The Mind You’re Wearing is Fine

Sunday morning buffet at the Rose B&B had mostly tailed out when Ivy chin-pointed over Candi’s shoulder and said, “Man.”

Candi’s only response was to slow her fork down for a split second and raise her eyebrows.

“Cop. Outta uniform.”

“Which one?”

“Bash.”

“Shit.” Candi ran her napkin across her mouth.

 After making a waiter’s twist between tables, pushed-back chairs and the few remaining guests, he took a quick survey of their table, set his hands on the top of an empty chair. “Y’all got a minute?”

“Last I heard,” Candi, not looking up, “you were on call.”

“It’s rainin’. The Chief canceled fishin’, called, said he’d keep the shop from fallin’ down if I had things to do.”

“And the first thing on your to-do list was drop by the Rose and join us for breakfast because word’s out we do a big buffet on Sunday morning?” She leaned to her right slightly and looked up. “You can forget that because I’m not feeding you.”

“There’s that golden ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.”

She looked up in time to see how the lines around his eyes removed the sarcasm. “Alright. Sit.”

“Yes ma’am. Mornin’ Ivy.” He got a nod. “What time’s your bath scheduled for, Cotton?” Ivy’s eyes widened, Candi smacked his wrist with a fork coupled with a hissed “None of your damn business.”

“Can’t say I didn’t try.” He snagged a biscuit from a napkin-lined varnished wicker basket, scooted his chair back.

Ivy’s eyes bounced between them. “Should I leave so y’all can—”

No.” Candi jabbed two fingers on the tablecloth in front of Bash’s vacated place. “You aren’t going anywhere, either.” She turned his coffee cup right side up, went back to her omelet. He pulled back in, loaded his cup from a white, glass-look thermal carafe that, based on the temperature of the coffee it expelled had been there a while.

“Ivy was telling me how she’d like to look at used cars.” Candi, side-eye.

“Sunday’s the day to look since you can’t buy one.”

“I was in the middle of explaining that, and how she might want to look where there’s better selection and competition. I was about to suggest we drive up to get my car and look around. Of course, we’d have to leave your truck. Unlocked,” cocked eyebrow, “keys on the seat.”

“Might break whoever of the car stealin’ habit.”

Might?” A derisive eye-roll and headshake. “What did you want, Reed, besides a free biscuit and coffee?”

“I came to offer some help with that ‘what am I gonna drive’ issue.”

“And what form would this ‘help’ you’re offering take?”

“Cartin’ you up in pimp mobile comfort to retrieve your personal vehicle.” He studied his tepid coffee. “Chalky biscuits, no butter, cold coffee, and the thought of enjoyin’ the current state of your charming personality for ninety minutes might have me changin’ my mind.”

“The mind you’re wearing is fine. We’re almost finished here.” She turned her phone over, checked the time. “Give us ten minutes and we’ll meet you at the car. I’ll drive.”

“That’s why I threw a pillow in the back seat.”

“Are you like sure,” Ivy cleared her throat,I, uh, won’t be, you know, in the way or nothin?”

“In the way or anything. No.” She checked Bash for objection.

“I’m good. An hour and a half of you two talkin’ chick shit with me off the one-on-one conversation hook?” He bowed slightly, tipped an invisible hat. “Best news since Little Big Horn.”

***

Ivy watched Bash over Candi’s shoulder until he was in the foyer where he said something that made the manager smile, kept watching while she stepped away and returned with a to-go cup of coffee, steam streaming from the hole in the top. “You don’t get it, huh?”

“Get what ‘huh’?”

“Guys.”

“I get ‘guys,’ Ivy. He’s another one.”

“You don’t believe that, ‘cause he’s not. An you know it. He took me to get too much barbecue and a couple big bottles a Coke last Sunday afternoon not ‘cause I tried flirtin’ him into it, ‘cause he seen through my pathetic trip for what it was an walked right on through it. He done… Did it, ‘cause he’d read my bluff no matter what my mouth was runnin’. He knew from the day before I was hungry an scared an broke an didn’t have nobody I could call. You know, he ain’t workin’ you to get laid, Ms. Cotton. He’s offering to kick start you joinin’ up down here an you’re draggin’ your feet.”

“Your grammar goes to hell when you’re serious. And what makes you, at the ripe old age of eighteen, think you’re an expert on men, anyway?”

“I feel like I’m repeatin’ myself, but you have met Momma? Goin’ on nineteen years a that soap opera I seen every kinda trippy man woman shit there ever was or ever could be. You stallin’ an playin’ ice queen ain’t makin’ it any easier on you or him or anybody else wants to help. You know what I see?”

“I can’t imagine.”

“You got baggage on both ends a this thing you’re in right now an cain’t see your way clear to dealin’ on either, so you’re makin’ busy noises an treadin’ water. That guy just walked out the door?” She glanced over Candi’s shoulder again. “That’s the best lifeline you have around here. You need to grab hold before he bails an leaves you dealin’ with it all by your lonesome. Which’ll suck big time for you ‘cause then you’ll be stuck with nobody ‘cept me an the Sheriff an all them ghosts you talk about.”

Candi hit a short, hard sigh and sat, palms on her thighs, frozen. She finally pulled her napkin up, stuffed it under the rim of her plate. “Is it that obvious?”

“No more’n a nose zit on prom night.” Ivy pushed her plate away, dropped her napkin on it. “I’m ready. You need to pee or anything?”

***

“You seen Cotton this morning?” Sheriff Harden eased into the industrial guest chair in front of Bash’s desk.

“Nope.”

“The way she was dressed… Only way I can explain it is aggressively managerial.”

“I don’t even need to see it to see it. She must’ve picked up some clothes yesterday or bought some new ones.”

“You talked to her yesterday?”

“I swung by the Rose after you took over on-call.”

“Now Bash, I didn’t say you had to go an apologize, or even be too nice. Just let her know, somehow, that you an the rest of us messin’ with her ain’t all, well, mean spirited or nothin’.”

“I didn’t say anything about the Chrysler or her Jeep or any of that. I offered to solve her vehicle problems by runnin’ her up to get her daily driver. Ended up ridin’ with her and Ivy. Ivy wantin’ to window shop used cars and the both of ‘em on a clothes mission.”

“Jesus. That’s a lotta close proximity, high-octane estrogen, with a side a extra attitude thrown in to deal with over a ninety-minute Sunday drive.”

“Not if you’re asleep in the back seat.”

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Published by

Phil Huston

https://philh52.wordpress.com/

12 thoughts on “The Mind You’re Wearing is Fine”

  1. The tension is building, I’m getting tingly. Anyway, hopefully Candi takes Bash up on his offer while she’s still young because the window is closing. Once a woman passes twenty-five it’s over, no one cares if she can get it together or not. Get the help now while she still can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 25 to 27 is when “cute” wears off. Then you have to turn productive, turn tradionalist role player, or get tattoos and goth hair and become a “lifestylist”. Bash and the Sheriff have different motives for wanting her to get it together. Bash needs a cop partner under 50 something and the Sheriff likes having a second full time cop around that’s not on his budget.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that it’s a “tell” now versus her default. Of course, a character who can take constructive feedback and act on it instead of retreating from the criticism is what clearly makes this a work of fiction, eh? 🥸

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Yes. We hope. Her philosophy lesson will probably close this one out. However there are enough flies on the wallpaper in this one to make a good car bombing at a casino or the courthouse or someone, maybe a stalker or escaped convict using Ivy’s revamped Bigfoot show starting a craze as a cover or the return of Kelly’s husband, now an indoctrinated by someone domestic terrorist… And you know Candi will have to appoint the Sheriff and Bash as special deputies to work with her outside of their jurisdiction because maybe somebody up top has a serious but unpublicized reputation issue the Dixie Mafia happens to use as leverage when they need it. Or not🤣🤣

        Liked by 2 people

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