After two weeks of nearly non-stop car deliveries, I didn't have anything set after dropping off the current car, which was headed to Boulder, Colorado. I was driving along and wondering what I would do, where I would go next, and how I might celebrate the 4th of July weekend. Then my cell phone rang, and caller ID told me it was my boss Riff.
"This is Bill," I answered.
"What do you need, Riff?"
"Riff, have you got some work for me?"
"I said 'Knock, knock,' dammit, now you have to say 'Who's there'."
I paused and quietly sighed. "Who's there?"
"You! You're an asshole." He roared with laughter.
"That doesn't even make any sense, Riff. Tell me you've got my next assignment."
"There is no next assignment, I just want to know when the hell you're gonna finish the job you're on right now."
"I should be in Boulder before noon."
"You shoulda been there already, Stay Puff. You been stopping along the way to choke your chicken?"
"Riff, I always make good time and you know it."
"I'll tell you what I know, you little pansy. You are lucky that I give you any work at all. You hear what I'm saying?"
"Have a happy 4th of July, Riff." I hung up.
Once I had delivered the car, I got my bag and caught the nearest city bus. I took it downtown and found a little Coffee Shop with free Wi Fi. I began to check my options for getting out of Boulder. Greyhound is no longer an option for me, every single time I've ridden it was a disaster. So I checked plane and train schedules, along with available rental car agencies. The big problem was, I really had nowhere to go. I usually have another car to go pick up, but not this time. And that wasn't likely to change until next Tuesday, when the holiday weekend was officially over. All I really wanted was to see fireworks on Independence Day.
So I decided I'd stay in Boulder. I walked down the streets looking for a local movie theater. Not a big multiplex, but hopefully an old-style single screen theater that had been around for years. I just love those places. Call it nostalgia.
I passed an alley and a cute girl caught my eye. She was smoking a cigarette, all alone. She was wearing white kitchen worker's garb, and had a hair net on. Not a raving beauty, but definitely alluring to me. Sort of reminded me of Karen Allen in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.
"Hey you," she called.
"No, the other you. Come here." I noticed she had an Irish lilt in her voice.
I walked over to her, feeling intrigued. "What can I do for you?"
"The real question is what can I do for you."
"I don't follow you."
"No, but I bet you would. To the ends of the earth, if I asked you to."
I scratched my chin. "I don't know what you are talking about, but somehow I want to know more."
"I saw the way you looked at me when you saw me from over there. You stopped and took a good look."
"Didn't mean any harm."
"And I'm not complaining. I rather enjoyed it."
"Did you, now?"
"Yep. What's your name, sailor?"
"Bill, uh, Bill Thomas."
She stuck her hand out to shake. "Sheryl Finnegan, pleased to meet you Mr. Bill, uh, Bill Thomas."
I shook her hand, and I honestly felt a slight spark of some kind pass between us. "The pleasure is all mine."
"Well, maybe not all yours. We'll see how it goes."
She pointed to my bag. "Traveling man? Just passing through?"
"I drive cars for a living. Just dropped one off here in Boulder."
"Planning my next move. Thought I might hang out in Boulder for the weekend."
"Good plan. And do what?"
"That's the part I haven't figured out yet."
"I have an idea, and its a dandy. Will you trust me?"
"Uh, yeah, sure."
She held out her hand for me. "Then take my hand and follow me to paradise." She led me into a door from the alleyway. I found myself in a huge kitchen with other people dressed just like her toiling away, cooking what looked like enough food for an army. "Welcome to the Mission, we provide meals for people who can't afford their own. We can always use an extra hand. Are you game?"
A warm feeling spread through my body. "Yes. Yes I am."
"Hey everyone, we got a new helper here. Mr. Bill Thomas of..." She leaned into me. "Where'd you say you're from?"
"Birmingham in the U.K.?"
"Mr. Bill Thomas from Birmingham will be helping us today." The group of people waved and said hello, and Sheryl took me to a back room to get me something to wear.
I spent the afternoon peeling potatoes, cutting vegetables, stirring stew, pulling large cookie sheets in and out of huge ovens, and sweeping the floors now and again. Then I was out on the serving line for a few hours, spooning out portions of the food we had all made to some folks who looked like they have it pretty tough in life. I lost my home and my car, but I make enough money to eat and get by. Seeing these people in need made me put my own situation in perspective. And to do something to help felt good, just felt right.
All through the day I kept on sneaking glances at Sheryl. And more often than not, she'd catch me looking and flash me a sweet smile.
At the end of the day, after I had finished helping wash the dishes, I looked around to find this charming girl and could not see where she'd gone. I took off my whites and grabbed my bag, heading out the door. As I walked down the alley, I heard her call, "And just where do you think you're going?"
"My shift is over, I'm dead tired, and I'm going to find a hotel room."
"Without even saying goodbye to me?" She walked nearer to me. "And thanking me for a fun-filled day full of frivolity."
"No lad, thank you. Most fellas would cut and run when I took them into the kitchen. But you rolled up your sleeves and helped, and you even seemed to enjoy yourself."
I shrugged. "Weird thing about me. I've come to learn to enjoy helping people."
She got very close, completely invading my personal space. "Nothing weird about it. I call it nice. There's not enough nice in the world."
"So you think I'm nice?"
"I don't think it, I know it."
"Well if you'd like to know what I think, --" She interrupted me with a long, slow, soft kiss on the lips. It made the top of my head tingle. She pulled back and looked into my eyes like no girl has done for many, many years. "Thank you ma'am, may I have another?" And she gave me another, even longer and better, with a little tongue wrestling involved.
"So," she said when we came up for breath, "I propose that you come and stay at my place."
"For tonight, and then we'll see."
"You have a spare couch I can sleep on?"
"No, but I have a bed big enough for two."
"You get right down to business, don't you?"
"I speak my mind," she said. "And frankly, you stink from the kitchen. Let's get you home and let me give you a good scrubbing down in the shower." She slipped her arm in mine and we walked together down the alley. I don't know about her, but I know that I was walking on air.
And I got my wish for the 4th of July. I saw fireworks all weekend long.