We’ve mentioned that Jim has a grown daughter, Jamie, from his first brief and rancorous marriage. He doesn’t see her very often, but they are not what he would call estranged. They just inhabit worlds that rarely intersect.
Jim called Jamie the other day to say hi and see how she was doing, and due to a lag in the conversation (very similar, coincidentally, to what Ernie and his nephew just experienced) invited her to join him and Leigh at Stenny’s two days hence.
“Ah, shit, Jimmy, why?” Leigh said when he told her.
“She’s my daughter, Leigh. Why the fuck not?”
“I don’t have much to say to her.”
“So don’t talk to her. Just wander away. Talk to someone else.”
“You bet I will,” Leigh said.
Jim decided to let this go; when Leigh acts bitchy, it’s best to ignore her.
So tonight, a Friday, Jim is sitting alone at the bar; Leigh is talking to Ben and Kiki many stools away. He feels a light tap on his shoulder and turns around to see his smiling daughter.
“Hi Dad,” Jamie says, giving him two gentle raps on the head; she’s not a kissy-type young woman and this is her way of showing affection.
“Jamie sweetie,” Jim says, wrapping her in a bear hug. “So good to see you. Thanks for coming. You look amazing, what’s different?”
Jamie laughs and says, “I should be offended, but I understand. I lost some weight.”
“Some? A ton! You don’t have hyperthyroidism, do you?”
“No, Dad, I don’t have hyperthyroidism or anything else. Stop acting like you’re a doctor just because you give them drug samples.”
“I do more than that,” Jim says, slightly wounded “I educate, too.” He realizes that their conversation has quickly gotten off track. “Sorry, hon, never mind. So how did you lose the weight?”
“I decided to become a heroin addict. It’s cheap, and trendy.”
Jim is 90% sure she is kidding, but doesn’t trust himself to say anything, so he waits for her to say something else.”
“Kidding, of course. Just cut out almost all carbs. Life is no longer worth living, but I’m thin. Thinner.”
“Well, just don’t take it too far. Having some carbs in your diet is good. Complex carbohydrates like grains and legumes. Their sugar molecules are longer, they break down more slowly in the body, which is good.”
Jamie shows a flicker of annoyance; it is not an uncommon occurrence in their conversations. “I’m 33, Dad, and a chemist, remember? I know what a complex carbohydrate is.” She changes the subject. “Where’s Leigh?”
“Down at the other end. Talking to those two people who seem to be about to argue.”
Jamie says, “I’ll go say hi.”
“I’ll order a drink for you,” Jim says. “What would you like?”
“Gin on the rocks. Tanqueray if they have it.” Jamie senses disapproval and says, “It’s low carb.”
“I’m not judging. Just be careful. Gin can be rough.”
Jamie raps him on the head, just once this time, and heads toward Leigh, Ben, and Kiki; concurrently, Jim asks Stephen to make Jamie’s drink and put it on his tab. “I figured that, Dad,” Stephen says. “She’s a pretty girl. And smart—some sort of scientist if I remember correctly.”
“Thanks, Stephen. Yes, a chemist.”
Meanwhile, Jamie has reached Leigh who is now standing slightly apart from Ben and Kiki.
“Hi Leigh,” Jamie says as she kisses her check.
“Hey JJ,” Leigh says. “You look fabulous. Low carb or low fat?”
“Low carb. Low fat would be easier. I dream about bagels. And pasta. And potatoes.”
“Stick to it, you look great. Your dad is excited for your visit tonight.”
“Not you?” Jamie says this a bit ruefully; there are only ten years between them and their relationship has a neither-this-nor-that quality.
“I’m worried that you might not like Stenny’s or the people here, but I am glad to see you,” Leigh says somewhat truthfully.
“Introduce me to those two,” Jamie says, nodding toward Ben and Kiki.
“They are the worst examples of what Stenny’s has to offer. So I guess it’s a good place to start.”
“Why the worst?” Jamie asks.
“You’ll see. Ben, Kiki, turn this way.”
They do, stopping their conversation in mid-snarl.
“This is Jamie, Jim’s daughter. Jamie, Ben and Kiki.”
“Jim’s daughter!” Kiki says. “He doesn’t talk about you much.”
“I don’t talk about him much, either,” Jamie says.
“Your mother is Jim’s first wife, right?” Ben asks.
“Right,” Jamie says. “Teenage marriage. Didn’t last.”
“Shotgun, I’m sure,” Kiki says.
“That’s exactly what’s wrong with you,” Ben says, addressing Kiki. “Why would you say something like that?”
“That’s exactly what’s wrong with you. Afraid of the truth.”
“Here’s the truth. That shit you’re always selling. It all sucks.” Ben is referring to Kiki’s insistence on selling whatever she thinks she can sell to her fellow bar customers. This week it’s yet another cream that purports to get rid of fine lines and wrinkles. “We all hate to see you coming with whatever new shit you force on us.”
“I have my rights. You don’t have to buy if you don’t want to. Old crank,” Kiki says.
A few moments ago, Stephen arrived with Jamie’s Tanqueray, and has been silently waiting to say hello to her. Instead, he now says, “Actually, Kiki, we do have a non-solicitation policy. I know we’ve been lax in enforcing it, but Mary Ann has made comments lately. I think you better stop, before she says something to you herself.” The Mary Ann part is a lie; she is not sufficiently tuned-in to the customers to know what they are or aren’t doing, but Stephen thinks the lie is for the greater good and does not feel guilty.
“So there, Kookoo,” Ben says.
“Hi, Jamie, I’m Stephen,” Stephen says. “A pleasure to finally meet you. Your dad sings your praises.”
“So there, Kookoo,” Ben says again. “Jim does talk about her.”
“Hi Stephen. My dad loves it here. I can see why.” She slides a look at Ben and Kiki, and says “Sort of.” Stephen and Leigh both laugh; Ben and Kiki don’t hear; they are now arguing about the legality of Stenny’s prohibiting Kiki from earning a living.