“You’re quiet tonight, Joanna,” Tara says. “Is something bothering you? Everything ok at work?”
“Nice of you to ask,” Joanna says as she takes a good-sized swig of the French martini Tara just served her. “This is really good. Did you add something different?”
“Yes,” Tara says. “A splash of cranberry juice. Glad you like it. Now tell me what’s wrong.”
“I’m a little worried about my dad,” Joanna says.
Joanna’s father is known to and liked by the Stenny’s bartenders and servers, due to his occasional appearances and his generous tipping habits.
“I don’t like to hear that,” Tara says. “What’s going on?”
“That’s bad?” Tara asks.
“He’s too chipper. I read once that people sometimes get ultra-chipper right before they die suddenly.”
“Oh, nonsense. I never heard that,” Tara says.
“I don’t think it’s a fully vetted theory. But I don’t know what else could be causing it.”
“It could be a lot of things. Maybe he feels really good. Maybe he’s looking forward to something. Hey, maybe he has a girlfriend.” Tara sees Joanna’s stricken face and immediately says, “Only kidding.”
“No, I bet that’s what it is. My mother’s been gone five years. He’s still pretty young, only 72. Has every right. But fuck. My mother was tough enough. I don’t need an evil stepmother.”
“Joannarella,” Tara says. “Sorry, it just came out.”
“No worries. It’s sort of pretty.” She cranes her neck, and sees Matt a few feet away, talking to Jim. “Hey Matt,” she says. “Come here a sec. You come too, Jim.”
They both comply, and Jim says “What’s up, Jo? Should I get Leigh?”
Joanna sees that Leigh is deep in conversation with Crazy Daisy and says, “No, don’t want to interrupt her. Daisy could be telling her something really interesting. Like maybe she’s dating Johnny Depp.” Joanna, like all the regulars, heard about the faux Bradley Cooper incident; it has already entered Stenny’s lore.
Matt and Jim are looking at her expectantly and she says, “Tara thinks Lou has a girlfriend.”
“Lou, your dad?” Jim asks.
“I did not say that!” Tara protests. “I just mentioned it as a possible reason for him being chipper.”
“Too chipper,” Joanna says.
“Oh Jo, you still on that?” Matt asks.
Joanna ignores the question, instead saying, “It does make sense. Remember last week he turned down a chance to play Boggle?” Joanna’s dad loves Boggle.
“You’re adding 2 plus 2 and coming up with 7 million, as usual,” Matt says. “Didn’t he say he had a lunch date with an old work buddy?” Lou is a retired steel company executive.
“That means nothing. He probably doesn’t want me to know. Thinks it will upset me.”
“Well, it seems like it does,” Jim says. “Why?”
“I don’t know. It may not. Depends on who it is. I guess it would be nice to have a loving maternal influence. Never really had that,” Joanna says wistfully. “Not from my mother. And certainly not from your mother,” she says to Matt.
“Please, I know it’s hard, but try not to jump to any conclusions,” Matt says “Remember the time you were convinced Russ was going to grow up to be serial killer because he wanted a switch knife?”
“I had just binge-watched Dexter. I was in an impressionable state of mind.”
Leigh joins them. “What I miss?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Joanna says. “What’s up with Daisy?”
“She says Bradley Cooper went back to California. She’s still pissed at Melissa for being rude to him. Said it’s one reason he left sooner than he had planned.”
“Did you tell her he wasn’t Bradley Cooper?”
“I told her I didn’t think he was, based on what Melissa told me, but Daisy said I have no firsthand evidence. I can’t argue with that.”
“So what else is going on with her?” Joanna asks. Matt and Jim have wandered off; they have no interest in this conversation.
“Remember a few months ago she said she was going back to school to become an arborist?”
“Vaguely,” Joanna says. “She actually followed through?”
“Of course not,” Leigh says. “Now she wants to take acting lessons. So she and Bradley Cooper can co-star in a movie, and both win Oscars.”
“That’s our Crazy Daisy,” Joanna says. She notices her drink is gone and asks Tara for another.
If you like this story, please check out my completed book, “Butts in the Seat”; one reviewer said it was “amusing, entertaining, and provides therapeutic value.”