An excerpt from Just in Time
The lighting was much too bright, the food overcooked and the waiter—a lethargic man in no risk of suffering a heart attack—had even messed up the order. Yet, sitting in the middle of a hypnotic conversation with Eunice, Bill barely noticed any of it.
As the waiter sauntered back to the table, his tray held two cups of coffee and one caramel pudding for Bill. Awkwardly placing the dessert onto the table, the apathetic server asked, “Will there be anything else?”
“Thank you, no,” Bill answered, without ever averting his attention away from his dinner date. He gestured toward the gooey dessert. “You sure you won’t share this with me?” he asked. “Trust me…it’s not going to last long on that plate.”
Eunice laughed and poured a second spoonful of sugar into her coffee. “It’s all yours,” she said, lifting the cup to take a sip.
Bill smiled. “You had your shot,” he joked.
“All yours,” she repeated, content to watch.
Bill grabbed his spoon and dove in. “So tell me about your family,” he said, after finishing the first bite.
“I have one son, Jim, who recently retired from a career in the prison system.”
“Oh wow. A prison guard?” he asked.
“Yes. He was a Correction Officer for thirty years.” She shook her head. “He’s a wonderful man, but the job definitely took its toll on him.”
“I bet.” Bill took a break from the caramel for a sip of coffee. “Grandkids?” he asked.
“One grandson…Richard.” She shook her head again. “And from what I can tell, he’s about one argument away from a divorce.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
She shrugged. “Though I think young people quit on each other way too quickly these days, it may be for the best in this case,” she said. “It’s a loveless marriage…darker than any penitentiary his father ever worked in.”
Bill nodded. “I agree. Marriage shouldn’t feel like serving out a sentence.”
“But enough of my troubles,” she teased. “Your family?”
“One ex-wife and two daughters who hardly speak to me,” he said, shaking his head.
“Well, that’s not good,” she said, and thought for a moment. “It looks like both our families are messed up.”
Bill grinned. “At least we have something in common,” he joked, “…which I’d say is a pretty good start.”
Eunice chuckled. “I’d say you’re right.”
They talked long after the table had been cleared and the check paid. Even with all the waiter’s glares, they held hands and talked. “You’re so amazing,” Bill blurted at the end of dinner.
Her face instantly lit up. “How’s that?” she asked, the mischief in her eyes shining through.
“You obviously don’t just love life,” he said, and squeezed her hand. “Seems to me you’re in love with it.”
Her smile widened. “I believe that love might very well be the only reason that people exist to begin with.” She shrugged. “Only in experiencing love—both in knowing how to give as well as receive—do we discover the very essence of humanity.” She winked at him. “Life’s all about karma for me.”
“Perfect,” he said. “That’s perfect.”