“Mom, come on! I can’t be late!” Kasey yelled. She was losing her patience fast.
Naomi lifted the couch cushion, and looked in the creases of the chair.
“I’ll just be a minute. I think I lost Daddy’s keys. I always have an extra pair lying around here. They must be here somewhere,” Naomi said. She was determined to find the keys that didn’t exist anymore.
“Come on! You can bring him the keys later!” Kasey yelled. He’s dead anyways! She wanted to scream.
“Nope, they aren’t there. Just a minute sweetie,” Naomi said.
Finally, Kasey reached into her purse and pulled out her own keys. She shook them wildly.
“Here they are! Look! I found them! Can we please go?!” Kasey said, at the end of her rope.
“Oh, good. Here let me have them,” Naomi said, and reached for them.
Kasey pulled away, knowing that Naomi would realize they weren’t her Dad’s keys if she got too close. The brain sure worked in weird ways when it was broken, Kasey thought to herself.
“No, no…that’s okay. I’ll hold on to them. Grab your sweater,” she instructed and pointed to Naomi’s sweater on the chair, distracting her long enough to get her out the door.
“Where are we going again?” Naomi asked once they were in the car.
“To work, Mom,” Kasey said, exhausted, and running late.
Naomi seemed satisfied with the answer, and was quiet the rest of the ride.
Kasey walked briskly into the bar, her mom following close behind.
“You’re late,” Ben, the other bartender, said.
“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” Kasey said and motioned to her mom. She walked her mom down to the end of the bar and made sure she was comfortable. She threw her purse in the locked cabinet, and poured herself a small glass of beer, and drank it down quickly.
Ben scowled at her, and left. Kasey poured her mom a club soda and set it in front of her.
“You good now?” Kasey asked.
“Thank you, sweetie,” Naomi said.
Kasey watched her mom as she sipped her drink, and slipped into her zone. Guilt overwhelmed her. Bill watched from down the bar.
“You need a refill?” Kasey asked him.
“You need a break?” he asked in return.
Kasey smiled at the thought. If only it was that easy. He slid his glass across the bar and she refilled his beer.
“Do you ever leave this place?” Kasey provoked him.
He smiled. “I have a life, you know.”
Yeah, well…” Kasey said, and went about getting the bar ready for the evening regulars.
Willow wandered in around 7:25pm and sat next to Bill.
“You back again?” Bill asked.
“I thought we would’ve scared you off,” Bill teased.
“Not a chance. Besides, now that you know my secret, I gotta keep my eye on you people,” Willow needled. “Did I miss some excitement?” she asked him, and nodded towards Kasey, who grumbled to herself quietly.
“She’s kind of roughed up, I think. Looks like Naomi had a rough day.”
“I wish we could do something to help,” Willow said.
Bill shrugged his shoulders.
“Does she have any family?” Willow wondered out loud.
“I don’t think so. As far as I know, it’s just her and Naomi. I’ve never heard her mention anyone else.”
“That’s a shame,” Willow commented.
“You’re back again, huh? Tom Collins?” Kasey asked, and tucked a stray chunk of hair behind her ear.
“No, I think I’ll stick with club soda tonight,” she said.
“I thought you might,” Kasey said. She was all business, cleaning the bar, and washing glasses, and straightening bottles. Willow could tell she was avoiding talking, so she didn’t press her for conversation. Instead she talked to Bill. Bill talked about his years as a bus driver and the characters he met. He said it wasn’t so different from being a bartender, except for the drunk part, although he did run into his share of drunks on the bus. Willow discovered he was a great storyteller. His stories got more colorful as the evening wore on. She thought that being a bus driver would make for some great writing material. She made a mental note to take the bus more often.
“No Judy tonight?” Willow asked as she looked around the near empty bar.
“Guess not,” Bill said.
“Didn’t she say she was going to her sister’s for the weekend, or something like that?” Kasey commented.
Willow turned to Bill to answer her.
“What are you looking at me for? I don’t keep track of that wild red head,” Bill said.
“Really? You don’t talk to her outside of the Anchor?” Willow asked.
“What gave you that idea?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know. The way you two hassle each other, I thought you were friends or something,” Willow said.
“We are…just not in the real world,” Bill said.
“She wouldn’t have him anyways,” Kasey chimed in. “He’s not her type.” She laughed and winked at Bill.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Bill piped back defensively.
Willow laughed at the exchange. Kasey had a talent for ruffling people’s feathers.
“Her type? What’s her type?” Willow asked.
“She likes them younger…and with a full head of hair,” Kasey added just for fun.
“Hey!” Bill said and ran his hands through the few hairs combed across his head.
“Ignore her. She’s just egging you on,” Willow said. “I’ve seen her do it before.”
“You have not,” Kasey said.
Willow raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms.
“What?” Kasey asked. “Who are you talking about?” She played innocent.
“You know exactly who I mean. Don’t play innocent with me,” Willow said.
“Who? What?” Bill asked, clearly missing their cryptic conversation.
“She means Chase,” Kasey admitted, as she dunked a glass into the sink.
“Who’s Chase?” Bill asked.
“He’s a young man who works at the coffee shop with her. She hassles him all the time,” Willow said and elbowed Bill. Bill nodded knowingly.
“That’s just because he makes it so easy. If you’re dumb enough to leave the door open, I’m going to go through it,” Kasey said.
Bill caught on, and winked at Willow.
“So, this guy…Chase is it?” Bill asked. Willow nodded.
“Is he good looking?” Bill asked, knowing he was in the driver seat.
“Chase? I guess so. I never really thought about it before. He’s not my type,” Kasey said.
“Does he have all his hair?” Bill sniped. Willow laughed almost spitting out her drink.
“More than you,” Kasey teased.
“Hmmm…I see. And he’s a young man? About your age?” Bill continued.
“Yes, and he’s a college man too,” Willow added.
“Hmmm…” Bill said, and rubbed his chin.
Willow leaned closer and whispered to Bill, “They are perfect for each other.”
“What are you two talking about down there?” Kasey asked.
“Nothing, dear. Bill’s just rambling. You know how he gets,” Willow said quickly. She’d planted a seed and that was good enough for now.
“Yeah, you know me. Just rambling. Maybe I’ll have to trade my beer in for coffee and come see this guy,” Bill said.
“Really? You’re going to trade your beer for coffee,” Kasey said.
“Nah, you’re probably right. Guess I’ll have to let Willow keep me informed about this college man,” Bill said.
Willow winked at Bill.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Bill, but there’s nothing to tell,” Kasey said, and changed the subject. “Mom, are you hungry?”
“What? Are you talking to me?” Naomi asked.
“Yes. Would you like something to eat?” Kasey said again, leaving the ‘mom’ part out this time.
“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Naomi said.
“Would one of you mind going next door to Tony’s and get her a slice of pizza? She was so busy looking for those stupid keys I forgot to make her eat something,” Kasey asked.
Neither Bill or Willow were sure what she was talking about, but they figured it had something to do with the mood she was in when she got there.
“I got it,” Bill said. “Just cheese?”
“Yeah, that’s fine. Thanks, Bill,” Kasey said, and slid a five dollar bill across the bar to him.
“She had a rough day, huh?” Willow asked, cautiously.
“Yep. It’s always something,” Kasey said, and walked away.
Willow wanted to reach out to her, but she knew Kasey wouldn’t talk about it. She hoped that they hadn’t teased her too much about Chase.
When Bill got back, he handed the pizza to Kasey and she took it down to Naomi.
“Do you think your mom would talk to me?” Willow asked Kasey.
“She might. It all depends on her mood,” Kasey said.
Willow picked up her drink and moved down the bar to where Naomi was seated. Willow sat at the corner of the bar near Naomi.
“Is the pizza good?” Willow asked her.
Naomi didn’t answer, she just kept eating.
“Ask her about Cliff,” Kasey suggested.
“Cliff?” Willow asked.
“He was my grandfather…her dad. I never met him. Her long-term memory is nearly flawless. She just can’t remember what she had for breakfast this morning. Her short-term memory is shot,” Kasey said.
Willow gave Kasey a wink.
Willow turned to Naomi. “Does Cliff like pizza?” she asked.
Naomi’s face lit up. “Oh, yes. He loves pizza! Especially anchovy. I can’t stand anchovy pizza, but he loves anchovies. Even puts them on his salad sometimes. Do you remember the time that he tried to sneak anchovies onto Mama’s pizza and she nearly gagged?! That was so funny!” Naomi said and laughed.
Willow figured she’d play along. She looked to Kasey for her approval, and Kasey shrugged her shoulders.
“That was funny!” Willow agreed.
“Of course, fish was a staple at our house. I guess that’s what happens when you work on the docks, right?” Naomi said.
Willow nodded and looked to Kasey for clarification.
“He worked on the docks. He was a fisherman. She always used to go down there to hang out with him when she was a young girl,” Kasey said.
“The docks! I love the docks! Oh, my gosh! What time is it? Do you want to go down there with me? We could play hide-and-seek on the boats if you want,” Naomi said. She sounded like a little girl.
“Oh, I think it’s a little late. It’s dark outside,” Willow said.
“That’s the best time! The boats creak and moan and it’s so scary…and fun!” Naomi said.
Kasey heard the conversation and stepped in to rescue Willow.
“We can’t, remember? He’s on an overnight trip. The boats aren’t there,” Kasey said.
Naomi looked disappointed. “Oh, boo! Maybe tomorrow?” she said to Willow.
Willow looked to Kasey and Kasey nodded at her.
“I think tomorrow would be better,” Kasey said.
Willow played along. “Yes, I can go tomorrow too.”
“Oh good! It’s a plan!” Naomi said.
Willow was quiet for a few moments and Naomi went back to eating as if the conversation had never happened. Willow picked up her drink and made her way back to the seat next to Bill.
“Weird, isn’t it?” he said.
“That must be so hard on Kasey,” Willow said, feeling deep sympathy for Kasey. “How does she do it?”
“She’s a tough kid. I don’t think she really had a choice in the matter,” Bill said.
Willow had a new appreciation for the pain that Kasey probably felt on a daily basis. She couldn’t imagine having her own mother not know who she was half the time, or not know that she even had a daughter. No wonder Kasey was the way she was.