Mom didn’t bring any guys home for close to a year after we saw Glenn at the fair. That was just fine with me and Scout, because Friday nights turned into “Girls’ Night In.” Mom would bring home sausage and pepper pizza after work, and Scout and I would pick the best movie on T.V. that night to watch. Mom and I would act out the funny scenes from the movies we had already seen while Scout jumped up and down on the bed, red-faced with laughter. “Again!” she cried when we finished a scene. “Do it again!”
That Sunday Mom was covering a shift at the diner for Lucy, one of her friends. Scout and I decided to walk downtown and visit her. Scout thought visiting Mom at the diner was heaven, because she could sit on the red vinyl counter stools, sip her strawberry milkshake through two straws, and bat her big chocolate eyes at all the truck drivers sitting near her. I liked to go because I got to sit in a booth by myself and watch everyone around me. Sometimes I wrote stories about the different people sitting around me, or I’d draw pictures of the fat truckers and show them to Mom when she passed by to give her a laugh.
She sat down next to me in the booth on her break. “You wanna meet the new cook?”
“What happened to the old cook?”
“Old Jimmy finally retired. He’s probably sunning himself on the beaches of Florida even as we speak.”
“Oh. So who is this new guy?” “Liam,” she said quickly.
“What?” “Liam,” she said a bit louder.
“That’s a weird name.” I scrunched up my nose.
“It’s Irish. He’s from Ireland. From Dublin.”
“Oh,” I said flatly, now bored.
“C’mon.” She grabbed my hand. “C’mon, Scout,” she said as we walked past the counter where Scout was flirting with yet another fat truck driver. “Let’s go meet Liam.”
“Who’s Leem?” she asked and jumped up. We walked through the kitchen door onto the greasy black and white til floor. To our left, Henry, the dishwasher, was up to his elbows in hot, sudsy water. He clanked the white plates together and looked up when he saw us. Sweat ran down from his receding hairline into his eyebrows. “Well, hello, ladies,” he said and smiled.
“Hey, Henry!” Scout and I shot right back.
Just then we heard the sound of things falling and a yell from the pantry. “Shite!” a big, husky voice boomed.
“What’s shite?” Scout asked Mom. “Nothing,” Mom said and rolled her eyes at Henry, who was trying not to laugh. I was confused.
“Hey, Liam, why don’t you come out here and meet my girls?” A massive figure emerged from the pantry dressed in black and white checked pant, black work boots and a white cook’s jacket. It must have been seven feet tall. It took up the whole doorway.
There stood the largest man I had ever seen. His face was flushed as if he’d just run a race. His hair was a tangled mass of straw-colored tufts, sticking up here and there. He blinked his khaki-green eyes a few times before he opening his mouth to speak.
“Hello, garls,” he said with a thick accent. Neither Scout nor I could speak. Scout’s eyes were so wide I thought they’d pop out of her head. Mom nudged me. “Hi,” I said, almost to myself. Scout just stood there, staring.
Liam smiled. “How are ya?” Scout piped up, “Hey, how come you talk so funny?” I bopped her lightly on the top of her head from behind.
“Jeeze, Scout.” Mom and Liam laughed; I shook my head.
“Liam’s from Ireland, Scout,” Mom tried to explain. “He speaks with an Irish accent, that’s all. It’s called a brogue.”
“Really?” Scout said, now enthralled. “Say something else,” she demanded.
“What do you want me to say?” he asked.
Scout laughed. “You’re funny!”
Liam caught me looking him up and down. “Is there something on me?” he asked.
“No, why?” “You’re looking at me like I’m covered in horseshite or something.”
I was mortified. Scout cracked up. “You’re funny!” she yelled.
Mom walked over and put her arm around me. “You want Liam to fix you something to eat? I have to get back to work.”
“No, I’m not hungry,” I lied.
“It’s no bother, Sara,” Liam said.
“I’m ok, thanks.”
“Hey, Leem,” Scout started. “I wanna hamburger. Can you make me a hamburger and french fries?”
“Scout, stay out of Liam’s way no, you hear?” Mom walked back out to dining room. Scout wasn’t listening. She was sitting on the counter following Liam’s every move as he dropped her hamburger patty onto the sizzling grill.
Liam looked at me as I walked out of the kitchen. “I’ll see you later then, Sara.”
“Yeah, later.” I walked back to the booth, my stomach growling at me.