Joanna is our heroine, and we like her, but a couple of times a year, almost like clockwork, she acts badly. Tonight is one of those nights.

As is usually the case, there isn’t a clear cause for her bad behavior. It just is what it is. Her job is not any more troublesome than usual, she feels fine physically, her hair looks good, she is not worried about her dad or her son. And, as we know, she and Matt recently won a whole shitload of money at the Borgata in Atlantic City, although that’s still a secret.

It starts soon after she and Matt arrive at Stenny’s.  They’ve ordered their drinks from Tara—Beefeater for Matt, Pinot Grigio for Joanna.

“I thought you were going to stay away from wine. Gives you headaches, remember?” Matt says.

“Fuck you, Matt,” she responds.

“Whoa. That’s uncalled for.”

“I don’t need you to legislate what I drink.”

“That’s not what I was doing. Is this how you’re going to be tonight?”

“And what is that supposed to mean?” Joanna knows she is being unreasonable, and a bitch, but once she  begins down this path she almost always goes further.

“Joanna. You’re in a mood. I don’t know why. I doubt you know why. You’re trying to pick a fight.”

“Oh, I’m trying to pick a fight? You and your fucking gin?”

“I’m not doing this tonight,” Matt says. “I’m going to go talk to Ed.”

“Suit yourself,” Joanna says. “Don’t complain to me later about how negative he is.”

“I never do that,” Matt says. This is true; it’s Joanna who finds Ed’s downturned outlook on life to be aggravating.

Matt leaves. Joanna says nothing; she takes a big swig of her wine.

Tara witnessed this exchange. “What’s the matter, Joanna?” she asks.

No matter how foul her mood, Joanna would never be rude to Tara or any of the bartenders. “Matt pisses me off. So nice to everyone but me.”

Tara has seen this side of Joanna before, and knows how to walk a fine line in her response. “I think that can sometimes be true of everyone,” she says.

“Maybe, doesn’t mean I have to like it. Can I please have a baked brie appetizer? But I don’t want the figs. Figs suck.”

Tara is glad for a reason to stop this conversation. “I’ll put that right in for you,” she says.

“Thanks, Tara.”

For the next seven minutes, Joanna plays with her phone and drinks her wine. She checks her work and personal email, looks at Facebook, and takes a BuzzFeed quiz to determine what kind of cat she was in a previous life.

“Manx, shit,” she says to herself as she senses someone settling on the stool next to her.

“Thanks for what, Joanna?” It’s Deaf Donny, who, as usual, has misunderstood what he’s heard.

“Hi Donny. I said Manx, not thanks.” Joanna knows that Donny will not hear this properly, but (in line with her crankiness) she says it anyway.

“Manx, the cat?” Donny asks.

The fact that Donny did in fact correctly hear what she said annoys Joanna, for no logical reason. “Yes,” she says.

“They’re the ones with no tails, right?” Donny asks.

The good Joanna is impressed that Donny knows this, but the bad Joanna is in control tonight. “Many of them have tails, they’re just short and stubby.”

“She’s fine, working late tonight,” Donny says.

Joanna knows that Donny thought she asked about his girlfriend Dina, even though there was nothing about the sound, length, or cadence of her comment that could be mistaken for “How’s Dina?”

“She doesn’t like me much, does she?” Joanna asks; she of course knows the answer.

“Brand manager. Household products.”

This puts Joanna at a crossroads. She could pretend that Donny answered the question she asked, or she could re-poke on Dina’s dislike of her. She sighs and says “Anything interesting on the horizon? Like a new flavor of bleach?”

“We’re talking about taking a river cruise,” Donny says. “Where’s Matt?”

“Talking to Ed, down there,” Joanna says. She knows it’s a long shot that he will understand this, so she jerks her head accordingly. “Why don’t you go talk to him?”

“I think I’ll go talk to him, if that’s OK with you, Joanna,” he says.

Joanna nods, and sees Tara round the corner with her appetizer.

“I asked them to put in more brie in place of the figs,” she says.

This small act of kindness breaks Joanna’s lousy mood. “Can you take it down to Matt? I’ll head down there, I think I owe him an apology.”

Tara smiles gently and says, “Yeah, I think you do.”

 

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