more usual than un-

As Jeff requested, we went straight home. Didn’t stop to eat on a Friday night, which was unusual, for us.

I cooked that night. Nothing unusual. Just my usual, my-turn-to-cook, spaghetti and meat sauce. Quick, easy, and yummy;  only because Jeff had taught me how to doctor up the jarred stuff. Fresh garlic and onions, sautéed with the meat, and finished with generous handfuls of fresh grated parmesan, made all the difference.

Jeff ducked into the shower, while I was prepping. He announced that he had sweat enough for a whole week that day, and needed some freshenin’ up. He was in there a little longer than I thought he would be. I considered checking on him, but he appeared, just then, in fine spirits.

“What can I do?” he asked, brightly.

“You can go sit down and relax,” I said. “Dinner’s almost done.”

“Supper,” he jokingly corrected me.

It was our usual, silly corny routine. The result of early dating differences, and trying to convince each other what the proper name for our evening meal should be. A lot like the next Saturday/this Saturday debate. After a few, important, miss-communications, we’d decided it was best to always supply a numeric date, when discussing the future.

Happily headed to the den, Jeff parked himself in his chair, legs elevated, as usual. I was stirring the cooked pasta into the sauce, when the phone rang. The one-sided part of the conversation I could hear, was Jeff laughing and saying, “Oh, hi. Yes, I’m fine. Feelin’ great now. Must be…. ’cause I even got my appetite back. Just waitin’ on the wife to serve me up some supper!”

I playfully arched an eyebrow at him through the pass-thru. “Oh, I’ve done it now,” he laughed, said his goodbye, and hung up.

The check-in was from the owner of the business who had taken our original 10’x10′ spot at the mall. They hadn’t been open all that long. I’d only, recently, met him and his wife.

But, Jeff, as usual, had encouraged them, and advised them, and in the course of the day when there were few customers, extracted most everything there was to know about his new friend.

“Wow.” I thought on that for a second. “That was really nice.”

“Yeah,” Jeff nodded. “That was real nice…”

I delivered Jeff’s serving, along with his usual big glass of white milk. On my way back to the kitchen, I stopped before rounding the short, separating wall.

“So, you must have really scared him, too. Huh?”

“Nah. I didn’t scare him,” he negated. “She did that!”

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Thursday, By Appointment

In the beginning, we’d established Michigan Hot Sauce Club hours based on stock deliveries and peak times the mall was busiest. Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Thursday was the day devoted to store-keeping. Parked in the fire-engine red and glittered, padded vinyl office chair behind the display counter, Jeff would scan new items into the register. Then, price label the goods, and find appropriate alphabetical space for each.

Not long in, we determined Thursday wasn’t going to be a big sale day. We downgraded to Thursday afternoon. Pretty quickly, realizing weekday sales were still rare, we decided to advertise, “Friday, Saturday, and Thursday by Appointment.”

I’d put the fear in him that check-ins were required, twice a day, or I’d freak out. That came about in response to a few incidents. One, notably, the time a physical therapist showed up for a home visit, and it appeared Jeff wasn’t home. After ringing the doorbell, knocking on the front and side doors, and phoning him, she called me.

She’d already looked in the front window and the office window. I asked her to please go around the side and peer into the den window by his chair. Thankfully, she did, reporting that she had knocked on the window and he hadn’t moved.

I begged her to, please, knock harder – as hard as she could. I told her I didn’t care if the siding was damaged or if the windowpane cracked. She whomped a few heavy-handed hits. That did the trick. Jeff’d been deep-sleep reclining in just his underwear.

Later, told me how embarrassed he was. I was more concerned that he’d missed the doorbell, the knocking and the phone ringing. I told him that he’d given me a panic attack. From here out, I demanded he always have his phone on the loudest setting possible, and that he keep it with him, at all times.

“Even in the bathroom?” Jeff joked, good-naturedly, rolling his eyes when I answered with an emphatic, “Yes!” I, also suggested, he should always be wearing pants or shorts. At all times. Especially, when he had appointments.

Thursday, September 29, 2006.

I worriedly called Jeff on my break at work. It was almost 10:00 am, and I hadn’t heard from him, yet.

It took me two, long-ringing tries to get him on the phone. When he answered, I immediately asked him, “Where were you?” “Morning constitution!” he quipped.  He told me he wasn’t “feelin’ too great,” and asked if I thought it would be ok if he took the new stuff down to the store on Friday.

I didn’t see a problem with that. We hadn’t had a Thursday sale in quite some time, and Friday mornings weren’t setting our profits on fire, either.

Jeff did end up bringing the boxes down that day, after lunch. He said he’d just had to force himself to “get on the giddy-up.”

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