I still had a few dollars from my last Coco paycheck, so I decided to drown my sorrows. I found an IGA store and bought a six-pack of PBR, sat on a city bus bench, and popped a top. At first, I feared a policeman would come by and arrest me for vagrancy or something, but at least I would have someplace to sleep if that happened. I was on my second beer when Sally Mae happened by.
"Junior?" she said, walking in my direction. She looked even better than in high school. She wore sneakers, jeans, a dark tee shirt, untucked, and had her red hair tied back in a ponytail. She still had a sprinkle of freckles over the bridge of her nose, but she looked more mature, more like a woman. I laid my beer down and stood.
"Sally Mae? What are you doing in Ellisonville? I figured you'd be in college somewhere."
"I am. I'm taking classes here at the junior college. It's cheaper than the universities and my credits will transfer."
She eyed my suitcase.
"Are you going somewhere?"
"I just joined the navy." I contemplated telling her my sad story, but decided against it.
"Oh." She seemed disappointed. "When are you leaving?"
"Not for a while, a hundred and twenty days, in fact." I grinned.
"Are you staying in Serpentville?"
It didn't look like I was going to escape telling her the whole sordid story, so I offered her a seat. She sat next to me and I caught a whiff of coconut and honeysuckle.
"I had a little accident while working for Coco Construction."
"Was that you? I saw it on the news."
"Yeah, it was me. Anyway, I lost my job. Then Uncle Sam told me that he was ready to draft me. My mother kicked me out. Well, to make a pitiful story short, I'm jobless, moneyless, and homeless. I couldn't get any more less."
I guess I looked pitiful because she grinned.
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to laugh at you. I know you must be depressed, but you sound so…well, so pitiful." She was silent for a moment. "You never did answer me back at graduation. Why didn't you like me?"
"You want the truth?" I figured I might as well unburden myself. I couldn't get any lower than I was. She nodded. "It wasn't that I didn't like you. It was just the opposite."
"So, why didn't you talk to me or show an interest?"
"Because you were so popular, and I was…well, not. I didn't think you would have any interest in me."
"Remember that time in Junior High when I sat next to you in the cafeteria?" I nodded. "Why do you think I did that?"
"There were no other seats?"
"There were plenty seats, Junior. I wanted you to talk to me, but all you did was stuff your face with that awful stew, and never said a word. I thought for sure you hated me. I finally got you to talk to me at graduation, and then that idiot, Gary Courville, came over and interrupted us."
Okay, here she was telling me that I had been a fool in high school, something else for me to kick myself about.
"So, what are you going to do, Junior?"
"Right now, I have no idea. That's why I was sitting here—trying to figure out what to do."
"My uncle manages the IGA here. I'm sure he can give you a part time job for a few months. It probably wouldn't be much, stocking shelves maybe, or sweeping. I've got an apartment not far from here. You're welcomed to stay with me. I have a roommate, but she won't be back for a few weeks. I can't let you stay in her room, but you can have the couch."
"I couldn't impose on you like that, Sally Mae."
She smiled, her green eyes lighting up.
"What choice do you have?"
"Come on, then. Let's go talk to my uncle."