The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 85

He Was Just 17

“I teach English at the high school and I’m the staff advisor to the student newspaper,” she said. “I brought my students in to the newspaper a few weeks ago.”
“Yes,” Rich said smiling. “I remember. I should have recognized you.”
“You look at me like, what am I doing waiting tables?” she said.
“Not really,” Rich said, “it’s just surprising.”
“I’m going back to school for my masters,” she said. “I’m taking on some extra work to pay for it.”
“That’s fascinating,” Rich said.
“Where are you from?” she said. “I detect an accent and it’s not east coast.”
“Midwest,” Rich said, “Ohio.”
“Did you go to school here in the east?” she said.
“No,” Rich said.
“Where?” she said.
“I didn’t go to college, if that’s what you’re asking,” Rich said. “You are probably wondering how I landed a job at The Beacon?”
“Yeah,” she said, “now that’s fascinating.”
“I started a year ago as a janitor and Mr. White just took me under wing,” Rich said. “He’s given me a lot to read and he’s edited my stuff beyond its original copy to the point I can’t ever recognize it as mine.”
“Editors, especially Sam White, wouldn’t put up with anyone who couldn’t write,” she said.
“What is your name?” Rich said.
“Edna Fenstemacher,” she said.
“Mrs. Fenstemacher,” Rich said.
“Miss,” Edna interrupted.
“Miss, Fenstemacher,” Rich continued, “if you would ever like to have Mr. White speak or even offer some advice, I know he would be more than willing. He taught journalism at Harvard for a while. He loves teaching.”
“I think your meal is ready,” she said. “I’ll keep Mr. White in mind.”
The meal was brought out. Edna left him alone as he ate slowly and watched the moon on the water. His eating and gaze of the bay was interpreted only by a refill of coffee.
The letter from Mrs. Gaffe intrigued him. He was curious and recalled Sam say that good reporting is nothing more than well-arranged curiosity in well-written prose.
Edna came back to the table. “Would you like to see the dessert menu?”
“Do you have banana cream pie?” Rich said.
“Yes,” Edna said.
“Can you make the pie and the potato to go?” Rich said.
“Sure,” Edna said and quickly turned toward the kitchen.
Rich tossed a five on the table and walked to the register. Edna brought the pie and potato in a white paper sack to the register.
“It looks like your total is $5.85,” Edna said.
Rich gave her $6.00. “Keep the change.” Rich smiled, “That’s not the tip. It’s on the table.”
Thanks you, Mr. Larsen,” Edna said.
“It’s Rich.”
“Thank you, Rich,” Edna said.
“You probably work Fridays and Saturdays,” Rich said, “but what about Sundays”
“I’m off on Sundays,” Edna smiled bashfully.
“I have the use of a sailboat,” Rich said., “if the weather is good would you like to sail on the bay and if it’s not good would you like a drive up the coast in a 55 Jeep.”
“You mean a date?” Edna said.
“Yeah,” Rich said, “a date.”
“I don’t date boys old enough to be my students,” Edna said.
Rich swallowed hard. Suddenly she became the teacher and not the attractive waitress. He breathed deep. “How do you know what my age is?”
“I’ve been around teenagers long enough to tell a 16 year old from a 20 or 21 year old,” Edna said.
“I’m sorry,” Rich said. “My intention was not to deceive you.”
“It wasn’t taken that way,” Edna said. “I just have cut off point and if you had at least another 10 or twelve years on you I’d be taking you up on it.”
“How old are you?” Rich said.
“Thirty,” Edna said
Rich shifted the weight on his feet not knowing what to say or do. His arms seemed to dangle with no other purpose than to give him balance. He breathed deep a and said, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Fenstemacher.”
“It’s Edna,” she said.
Rich pressed his lips and said dejectedly, “Good night, Edna.” And he turned toward the door.
“How old are you, Rich,” Edna said.
Rich turned around. “I’ll be 17 next month.”
“I’m flattered,” Edna said.

I’m embarrassed,” Rich said.