost nineteen. I was almost legal, but not quite. Did I have another lie in me? I wondered.

Then one day, The Creep’s wife came in and her eye caught mine. She looked at me as if to ask “How could you do this to me?” At that moment, something in me snapped and I decided to quit my job. Soon as I had another, that is.

After work that day, I stood outside in the parking lot of the restaurant, and I scanned the want ads. An hour later, I walked into a bar, lied about my age and was hired. Boy was it easy. I had almost six months invested at the restaurant, but so? I just couldn’t cope with the sight of this pregnant woman anymore, so bye-bye, health insurance. I was illegal again but so what? Big deal.

After what I’d been through, I was feeling jaded anyway. It would only be a month or two until I was legal and I just didn’t care. I didn’t want to see Creep’s wife come in and kiss him on the cheek in a brave show of support. I didn’t want to see the Battle-Ax. Worst of all, I was pained, having my relationship with the assistant manager compromised. At first, he tried to stay out of it, but over time, he’d moved further and further away from me. I was deeply hurt by this and decided to cut my losses.

I thought this was smart play and I was probably right, because when I quit and walked out the door, I was instantly relieved. It was just as well too, because it turned out it would be nearly a year before my phone rang regarding this case.

Tammy’s Surprise

While the attorneys duked it out behind the scenes, Tammy and I became more and more comfortable in our relationship. It was a friendship that was maturing, but we still liked to tease and provoke each other. I thought she was an exotic animal to be studied and she thought something similar about me.

I thought she spent an inordinate amount of time ironing. Several times a week, she’d set up the ironing board in the living room and diligently get on task. I’d lie back on the couch, and put my feet up and we’d chat.

“Don’t you get sick of ironing?” I asked.


“You don’t?”

“No. It relaxes me.”


She was perturbed, and with cause. She still liked me though. “Yes.”

“Okay. Well, I was just wondering. You iron a lot. I don’t like to iron.”

“Elsa, how would you know? When do you ever iron?”

“I iron! I know how to iron. I just don’t like it.”

“What are you talking about? You only have one blouse that needs to be ironed and I saw you try to do it. You don’t know how to iron. Why do you think I ironed that blouse for you? I can’t believe how you leave this house sometimes.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean? Why should I explain to you? You wouldn’t understand, anyway.”


“You’re not very fashionable.”

“What?” I hooted. “Okay, Tammy. So there’s something wrong with how I iron? Well now I know. Thanks for ironing my shirt, then. It’s lucky for me that you like to do it. What do you mean, how I leave this house? There’s something wrong with how I leave this house?”

“Oh brother. You’re really too much. You are really too much. And it’s not a shirt. It’s a blouse. See what I mean?’

“Okay, Tammy. I think you’re crazy. Good thing I only have that one shirt.” I smiled.

She smiled back sweetly, with her dimples. “Well, since it’s only one blouse, I’ll iron it for you whenever you want to wear it. See how nice I am?”

“Of course you’re nice! You go to church!”

“Well, as a matter of fact, that’s right. Nice people do go to church, so look where that leaves you?”

I roared laughing. “Outside, lookin’ in, I guess!”

“I do like you, though.”

“I like you too!”

I tiptoed off, chuckling low.

You see how she was. She was so fancy and pure and I was fascinated with her opinion of me. I thought I was a normal person, so leave it to Tammy to tell me otherwise. I got a thrill out of it. Besides my lack of ironing skill, I was very interested in men and she always acted like it was appalling.

“You aren’t going out again tonight, are you?”


“With who?”

“New man.”

“What happened to that last one?”


She rolled her eyes. “How many men are you going to date, anyway?”

“What do you mean, ‘how many men’? As many as I want, who want to date me, of course. You should try it, Tammy.”

“I would never do what you do, Elsa.”

“Because you go to church, you can’t date?”

“Well, yes. That’s part of it.”

“Well, I don’t understand.”

“You never do, and you never will.”

I chuckled. “Okay. Well, to answer your question, yes. I’m going out tonight and I’m going out tomorrow night, too.”

I crinkled my nose at her. She clucked, then left the room and I figured her a virgin. She’d always presented herself this way, so you better believe I was surprised when she popped up one day and asked me to step out of the apartment so she could spend time alone with a date. That’s right. Tammy had a man.

Tammy’s Man

What! How can this be! Isn’t Tammy too religious for men? Isn’t she above all that? I’d asked Tammy if she wanted to go out prowling, many times, but she’d declined all invitations in demure fashion. So, now she turns up with a man she wants to spend time with. Well, well, well. Turns out she’s human after all!

We routinely discussed the men I dated, so I started to tease Tammy about hers, but it didn’t go over very well. My relationships were fun and rollicking and fodder for jokes, but it seemed hers was a solemn sort of thing. Apparently, it was grave and serious and holy and stuff.

“Elsa, don’t you dare taunt me. I’m not like you. This relationship is very important to me. VERY important.”

“Oh! Well, sorry, I didn’t know.” I snorted. “Well, who is he? Do I get to meet him? When? And what do you mean, it’s so serious? Didn’t you just meet him?”

“No, I didn’t just meet him.”

“You didn’t? You mean you’ve had a man and I didn’t know it? What the hell?”

She laughed. “There’s plenty you don’t know about me, Elsa. In fact, you know very little.”

I chuckled. “Okay! Well, I’m seein’ that, if you have a man.”

I was confused. Besides quizzing her about church, I routinely asked Tammy why she didn’t want to have any fun. She always said she was “disinterested” in fun. She said her life was “not about fun” and I took her at her word. Her word is her word, right? She went to church so this meant her word was golden, as far as I was concerned. Hey, I didn’t know. I just figured whatever happened in church, with all the dry ice, was a good substitute for fun. She had her fun, I had mine; but now she was crossing over and I was intrigued.

“Who is he?”

“I’ve known him a long time.”

“You have? So I’ve heard. Okay, so tell me who he is.”

“Elsa, I don’t want to talk about this.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Because I don’t. Don’t make jokes about this. It’s not funny. And quit using that word. You know I don’t like that word. I don’t know why you have to use it.”

“Hell? You’re right. I’m sorry about that word. Who is this guy, anyway? What’s his name? Does he come in the restaurant? Is he from church?”

“I’m not going to tell you. Can you just leave on Saturday and not bug me about this? For once in your life? This is important to me, so just don’t bug me, okay?”

“I bug you? Okay. Well, I’m sorry about that and yes! Of course I can. I’ll not bug you and I’ll leave on Saturday. You do it for me. But you’re going to tell me about it aren’t you?”

She wiped her brow in mock relief. “Thank you. I appreciate it and NO. I’m not going to tell you about this, or anything else, anymore.” She laughed at me.

“C’mon Tammy. You’re kidding, right? Why won’t you tell me? I’m curious.”

“I see that, Elsa. I see you’re curious. You’re always curious, and I’m sorry but you’re just going to have to stay that way, because I’m tired of your questions. You ask questions about everything. ‘Tammy, tell me about church!’ ‘Tammy, tell me about the piano!’ No more!” She smiled and stuck her tongue out. “Now I’m going into my bedroom to finish my ironing and I expect you to leave me alone in there.”

“What? Why? Why don’t you iron out here, so we can talk? Come on, Tammy. Please? I wanna talk about this. I wanna talk about this man of yours.”

She laughed. “No! I don’t want to talk to you, Elsa. Just get it through your head.” She looked at me, all holier than thou, and I laughed. “I’d rather think about Saturday then talk to you, so how do you like that?”

We both chuckled, because she was so smug. “I don’t like it, Tammy. Maybe you’ll tell me later, after you’ve had a chance to think.”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“Oh, don’t say that. I’m hopin’ over here.”

But she shook her head and folded up the ironing board. Then she took it into her room to finish her ironing, leaving me with a mystery to solve.

Our Lovers

Well, crap. Tammy wouldn’t talk. I stepped out of the apartment on Saturdays, as this date thing became routine. Tammy was intensely emotional and protective of her lover, whoever he was. I perceived a shift in our relationship. Differences aside, Tammy and I enjoyed each other a lot and I noticed when she started to withdraw.

I didn’t like it, but I accepted it easy enough because for one, I had no choice and for two, I had a man of my own.

I was spending time with an ex-boyfriend, an intense, dashing man from South America. We’d had a passionate affair that broke up before I met Vader, but the attraction never waned. There was a hot fire and a great affinity between us and he’d come back around, to keep a promise he’d made. He’d promised me his motorcycle.

He taught me to drive the bike and I learned immediately. One up, three down, or whatever it was. I took off and it was a pure thrill! It was like bicycle, deluxe. I was me, but I was motorized and I was giddy.

I was exhilarated on the motorcycle, which was my first car! I felt powered up. I thought I was going to my future, and I forgot all about The Creep. The thing was still in progress, but I became completely removed from it. The new attorney was less accommodating of me, so I quit calling for updates. I got to a point where I just didn’t care one way or the other.

Well I did care but I pretty much felt defeated, and I let it fall off behind me. You can’t win ‘em all, and I know that. I had this big flame thing going with my boyfriend, anyway. We had a lot of sizzle, so I focused on that and my increased mobility. My bike was red. I thought I was the coolest of the cool, every time I got on it, so I wasn’t going to complain.

The case? Well, we tried. It was a disappointment, a bitter one, even, but I had a tasty man who was on his way out of town and you know what they say. They say, “Get it while you can,” and this is what I did.

I felt a lot better after I quit the job, that’s for sure. I encouraged Tammy to get out of there as well, but she brushed by me anymore. This lover thing was a big deal. It was consuming her.

When she first told me about her boyfriend, I’d laughed. She told me there was nothing funny about it and she surely wasn’t kidding about that! She bristled every time I tried to talk to her, so I decided she really must be frying herself a very big fish. I let it go, for awhile, but she seemed to be drifting further and further out, so I quizzed her out of both curiosity and concern. Who knew? The last time she was disturbed, I’d found out about The Creep. I asked her what was going on, but she blew me off.

“Who is this guy, Tammy? You’re a lot less happy than you used to be.”

“How many times have I told you? I don’t want to discuss this with you!”

“Well, okay then. I just thought I’d ask.”

“Ask? You ask all right, but you never understand anything I tell you anyway.”

“Oh, here we go. You mean because I don’t understand your religion?”

“Yes! That’s exactly what I mean. Some things are beyond your ability to comprehend. There are plenty of things that fall into this category when it comes to you.”

She said this so many times, I believed her. I backed off. I kept my mouth shut for the most part, but noticed she was frequently agitated. Other times, she looked to be in a sort of bliss that I figured was gleaned from her religion; which I still thought was big and awesome and kind of mystical, gauzy, veiled and removed from me.

I was losing Tammy. I thought she was slipping right through my hands, and then one day she came home crying. She was crying, not sobbing. I sob. Tammy sat down on the couch and cried while she dabbed the corners of her eyes, with the corner of her Tammy Kleenex, and said she was ready to tell me her story.

“Yeah? So what’s going on?”

“He’s married.”

“What? Your boyfriend? He’s married?” I was stupefied.

Now she sobbed. She sobbed, but she wanted to talk, so I asked questions and she answered them. I sat and listened to her, shocked, horrified and getting sort of pissed.

Turns out, the son of a bitch was married, but it was worse than that. Apparently, he held some position in her church. He had some title. Deacon? I don’t remember what, but he was part of the hierarchy of the church. He is also thirty-eight years old and had seven children.


Yes. He had seven children and she was in love.

“I love him, Elsa”.

I learned she’d been involved with him for the last five years. Since she was seventeen years old, this was. Piano practice at church, two evenings a week? Uh, no. She’d been meeting this man, this man who her parents admire. She was praying to know what to do. So was he.

I thought I was gonna puke.

The Debate

Tammy and I went round and round, but we got nowhere.

“I told you this because I thought you were my friend, Elsa.”

“I am your friend.”

“Well, you could at least try to understand.”

“I do understand, Tammy. I understand he’s a pig.”

Her lover’s daughter was graduating from high school. Tammy was agonizing over what to get her for a graduation gift. She was not sure of her position. She knew his daughter from church, but was she a peer to her…or a mother figure? She loved the girl, because she loved the father. She wanted to get her something special but er… would his wife become suspicious?

“Oh brother. Just get rid of the bastard son of a bitch!”

“Don’t say that, Elsa,” she cried.

But I was a very conservative teenager. “GET RID OF HIM, TAMMY!”

“Elsa, please don’t. He’s a wonderful man. You don’t know him. He’s a wonderful husband and father.”

“No he’s not! Are you kidding me? He’s full of shit! FULL. OF. SHIT. He has seven kids. Seven kids, Tammy! What the hell is he doing with you? Think about it! What the hell is he doing screwing you for all these years? TELL THAT SON OF A BITCH TO GO HOME!”

“God wants this. God wants us to be together. And please don’t call it screwing.”

“What? God wants what? Oh, pulllllllease. That is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.”

He’d asked her why God put them together and made them love each other if there was not a purpose. He made it sound as if their sexual relationship was something divine and sanctioned by God. Supposedly, there was great purpose having to do with her and his penis, and she was apparently supposed to ponder what this special thing might be. She was to pray all day, and then go screw him on Tuesday piano nights, of course.

“You don’t understand.”

“Yes, Tammy. I do understand.”

“He makes me happy,” she sobbed.

“Oh, yeah. Right! I see that. Look at you. The guy’s a fucking pig.”

“Oh, just listen to how you talk. You’re the one that’s awful! If anyone is a pig, it’s you!”


That was her bedroom door slamming. She was hysterical. She was HYSTERICAL and I wanted to kill the guy, of course. I didn’t blame Tammy. I didn’t think she was competent. I didn’t think that she could see reality. Where is he anyway? I wanted to go kick his ass!

I felt like I was her mother. I felt like locking her in her room and choking the bastard. I threw my hands in the air, like I was her mother; and if that’s the case, how could she be so stupid? How could I have a daughter this stupid, anyway? Didn’t we just lay our asses on the line to take out a Creep like this? Well, didn’t we? And now she’s doing this? CHOP! Off with the head of my illusion of Tammy as the pristine goddess. Fuck! Is nothing sacred? And there was more.

He had her wrapped tight. Tammy’s lover had duties in the church. He told her if she left him, he would not be able to function. He’d fall down in his duties to the lord, I guess, and it would all be her fault. Total ruin and all because of her selfishness. I listened to all of this, flabbergasted, as it got thicker and thicker and thicker.

Tammy prayed for guidance and continued to receive mine, at the top of my lungs. Not that it did any good. I really wanted to help her, but I was compromised by my ignorance around her religion. Or so it seemed. After much discussion, I’d concluded she was so tied up, the only way out was to find another church.

“Elsa, that’s not how it works.”

“Tammy, I don’t see any other way. You’ve got to separate from him.”

“I can’t.”

“You can.”

“Elsa! I can’t leave the church. I’ve been going to this church since I was a little girl. I will never leave the church.” She wailed.

“Can’t you be a Lutheran at another church? You can! I checked the phone book. There are lots of Lutheran churches. Give me that phone book! Isn’t it all one thing?”

“What?” She looked at me like she couldn’t believe what I just said.

“It’s one thing, isn’t it?’

“Elsa! I’m a Lutheran and I always will be. Don’t you dare think anything different.”

“I know that! But a Lutheran is a Lutheran, right?”

“You’re so stupid sometimes.” She nearly spat at me. “I’m not going to talk to you about religion. You don’t know anything about it. You just don’t know.”

“I know this guy is full of shit! He’s full of shit and you have to find a way out. Okay look: keep your church. Why don’t you tell your parents? Get rid of him.”

She snorted. “Don’t you think I’ve thought of that? Well, I have. I could never do it. It would kill them. They would never forgive me.” She started to cry. “Elsa, just leave me alone. I thought you were my friend.”

“I am your friend. This married guy is the problem,” I said, stealing a line off Obi Wan Kenobi, PhD. “He’s your fucking problem! Tell him to go back to his seven kids.”

“But I love him.”

“Tammy, this guy is the same as The Creep.”

Ooh, that pissed her off.

“He is not! He’s not a creep and don’t you dare say anything like that again.”

“The fuck he isn’t. What the fuck is it with these old guys screwing around on their wives? Huh? How are they different? The Creep screws around on his pregnant wife, and The Pig screws around, and he’s got seven kids. SEVEN kids, Tammy! What are you doing? You could be happy. You could be having fun.”

She interrupted me. “I’ll never be happy, Elsa. I’m not you, okay? You’re the happy one. You have fun but I don’t. My life is not fun.”

“Well, you could.”

“No Elsa. I can’t. You have fun. I iron! I work and I iron and I go to church…”

She started to sob and I didn’t know how to help her. We played this out a half a dozen times, basically settling by agreeing to disagree.

Until the next time it flared anyway.

The Collision

Then one day, I was just a little pokey leaving the apartment on Saturday.

Tammy asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be leaving soon?”

“I decided I want to see this bastard.”

“You told me you’d leave.”

“I will. I just want to see the son of a bitch.”

“Okay. I’ll introduce you. He wants to meet you, anyway. How about that? He’s wanted to meet you for a long time, actually and you never know, Elsa. You two may get along.”

“I seriously doubt that.”

“Well, you would. Because you don’t have any faith. But that’s not my fault. It’s not your fault either. I don’t know why your parents didn’t take you to church.”

I stared. I didn’t know why either. I’d never thought about it. And by the way, what’s faith?

“But you can’t use the kind of language you do, around him. I’ve not told him about the way you talk.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your language. You swear all the time. He’s not used to that.”

“Oh. Does he have virgin ears?” I snorted. “But he can come over here and fuck around on his wife? What’s he call it? Does he call it ‘fucking?’ Or what is it? ‘Worshipping at your altar’?” I sort of laughed, because I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t believe this son of a bitch, with his virgin ears. My God, what a fuckin’ prick.

“I’m not going to answer that. Just, please don’t swear while he’s here, okay? If you say something to embarrass him or me, I won’t forgive you, so don’t even ask.”

“I’m not going to say anything.”

“Elsa, please.”

“I’ll leave as soon as he gets here.”

“Okay. Just meet him and then leave. And please, please, please, watch your language.”

“Okay. Okay, Tammy, I will. But it’s for you, not for the bastard because – I don’t give a shit…”

“Elsa, stop it! I know how you feel about this, okay.” She chuckled. She laughed because she liked me, in spite of me. I liked her too. “Besides, I sort of agree with you,” she said.

“What! You think he’s a prick, too? Well, all right! Now we’re getting’ somewhere.” I looked her in the eye and laughed hard because she was finally coming around. It was about time. “Do you want me to tell him to kiss off when he gets here? Want me to tell him to go home to his wife, because I’ll do it…”

“No! Don’t you dare! Don’t you do anything but be polite to him, or I’ll never forgive you.”

“But you’re seeing he’s an asshole, though?”

“Well, I don’t see things like that, but I’m trying to learn.”

“From me?”

She looked cute when she smiled. “Scary, isn’t it?”

I laughed. I didn’t really know what she was talking about and that was it. That was the end of conversation, because here he was. We saw him pull up through the window. “Fucker,” I thought. But I didn’t say it, so see how good my behavior was?

He climbed up the stairs. Standing at the top of them, I shot him a vibe from hellish hell. I didn’t plan to do this, so I surprised myself. The look on my face said, “I see right through you, Rat Bastard, and I’d just as soon knock your fuckin’ block off.”

He looked back at me with some sheepish bullshit grin that was supposed to disarm me. A sort of, “ah shucks” look. It was a good thing I didn’t have a baseball bat, you know? Because I don’t like boyish forty-year-olds who are full of shit.

I probably muttered something, as he passed me, to come inside the apartment. I don’t know. I had a jaded bartender streak back then, and I was definitely not afraid of pigs. Tammy glared at me, dismayed. Apparently I didn’t know how to conduct myself in the presence of important church people.

I noticed he cut a wide circle away from me. If I’m not going for his embarrassed and shy man-boy grin…if he’s not going to be able to play me, then I’m to be avoided like the plague.

When I saw this, I felt pure contempt for him that had to be palpable. We nodded at each other before I left the apartment; sputter, puke, gag and I really couldn’t believe I did. In fact, I felt like a stupid, irresponsible friend leaving Tammy like a lamb to be slaughtered.

Do you leave your child in the hands of the perp? The situation was now surreal.

New Tack

A few days later, after one of her “church nights”, Tammy came home and tried to have a solemn talk with me. What she was about to say was not to be taken lightly, and guess what? Her boyfriend had suggested she do this. She needed to speak with me, because apparently, he was concerned. Deeply concerned, even.

I don’t remember the specifics, but there was a vague threat in it, around outing him. He was very upset that I was made aware of their affair, and concerned that with my penchant for whistle blowing. I might make a phone call.

“Oh, really?” I said.

A big sales pitch followed. It was something along the lines of how many people were counting on him and how it was important he didn’t let them down. Uh…this would cause distress of a type they didn’t think I could fathom, but I should trust them; it would be bad. The fallout would be huge. The consequences would be so dire, and affect the entire congregation and the main thing was…well, as devoted as he was to the church, he would not be able to stand by and let this occur. Right about there, it trailed off.

“Well, you know what, Tammy? You tell him that he can kiss my ass.”

She threw up her hands. “Elsa, you’re impossible. No one can tell you anything.”

“No. I’m not going to listen to this bastard’s bullshit! Can’t you see he’s trying to cover his ass? And is that supposed to be a threat? What’s he going to do to me anyway? Send me straight to hell?”

“Elsa, he’s right about you! This is exactly what he said you were going to do,” she wailed.

“Oh, for Godsakes, Tammy. Who are you going to trust? This guy is giving you a line of shit. I can’t believe you’re going for this bullshit. How can you believe this utter bullshit?”

“That’s it!” she yelled. “I’ve had it with you! I will not listen to that kind of language! I am not going to live with someone like you!”


“I’m moving out!”

She got up and walked into her room. BAM! There goes her door.

Well, crap. Now what? I didn’t want Tammy to move. I hung around the apartment and tried to talk to her every time she passed by, which is basically all she did. She’d come home and go straight to her room. She’d come out of her room to use the bathroom, and then go right back in her room and quietly shut the door.

“Wanna talk?” I yelled down the hall.

“No!” she answered, with her voice clipped. “My decision is made.”

Eventually, she announced she wasn’t going to talk to me at all anymore, and she held to it. She stayed in her room, communicating via notes left on the counter, while I stood by not believing what was happening was happening; but it was happening.

Within a week, she moved out. Seems her boyfriend felt I was volatile and it was not in her spiritual best interest to interact with me. I got that much out of her. He felt I was stripping her of her peace, because I lacked the high-minded capacity to appreciate the way he serviced mankind with his dick, I guess.

It was Tuesday, Tammy’s day off, and when I got home I found she was gone. Her bedroom was stripped of all Tammy-ness. No more white pantyhose or dresses with sashes.

I walked into the living room, sat on the couch and cried.

Now What?

I needed a roommate and I found one right away. She was a gal in the military, with a motorcycle too, but she wouldn’t last long. She preferred to date interracially and although I couldn’t have cared less, the landlord went ballistic and made her life hell. She moved within two months.

My original lease was paid. I was renting month to month by now, so I gave my notice and left right behind her. I was offended to my core and it was unthinkable for me to live in proximity to this man, once I’d discovered he was a bigot.

“I don’t have a problem with you Elsa. You’ve been a very good tenant. Oh, we’ve had a scrap or two, but you’ve always paid on time. You just have to learn to screen your roommates more carefully. I can’t let the darkies come around here or they’ll take over the place…”

“Uh. Thanks. Yeah. Here’s my notice. I’ll be gone at the end of the month.”

“Okay. But you won’t find a nicer place than this for what you’re paying…”

“Right. Thanks.”

Tammy was gone, and now Tammy’s replacement was gone. My boyfriend was gone, left to pursue his career. I was expecting it, but I loved him intensely, and I was blindsided by the pain. I guess I just didn’t think he’d really leave but sure enough, he was gone, and the loss was staggering. Everything sort of unraveled at once, and I wound up feeling displaced, confused and depressed.

I’d have liked to indulge myself in some weeks’ worth of crying, but I had a bunch of problems to solve. For one thing, I needed a new apartment. On top of that, I needed a truck! I had furniture to move, now, which was a new challenge to me. I needed a new job too, but that was going to have to wait. I was lying about my age again, and I wasn’t exactly proud of it, but I hated my boss and this helped.

Hated? I loathed the son-of-bitch. The bar I worked in was owned by a married couple—two of the least remarkable people I’d ever spent time around. They were paper thin, obscenely stupid and pure bores. Most oddly, they had no idea their condition. They’d inherited money and went in the bar business because they thought it was cool. In spite of repeatedly being hired underage, I had the great fortune to work for competent owners, so this situation was dismal for me, considering I knew the difference.

The husband ordered me around like I was Cinderella. I swear he couldn’t be bothered to remember my name. He thought I was his personal servant, and I don’t think he once looked me in the eye. He was rich, you see.

I was becoming depressed working there, but it seemed prudent to tolerate the situation until my nineteenth birthday. What difference did it make? I felt like shit anyway, so this is what I did.

Behind the scenes, I moved my home, crying when no one was looking. It was like cleaning up after a party I’d thrown for people I loved but would never see again. I was shocked by how badly I hurt. I was the only one left. I wound up sobbing and asking myself what I’d done to fuck up my life so badly. I asked myself this, but never could figure out the answer.

My boss at the bar continued to show me no respect at all, and believe me, I was pissed. A month before my birthday, I wondered if I could stand it. He’d pushed me over my edge and then some, but somehow I managed to control my temper.

Then one day, he said something stupid -which was normal- but this time I said nothing. I reached under the bar for my purse. I grabbed my tip jar, dumped the contents into my purse, got on my motorcycle and drove away. That was that. I didn’t even go back for my last check. I was sure he needed the money more than I did and guess what else? It was my nineteenth birthday. For real, this time.

This was it. I was legal. I was free.

The Launch

So, now I was legitimate. For once and for finally, I could go looking for a real job, but I didn’t have to. Jim was an older Italian man I’d met when I was fifteen. He’d acted surrogate father to me over the years, and he got me a job in an old man’s bar, owned by a friend of his.

This bar had strict policy not to hire anyone under fifty years old. I was a bit shy of that at nineteen, but Jim asked they bend their rule. He asked I be hired, and offered to pay my salary if the boss was dissatisfied with my performance after two weeks. His pal took this deal, and the rest was history. I have major affinity with old men and if there were ever a time in my life where I was treasured, this was it.

I was flying high. No more job insecurity. No more hitchhiking and no more bus riding. No more Creepy bosses, no more sexual harassment, no more drunken boyfriends and no more bigot landlords. I’d forgotten all about the lawsuit. I thought something must have happened to end it and no one told me. I wasn’t bitter about it. By then I didn’t care, for real.

Months passed. I’d moved several times and have no recollection of whether I’d left a trail, or some kind of forwarding address. This is not the kind of thing a teenager thinks about. I was happy, though. I knew that. I had my eye on the horizon, not looking backwards for injury or complaint when one day the phone rang at work.

Brinnnnnnng! Briiinnnnnnng!

It was the attorney calling about the case and I was completely shocked. How’d she get the number? Beats me.

She said the claim was found to be valid and the corporation wanted to settle the case. Huh? Sounded like money. Well, hell, I’d take some. But wait. “Are you Candid Camera?” I asked her this just to check.

She said her office would act as mediator between them and us. A team would be flying in from the company’s headquarters to speak with us. She was calling to coordinate schedules. She gave me a couple of tentative dates about a month out. I told her I could make either of them. She got a current address from me and said I would be getting additional detail in the mail.

Whew! Well, I’ll be damned! We’d won! Amazed, I hung up the phone, and immediately missed Tammy. We’d have shrieked with glee if we still lived together. Instead, I told the old guys in the bar the story. There were lots of jokes. I was offered a ton of advice, which I absorbed.

When the mail came, there were various forms to complete. The one most pertinent wanted me to list where I worked when I left the restaurant. When did I work there? How much did I make?

Uh oh. Quandary. I worked illegally as a bartender. Oh brother. There’s always a wrinkle, isn’t there? When I was a kid, I used to enter sweepstakes with Henry. One time we won and guess what? No prize. He was too old (over 65) and I was too young (under 18). How cruel does it get? Talk about hapless Capricorns. Oh well.

Deciding not to tell on myself, I disclosed where I worked, citing “waitress” instead of “bartender working underage”. I crossed my fingers. I claimed my wage as a bartender (minimum wage) ignoring tips and I mailed it back. Since I knew the guidelines as far as restitution, if I were math inclined, I’d have known right then I was due nothing, but instead I was optimistic.

The date of the meeting was confirmed. Outside of what time I was supposed to show up, I didn’t have any information. I was pretty much told we’d won, so I thought this would be like showing up and getting a prize. I thought I was getting a medal, sort of like the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz”. I expected to feel triumphant, and take a bow. I was expecting accolades and glasses of champagne clinking. Long live the little people, who do the important things and so forth.

The Gang’s All Here!

yellow pants

After much anticipation, the day came and I left work early to make the meeting. I hopped on my motorcycle and rode off into the void with all the old guys in the bar rooting for me, fervently. In fact, they all stepped outside the bar when I left and waved me off into the sun. I was wearing bright yellow pants on my red motorcycle, which is pretty funny if you picture it.

About those pants, if you want to know how funny I looked, then picture this. I walked into this place and everyone was there. Tammy was there. The other gals were there and everyone had brought their mother with them, as a bare minimum. One of the gals had her entire family along. Tammy was flanked by both parents, but that’s not the funny thing.

The funny thing was that every inch of skin in that room was covered. These gals had necklines to the chin, sleeves to the wrist, tights in muted colors. Each of them was wearing a dress and each dress was done in a small flowered print. It was like the land of demure in there and I only had one thought. “Oh no!”

This was normal for Tammy but not the others. It was a room full of lace and it didn’t stop with the gals. The mothers were dressed similar. I saw immediately, I was supposed to play an innocent damsel who was wronged and er…not only was I wearing bright yellow pants, I was carrying a motorcycle helmet. Purse? What purse? Pink lipstick? Makeup? Huh? I did have a comb in my back pocket, though.

Do you know how big a helmet is when a girl carries it? I wasn’t happy. Not at all. I was ready to pout, or even cry. Leo Venus cursed under her breath, and swore to fire her bitch agent for sending her on this cattle call without advising proper costume. Honestly. I was embarrassed. How could I be so dumb?

The secretary called my name with her eyebrow raised. “Elsa? Is that you?” It was me, so I approached her and she handed me a piece of paper which I scanned. Apparently it was an accounting of money owed me. It said this, and it said that. At the bottom it said $32. Yes. That’s right. It said $32. Apparently, I was being paid for one day out of work.

I didn’t start this whole thing for the money, but frankly, this was insulting. I could make more than $32 working the shift in the bar I just left. I started to feel sort of hot. Okay, I started to feel really hot. I sat down with my paper, and looked around the room. No one was talking in the room so I fixed that.

“How’s everyone doin’ and how much are you getting?” I blurted.

The parents all stared and I realized they’d heard of me. I’m the ring-leading troublemaker. I’m the reason they’re all there.


“Mine says “$784”


“Mine says $1000.”

It couldn’t be. I checked again, but I did not misread. They’d called me down there for $32. Well good thing I didn’t buy one of those lovely dresses to wear, huh? If I had, I’d have been in the hole! Not only that, I was green with envy.

Some of the gals didn’t go back to work when they left the job. I did so now I get $32. Well, crap! I wanted a recount! I wanted to whine and I wanted to protest but how? There’s got to be an angle so come on, Elsa. What is it?

They had us all in a room and the secretary called the first gal back. The gal with the $1000 price tag on her head. Less than five minutes later she was back out and looking traumatized, too. Her parents didn’t appear to speak English. No one else asked so I did.

“What happened? What did they do?”

“They gave me $500,” she mumbled.

“What? Why? Don’t you get $1000?” I asked.

She looked like she was going to cry. Her mother shuffled her out the door with an arm around her shoulder. What the hell? How did that happen? How did she go in their owed $1000 and come out with half that? It was a big mystery and I was thinking fast as I could.

Tammy was called next. She was also back out within a few minutes. She knew me. She knew I wanted to know. She also knew I’d ask and possibly swear in the process, so she offered the information to head me off. She was owed $570 and she took $300.


“They fired him Elsa. And it really wasn’t their fault. It was his.”


She didn’t answer. Her parents escorted her out of there, one on each arm. She looked as if she’d had a lobotomy. This wasn’t going well, was it? What the heck was going on back there?

The other gals are called in. Each came back out in record time, with roughly half of what they were owed. I watched this, getting more and more agitated and at some point, I decided I was going to take the $32 that I was entitled to and instead of leaving with $16 that they were going to give me; I was going to take top prize. I was going to take $1000.

My rationale? I didn’t have one.

The Entrance

There was no time to plot. They called my name next, which was last. They’d cleared the room in less than half an hour, so whatever they were doing, they were doing it swiftly. This was actually a very nifty piece of info for a gal like me. I knew I had to throw off their timing. I would have to break their momentum, otherwise that would be all she wrote.

I had my helmet in one hand, my paper in the other, and somehow I was going to turn it into a thousand dollar bill. This was my thought. That, or die trying. Most times I do anything, I have a stack of reasons. It’s never just one, and this was like that.

Let’s see: I understood the guidelines about compensation, and mine was correct. This meant these other gals’ figures were probably correct, as well. That meant whoever was back there had just cheated them, and this pissed me off. It’s not fair is it? Well, you know I have that Libra, so I’m keen on fair. It’s quite natural for me to move to balance things. Libra is co-dependent like that. My action depends on things outside myself.

I figured the other gals left their money on the table, so if I went in there and scooped it up, it would realign everything, and this is what should happen. It was the money, but not just the money. It also had to do with the honor and the integrity of us as a group, and there was more. There is the obvious insult about the $32, but I had other motivation you may not think of. I needed a story. Do you think I just started telling stories? No way!

I was going to go back to the bar the next day and I would be telling the old guys how this went, and I needed some drama. I needed to generate some energy. I enjoy passion and drama and coming back to the bar to report they gave me $32? Well, let’s just say that was not going to happen.

So, what about these Human Relations guys? Did they know who was coming their way? They didn’t. I figured these bastards thought they were going to be done in time for lunch and probably fly out that afternoon, and guess what? This pissed me off.

I’ll say this. I don’t like women who go down like a bowling pin for a man, but I do like meeting men who think all women do this – for the Libra reason above. If I can only act on the other’s action, then it’s only when the other acts with audacity that I can return the favor. Your outrageous behavior begets mine and Venus in Leo likes it bigger than life.

As far as I was concerned, sending these gals home with half their money qualified as highly rude, so here comes the equalizer, you know? I was happy. I was going to get to perform. Did I think it was a show? Well, yes I did.

I walked into the room. It was the attorney’s office and she’s sitting behind her desk. I’d never met her. The case was reassigned, remember?

There were three men in suits, sitting in the office in the comfortable chairs. There was a folding chair for me to sit on and my first thought was that it was like being called to the principal’s office. That, and that I didn’t like my chair.

I didn’t like the men, either. One of them should have given up their chair. Because no one did, I became doubly committed to getting my $1000 – and I was firm on that, by the way. I felt myself getting hotter and hotter. Fuckers. $900 was not going to do.

I took a breath, to get over the yellow pants thing. I had to, because it was bothering me. The men looked formidable and I needed to focus up. It was a small office with all these people in it, so I sat my helmet on the attorney’s desk. I wasn’t consciously making a statement, but in hindsight, this was the result.

Let’s Play Cards!

The attorney explained she was acting as mediator and kicked off the meeting by stating its purpose, and explaining it would be recorded. I scanned the room while she said, “blah, blah, blah.”

I saw papers on the desk that were waiting for my signature, for one thing. They were under my helmet, which struck me as sort of comical, but I didn’t let on. I kept my composure and reminded myself not to let them rush my game.

We stated our names for the tape, per the attorney’s request, and then she turned the meeting over to head of Human Relations; who expressed his sympathy for what occurred with The Creep. He explained the company was shocked and outraged over the situation. He said The Creep has been terminated and that the company felt very strongly on the issue. Because of this, they were very happy to offer me full compensation on my claim, along with their sincere apology.

Boy, he was good. I was done for, unless I danced on the spot. I danced.

“I wish I believed you, but I don’t. You’re not outraged. If the company was outraged, you’d have fired that son of a bitch on the spot.”

The room went hushed and I gleaned no one had been swearing in there. Oh really? Good to know. Now I knew how to get their attention, but I understood spice. You don’t want to use too much of it. I kept talking.

“Do you know what kind of employee I am? I’m a good employee. You find out what’s going on and I wait for you to take some action, so that I can work for you in peace. I wait and I wait and I wait and months pass. Finally, I throw in the towel. I quit and what happens? Another year goes by. A year! Now you fly in and you want to give me $32? I’m sorry. That’s not going to do it. That’s not enough. In fact, I think you should pay me for every day that has passed without apology on your part. I don’t like being jerked around and left to fry in the pan while you keep busy, trying to find a way out of the situation. In fact, it pisses me off.”

No one answered. I thought they were letting me say my piece. Then they’d come back with bullshit. I could already smell it. Fine, then.

“Now, you call me away from my current job—where I’m treated with respect, by the way- so I can come in here and listen to you claim to give a damn. Well, it’s an insult. You insult me. I don’t want your $32, so what are you going to do instead?”

I directed my question to the head HR guy. He wasn’t fazed and I was impressed.

“Well, Elsa we’d love to do something more, but unfortunately our hands are tied. The court decides the compensation, so this is out of our hands. Of course we’d be happy to do something more for you, if we could. But we have to answer to our superiors…” He trailed off.

“Uh…now you’re lying to me. I guess you know this isn’t going to help my mood.” I smiled wide and shifted in my uncomfortable chair. “If the compensation is directed by the court, then how did those other four gals manage to leave here with half of what they were entitled to? Hmm?”

He was surprised, but he hid it well and recovered quickly. I knew because he gave a little laugh that he didn’t mean to. A tell.

“Elsa, each of these situations is unique. The suits were filed separately and will be settled independent of each other.”

I didn’t answer. The reason was because that was a good answer and I didn’t know what to say, but it worked out okay. The head guy looked over at the attorney for assistance and she immediately revealed herself to be the enemy.

“Elsa, I don’t think you’re being reasonable.”

Now it was my turn to laugh involuntarily. “Uh… excuse me. Aren’t you supposed to be on my side?”

But no, she wasn’t. She was a mediator. She wasn’t on my side. She explained she wasn’t on anyone’s side. She was there to facilitate resolution, and I was surprised. I didn’t know I’d be on my own and it rattled me. She continued to blather about negotiations being civil or whatever. I wasn’t listening. I already knew she’s hostile to my purpose, but as long as she was talking, it gave me a chance to think.

What was I thinking? I was thinking I was sunk. I was thinking I was out of my mind to imagine I could get more money than I was entitled to. I considered conceding, but decided it had only been a matter of minutes and I couldn’t let them off that easy. I simply had to be a pain in the ass. I had to process some old Creep anger. Whatever. They weren’t going home just yet. Too much of my blood had been spilled. I decided that I was going to fuck with them, at the very least.

“So Elsa, how about it? We’re really most regretful for what happened and we’ll be screening in the future…”

I didn’t believe him. “I don’t believe you.”

Mediator Chick interrupted again. “You aren’t being reasonable. These gentlemen have traveled from X city to settle your case and they’re here offering you full compensation. It’s not polite or appropriate for you to insult them.”


“Uh, so what are the rules then, anyway? They can come in here and send four gals home with half their money, tra la la, while you sit there and let it happen? And now you defend them while you insult me, by expecting me to believe you’re impartial? You know what I think? I think all four of you just want to go to lunch and I think I need an attorney.”

Score! I could read it on their faces. They didn’t want me to get an attorney. They wanted this settled today. I put the threat along, with swearing, in the stack of cards I had that worked, and I pushed. “I’ll ask you again. I’m not willing to sign your paper. I’m not going to accept your $32, so what are going to do instead?”

Mediator chick spoke up again. Jeez. Do you think she was a caretaker of men or what?

“Elsa! These gentlemen are offering you full compensation!”

I ignored her and the head HR guy placated me. “Elsa, like I said. Our hands are tied here…”

“And like I said. I don’t believe you.”

I noted he was using my name a lot. One of the old guys at the bar told me that they would. He said they’d be trained, and they would try to be my buddy. He recommended I not be swayed by this. I thought we were fixing to go in a circle, but instead he asked me, “What do you want?”


Mediator chick’s jaw dropped. She shook her head like she’d never heard anything more stupid in her life, and I was amused. She’d been raised to believe there is a way girls should behave. I knew I was off her radar screen and this was funny to me. To me, she was a gnat in the room. An exceptionally dumb one, at that. And a bitch, too, but that was beside the point.

HR man whistled like the figure was sky-high and out of this world, and I smiled. I looked at him with appreciation, because it was a nice affect, and then I out and out chuckled just so he could see I was crazy. He kind of smiled back. He was an actor, too. He knew we were playin’, so I chuckled some more and wondered if he played cards. I bet.

“Elsa, as much as I’d like to make that happen for you, I can’t. There’s just no way.”

He said this in a jolly, acting amused sort of way. I’m so entertaining. I’m kind of like a circus dog and he would tip me if there were any way possible, but alas…

“Well, then I guess you have a problem.”

“What’s that?” he said, condescendingly.

“Me. I’m a problem.” I indicated the stack of papers. “You want me to sign that stuff over there, don’t you?”

“Yes, we do.”

“Well, I’m not going to do it.” I meant this, and I stared at him smugly.

The Mediator. She always jumped in at the worst moment. Her timing was a joke. “Elsa, you have to sign the papers. It’s a full payment! They’re offering you the full payment. There is nothing to negotiate here. It’s the full payment due you.”

“I have to sign? I don’t think that’s right. I should check. I think I’d better consult an attorney and make sure. I thought you were an attorney, but you’re something else, aren’t you?” I laughed, because it was fun to insult her.

She interrupted me to assure me she was an attorney, but I just talked over her, hard and fast.

“We can just set up another meeting. I thought I’d be represented here, you know? I’m very surprised there are three of them and one of me. I’m pretty intimidated in here. I’m just a girl.” I laughed. “And I don’t like this chair. Look at you guys, in your big, black, padded chairs and look at this piece of shit you give me to sit on. How’d that happen? None of you have any class. I really think I need someone in here who is on my side.”

One of the men moved to offer his chair. The head HR guy waved him off and asked the mediator to take a break. He said he wanted to talk to her privately, and I was glad. I needed to regroup. This was more like boxing than cards. The play was fast. The play was hard. I thought I was pretty much losing, but it was interesting.

I wondered if I should give up the game, but I’d already missed the rest of the day of work. I figured I may as well hang around and spar. I was losing, yes. But I didn’t believe I was down for the count. I still thought there was a chance I could get my 1,000 dollars. I’d never had $1,000 before. My motorcycle cost $400. I got a deal from my boyfriend, but still. My clothes cost $5, if that. It wasn’t like I thought it would change my life, but it would be a whale of a score, so I decided I might as well keep pitchin’ at it. I really had nothing to lose and there is always the story, right?

I decided to stand firm.

Let’s Get This Show On The Road!

I tried not to dwell on what they may be saying about me in the other room, calling me a bitch, or whatever. I was in the game now, and not about to go home crying. Instead, I ran through all my information and tried to shore myself up.

It never occurred to me I didn’t have $1,000 coming. I thought I had The Creep’s head on a plate coming. That’s no kidding. I also thought negotiating down the other girls’ rewards was reprehensible. I couldn’t have justified what I was doing otherwise. It would have been whining after the fact, because I’d signed on knowing the score, as far as compensation.

Should I make them miss their plane? I wondered. I’d never been on a plane in my life, but the old guys told me these men probably had their return tickets in their pockets. See how it pays to know old guys?

When they filed back into the room, the Mediator started talking and I was kind of disappointed in the head HR guy. He could play cards and he should’ve been able to intuit I didn’t care for her. It was careless. I’m not going anywhere, if she’s driving. What do you call it? We’d be here till the cows come home, okay? I didn’t like that bitch and I wasn’t exactly mature.

“Elsa, we’ve discussed the situation and these gentlemen are willing to give you ten times your award amount. $320. I have to recommend you take it. It’s generous on their part.” She looks over at the head HR with a stupid head tilt and adds, “It’s overly generous.”

I almost think it wasn’t orchestrated. She was that stupid. Does she think they’re going to hire her or what? Does she want a date with one of them? What is it? Damned bitch.

I turned to the head HR guy, because I wasn’t going to talk to the gnat anymore. I thanked him for the offer, but I reminded him that I wanted $1,000; and I smiled wide, of course. In fact, I beamed. I flirted, even.

Seeing this, the Mediator flared and scolded, “Elsa! You do not get $1,000! We understand you want $1,000. Who doesn’t want a free thousand dollars? But your claim is worth $32 and you’re being offered ten times the award. You’re being completely irrational.”

That did it. I wasn’t going to be able to get anything done with this gal interfering. I used the Head HR guy’s line.

“May I have a word with you privately, please?” I asked, politely.

Gnat rolled her eyes. She actually rolled her eyes, but what could she do? She just gave the other side an audience.

She looked over apologetically at the men and then shut off the tape recorder and excused us from the meeting. I followed her into the original attorney’s office, the gal we filed with, but she was nowhere to be seen. It was an open cubicle. Gnat was going to chastise me but I started yelling before she had the chance. Did I tell you I’m Italian? When I yell, it is no joke.


“Elsa, keep your voice down.”


“Elsa! I’m here to mediate and facilitate negotiating. What you are asking for is completely unreasonable.”

My voice boomed through the place, “How the hell would you know? Did you go through what we did? Did your boss tell you to jerk him off? Did he? Does your boss chat with you about cock sucking? You need a new job, because you are one shitty mediator. I don’t think you’re any good at this. You’re a fuckin’ liability. How could you let those other girls leave with half of what they had coming? Huh? Do you know what he did to them? I don’t like dumb asses and I don’t want any more help negotiating from you.”

She was white as a sheet. I had her shut up, so I switched to John Wayne speak. I learned it from Al. He’s an old man pool player. He’d told me if I really wanted someone’s attention, I should talk low and slow like John Wayne. I remembered this and decided to try it.

“If you help me, I promise you, this – we will be in that room the rest of the day and back in there tomorrow.” I put my finger in her face. “You listen to me. You wait here, and I’ll go back in there and get my $1,000. Then I’ll go home and this will be done.”

“They are not going to give you $1,000.”

“Oh, yes, they are. And it’s going to take me fifteen minutes. If that. Just leave me in there, alone.” I put my hand up to command her, like she was a dog. “Wait.”

She was mumbling and I left her that way. She was frazzled, but I didn’t care. If she was going to be frazzled by a teenager, then she was in the wrong job.

I had no idea what I was going to do. I figured I had ten minutes before Gnat composed herself and came back in to interfere. Probably with back up! I decided my best bet was to make a finale. I had about thirty seconds to write a script as I walked down the hall. There were people in the office, who heard every word I said. They’re dressed professionally and they stared at me as I passed by. Boy, were my pants yellow, but I put that out of my mind.

I went back in the room and the HR guys were surprised I was alone. I didn’t explain. I just dove in. For all they knew, I’d killed her. I told them I was pissed off and sick of being jerked around. I wanted $1,000, not a fucking penny less and if I didn’t get it, I was going to cause them non-stop trouble.

I told them it was less money than they’d screwed the other girls out of, so they were coming out ahead. I reminded them their customer base was primarily retiree age. I said I knew every single one of them on a first name basis, which I did. I promised I would stand outside the restaurant every day and talk to each customer they had, until every single one of them knew what had happened to Tammy (a well liked waitress) and I (that cute little hostess), and how the company failed to take any action.

But that’s not all.

I promised to call the news and tell them everything the Creep said, verbatim, and I reminded them that I was seventeen years old when he did it.

“I think they’ll jump right on the story, don’t you? It’ll make great news. I’ve always wanted to be on tv, anyway. Fuck it! I’ll tell them to come down and film me in front of your restaurant making a scene with my sign, and guess what it’s going to say? I’ll tell you. It’s going to say:

“After you’re done wiping down the tables, HOW ABOUT YOU SUCK MY COCK?”

“Know why? Because that’s what your Creep said to me.”

They recoiled in unison and I kept talking.

“I’m also going to let the news know that you cheated the other girls out of their money, like a bunch of nickel and dime bastards.”

I tossed out some more Creep quotes, gross as I could up with, under the gun. Basically, I make “clean out the walk-in” soup. Do you know what that is? It’s what restaurants do once a week. They throw everything that is rotting or beginning to rot, out of the walk-in cooler and into a pot. Add water, stir and serve.

I explained that once I made the news, I felt sure that an attorney would probably pop up to help me with this. A real attorney, I mean. Not a mediator, dumbass…..and then I stopped to take a breath.

No one said anything so I went for the close.

“I think you should write the check. Go back and tell your boss that you screwed four out of five of the complainants, but the last one was crazy.” Big smile. “If not, I’m leaving right now because you’ve jerked me around long enough. My chair is uncomfortable and I am bored playing this game with you.”

Head HR wrote the check and I signed the papers.

I extended my hand to shake all of theirs. All three shook my hand, but they didn’t want to. They had the idea they were in a room with an uncivilized force of nature, which was pretty much correct.

I walked out of the room, helmet in one hand, $1,000 check in the other. I swung by the mediator, who was sitting right where I left her. I waved my check. “See!” I glanced at the clock. “Eight minutes.”

I walked out the door without looking back, then got on my bike in my yellow pants, and took that sucker straight to the bank.

The End.

21 thoughts on “Teenager”

  1. This one is so rich, I think I ought to print it out to highlight and underline things. Your life is so well lived, and your story incredibly well written. I’m really grateful for you sharing it here. I would love to know what your husband was up to simultaneously, when he left you to go start his career.

    1. Thank you! Re: your questions, first, my husband did not leave me to start his career. That is what I thought he did, at the time I wrote this story. Several years later, we got back in contact and I found out what actually happened.

      This was also when I found out what he was doing at this time in our lives, and vice versa. So it was double shock.

      I did write this out so let me see if I can find that bit. If not, I will have to decide how to present it. In other words – one sentence, or another story.

  2. Note: I just wrote the story about what my husband was doing at this time. In the process, I was looking for the date. I found out they made a movie about his escapade.

    He came upstairs, just as I was putting the pictures on the blog post. I told him about the movie… and he said, ‘Yeah, we’ll watch it. Hey! Don’t write anything about that on your blog.”

    “I already have (sixteen years ago). Why not?”

    “Well don’t write anymore. Don’t write anything new…”

    It’s because he wants to lie low and I have to respect this so I’m sorry.

  3. Loved every Word of it. You nailed them so good, masterful Libra action ♎ I want mu daughters to read this, so educational ❤️ glad you won your case 🌟

  4. Wow! That was such an amazing story!! Thank you for sharing. Can you tell us the name of the movie? They should make a movie about you Elsa!! 🤩

  5. I loved this story so much. You’d be a great lawyer. You are a wonderful storyteller. But most of all you are an amazing bad ass person and friend.

  6. Hello Elsa 💜
    Not sure if you’ve ever seen the Disney movie “Ratatouille” but at the end of the movie after tasting the simple dish of ratatouille, which was prepared by a rat, the stuffy food critic Anton Ego says, “you’ve rocked me to my core”. He sits back in his chair, eyes closed and he is transported back to his mother’s kitchen as a boy eating her ratatouille. That’s how your story made me feel. Transported to various times in my youth. If only…..
    Thank you Elsa for rocking me to my core. I enjoyed every minute of your story!

  7. Wow how I loved this! You are made of the good stuff! Girl after my own heart. What’s fair is fair!!!!
    F*** those bastards. I love it!!!!!! 🌈🙌⭐️

  8. My husband has been lurking in the background while I read this, wondering why I haven’t started work. LOL! I had to read to the end!
    Loved this, Elsa! Respect!

  9. Avatar
    Sarah J Britt

    I love your stories! You have lived a colorful life and I know it wasn’t easy so thanks for being brave enough to share them with us!

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