Thomas excused himself from the table where his wife, Mylinh, and two children, Rain and Esquivel, were still finishing their expensive, tasty dinners. He asked a waiter, not his, where the restroom was, and followed the man's directions around the far corner of the restaurant and down the hallway, past autographed photographs of celebrity patrons, past John Wayne, past Emmylou Harris, past a couple of minor politicians, and found the men's room just where he'd been told it would be.
He stood in front of the mirror and ran warm water over his hands. He inspected his face, where little orange hairs had sprouted since morning. He looked himself in the eye, cleared his throat, and spoke.
Fucking nigger, he said. His voice was low but forceful.
Jiggaboo nigger coon.
Thomas left the bathroom and headed back to his family, past Emmylou and Mr. Wayne, into the large bright expensive dining area. From across the room he could see his daughter Rain reaching over to Esquivel with a forkful of her salmon. Mylinh looked on, radiant with a mother's love.
Kate picked a blouse from the rack and held it up to herself, holding an arm out for size. Janet, her good friend, remarked casually that the shirt was absolutely not her color.
I have a friend who that would look great on, commented Susan, who Kate didn't know too well, but who'd been invited by Janet, having said she was marvelous.
Really? Asked Janet, mildly taken aback.
Just then a salesperson who'd been rearranging sweaters enthusiastically added, Oh, me too!
Kate sighed, put the blouse back on its rack, and continued to browse. The jury was still out on Susan.
So R. and I are innair playin pool, right. At lease, thass what I'm innair doin. I don't know what R.'s innair for frankly but playin pool it ain't, if you follow. But anyway. So there we are, rackin em up and sinkin em, R. and me, re-spec-tive-ly, I'm sayin, and we're innair drinkin, what, PBR?, and in walks this piece of ass I swear to God, but I'm like gonna play it cool right cuzz of R. and whatnot.
"How can you eat that shit?!"
Marci moved from room to room, pausing to listen in on the conversations she encountered, but didn't contribute. Window shopping. She'd never been here before, and was unsure about the codes of conduct, the unspoken expectations that seem to lie dormant until unfulfilled, erupting then in uglier forms. This would be avoided here, she thought, through close attention to the details of their dialogue, patterns she could watch for, internalize, and reproduce in small, easily manageable amounts, like wading before a swim. Toes wet. Ankles.
Shins, and she was exchanging basic information with "Carl", profiles open, her preference for grapefruit over orange juice being judged by an unfamiliar mind. Carl was from San Antonio. He liked a cappella. He sang it. But then, square dancing?
Marci couldn't figure it out.
She decided to play it safe.