I looked up and The Wild Huckleberry was right in front of me. All my musings had distracted me. I hadn't planned what I was going to do or what I was going to say and then I saw the sign. HELP WANTED in big bold letters on the far right side of the window. The stars were in alignment! I walked into The Wild Huckleberry and my new life.
I loved the cafe immediately. It had mismatched tables and chairs. None of them were the same size or color or shape. It was my kind of place -- a place where no one matched and everyone belonged. There were curtains, linoleum floors and an eating counter, just like the movies from the fifties. It was perfect.
"I'll be with you in just a moment, dear," said the only waitress in the cafe. "Go ahead and find a seat.” She went back to taking an order from a cute young couple with a little baby. I sat on the opposite side of the cafe. There were only a few people in the cafe but it was almost 10:00 on a weekday morning. Most people would be at work.
"Here's a menu, dear," I heard as the waitress thrust the menu in my face. "I'll be back in a few minutes to take your order."
"Oh, thanks, but I'm actually here about the HELP WANTED sign in the window. I was wondering if I could talk to whoever is in charge of hiring," I said.
"Well, that would be me, dearie. I'm the lucky owner of this wonderful, rundown establishment. My name's Roxanne," said the waitress. "What's your name?"
The moment of truth was here. This would be the first time I would truly have "forgotten" myself. "I'm Kathleen Jones but everyone calls me Kathy. I never answer to Kathleen. That's my grandmother," I said. I didn't bother to add that I'd never answered to Kathy either. I would just get used to the name.
"Nice to meet you, Kathy. I need a waitress to work the second shift. It's from two until ten. We actually close at nine but it will take you an hour to get rid of stragglers, clean up and set up for the next morning. Do you have any experience?" asked Roxanne.
"I do not, but I am a fast learner and a hard worker and I really need a job," I said. I figured the truth was the way to go since if she hired me she'd know pretty soon that I had no experience.
"You're in luck. I'm desperate. I'm tired of working 16 hour days so you're hired on a trial basis. I'll give you seven days to get up to speed and then we'll chat again. You're new in town, right? You got a place to stay?" asked Roxanne.
"Actually, no I don't. I just got off the bus."
"Well, there's a little apartment above the cafe you can live in if you want. It's not much and I'll totally understand if you don't want it after you see it but it is cheap and I'll wait to collect your rent until after your first paycheck," said Roxanne.
"I'll take it!"
"But you haven't even seen it."
"Doesn't matter. Your terms are exactly what I need," I replied. It was exactly what I needed, since I knew I couldn't go back to the hotel again.
"I thought that might be the case. You aren't running from the law, are you?" asked Roxanne.
"No, nothing like that," I said.
"Well, everything else I can deal with so let's go get you settled. Carol Jean, come on out and take over. I'm taking Kathy upstairs to get her settled into the apartment."
Carol Jean came out through the double doors that must have led to the kitchen. With a name like Carol Jean, I expected an older lady with lots of wrinkles and maybe a beehive, but instead a young girl with long, straight hair down to her waist came out of the door. Poor girl. How does a teenager in today's world go by a name of Carol Jean.
"Roxanne, I told you my name is Caro," said Carol Jean defiantly.
"Honey, you've been Carol Jean since your mama brought you into the world and you'll be Carol Jean to me until either you or I leave this world. Just be glad you got Caro on your nametag. It was only because it was cheaper that way. Now watch the cafe while I take Kathy up to the apartment."
"Is she another stray?" asked Carol Jean.
"What do you think?" said Roxanne.
"Okay, I'll keep watch while you fix the world, one stray at a time."
I was beginning to not feel so sorry for Carol Jean. For just a minute I thought I'd call her Carol Jean too just to spite her but then realized my big act of defiance for my life had been running away and I was all out of spunk for the minute.
I followed Roxanne through the double doors which did indeed lead to the kitchen. We passed through the kitchen where I was introduced to Bill, the cook. Out the back door there were some stairs we climbed up to the apartment. Roxanne unlocked the door and handed me the keys.
"You can still change your mind about the apartment. It's not a condition of employment," said Roxanne.
"It'll be fine," I assured her.
"Where's your stuff?"
"This is all I have."
Roxanne opened the door to the apartment. It was sparsely furnished and all one room -- kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom. It was cozy and more than enough for just me.
Roxanne turned to me, "You are quite the mystery. Does this meet with your approval?"
I nodded. It was more than I could have hoped for. I really needed to plan my amnesia better next time!
Roxanne handed me the keys and then continued, "Well, we provide the uniform and we have them in almost every size imaginable so once you're settled, come down to the cafe and we'll get you set up for the night. The shoes you have on should be fine as long as they're comfortable. I'll be here tonight and for the next couple of nights to help out. You'll be working with Shirley. She's a great waitress and been with us for awhile. Between her and me, you'll learn the ropes quickly. Why don't you get a little rest and come down for lunch. We feed the help daily. See you in a few."
She was out the door before I could even say thank-you.