“Glorietta Mendenhall, what a mouthful, huh?” I said.
“Come with me,” she said. “I’m Amanda Flores.” She extended her hand.
I shook. “Nice to meet you,” I said. Yuck, how bourgeois.
“Since you’re sixty seven, you can begin to receive Social Security any time,” Ms. Flores said.
“How much will it be?”
A printer on her side table began to clatter. She handed me several sheets. One line of earnings for each year I’d worked. The years at the Haight commune weren’t listed. Barter was invisible to the government. Red Bob and I did okay in our diner, but we had some terrible times when we first bought it in the early ‘90’s.
“Do you want me to process your retirement papers?”
Even though I’d come here to do this, I felt unsure. What does it mean to retire from a business that you own and have worked in every day for twenty years? Would I sit out back in the trailer with my feet up? Who would cook? Could I make more than $1130 per month working? Finally, I said, “Yes, go ahead.”
She printed out forms and handed them to me.
I signed. She carefully went over all. Then she said I’d get an announcement in the mail when the processing was complete.
I bet myself that I’d hear from the bank before I heard from the government. I thought anarchy was best back in the ‘60’s and nothing the government has done since then had changed my mind. Yes, I had just signed up to receive a government pension, but I thought of the pension as my money they’d stolen from years of my paychecks. If I went through their stupid red tape, I could it get back.
I wondered about Red Bob. He resisted when I said we were employees of our place, the Cleghorn Diner. But he went along. He was two years older than me and he wouldn’t take Social Security. I hoped that my checks would finally convince him. I thought I could get Riann Moore to manage the diner for us, but I couldn’t afford to pay her unless he’d retire too.
I worried about our daughter Mimi. Red Bob thought she’d manage the diner when we stopped. She had agreed to waitress for us six years earlier after she graduated from high school, and she was still there. I thought it wouldn’t be long before she’d leave. I mentioned about it to Red Bob once, but he brushed it off. “Why should she, what else does she need? Got it all right here,” he said. But I saw her eyes that time after Ronnie took her down to The Ice House in Pasadena. Mimi had big ideas; she wanted to see her name in lights.
I also remembered running away from home to the commune on Haight Street in 1967. Mimi did what she should, but thought what she shouldn’t. She hoped Ronnie would marry her and take her down from the high desert so she could break into showbiz. She starred in Evita and led the Comedy Sportz Team in high school. But Ronnie wouldn’t do it. He moved here in mid-high school, but he was from the same stuck-in-the-mud mold as all the other guys she had dated.
When I got back from the Social Security office, I walked into our house trailer out behind the diner and went into Mimi’s room. Her closet was open and her red dress and that low cut black one were gone. Her suitcase was gone. And her two best pairs of heels. Uh oh. It was five o’clock. I rushed into my uniform and over to work.
Edith said, “Whew, glad you’re here. That table ordered burgers, and I had to tell them we don’t start cooking until five. They growled a bit but said they’d wait.”
I quickly started cooking. More orders poured in. Red Bob circulated around, telling his stories to all the guys. I couldn’t tell him about Mimi here. When it got to seven thirty, the crowd was pretty much over. I leaned on my kitchen stool. It was hard to stand up and cook fast three times a day for two or three hours.
We closed up at eight. Red Bob and I walked out to the trailer. It was still light, that mellow kind of light you get in late summer evenings. I said, “She’s gone, Red Bob.”
He said, ‘”I didn’t want to tell you; she went with Joe. I saw them pull out at four, on the Vegas road.” He gave me a sickly smile and said, “What should we do?”
I said, “We’ve got each other, Red Bob. She needed to find something for herself.”
His eyes were wet. “She was my baby. It won’t be the same.”
I patted his hand. “Of course it won’t, but we’ll be okay and so will she.” We sat at the kitchen table. I heated a can of chili and sliced some fresh bread. We picked at our food. Red Bob looked miserable. He cleared his throat often, but had nothing to say.
My mind was full of the time in my life when I left home and arrived in The Haight. Chaka and Melanie took me in at the commune. We wouldn’t cooperate with the government, but we didn’t blow things up. We wouldn’t work for money or pay taxes. We demonstrated against the war. I put a flower behind a soldier’s ear once.
Red Bob said, “C’mon, Glor, let’s go out. It’s been years since we’ve been anywhere on Saturday night.” I looked up at him in amazement. He was smiling at me in that special way I’d almost forgotten, the smile that made my heart turn over back in The Haight.
© Copyright 2009 Laura L Mays Hoopes All rights reserved.
Laura L Mays Hoopes is a biology professor turned creative writer. In June, 2009 she completed the Creative Writing Certificate at UCLA Extension. She lives in the Inland Empire with her husband and terrier, Sabby. Her two kids are grown; one in Chicago and one in Santa Cruz. She has published in North Carolina Literary Review, Christian Science Monitor, The Writer’s Eye, and other publications. She is working on a biography and two novels. In addition, she maintains the West Coast Writers blog.