Another Night in Josies......Mabel Jenkins was surrounded by people, yet she felt alone....In a booth to her left she saw her baby sister, Anita and her boyfriend...Chance Howard, the young lawyer drinking and talking quietly...In the restaraunt area she saw her older sister Victoria and her husband, Deacon Larry Weatherford enjoying a meal...Victoria was giving her ex-husband, Pastor John Struthers the serious side eye...It was bad enough that he was even in Josies in the first place...a Bar and Grille and he a Pastor at that!!! But he had the nerve to be in here with his latest girlfriend....The school teacher, Rita Gordon. Victoria didn't have anything against Rita...She hardly knew her.....Just the idea of her ex husband being this serious about someone bothered her a little bit. Why? Nobody quite knew... Mabel smiled....Her smile dropped when her brother in law and one time lover, Clerow walked in with his wife..her younger sister, Corabeth .... This made her lonely for "88", the Keyboard player in Reed Nelson's band...who was currently living with her...When he was home!
Reed Nelson, "88" and the band were on the road again....In Montego Bay at the Montego Bay Jazz festival...They had been gone for two weeks so far...Then they had a recording session in New York City a week after that! Mabel was so lonely!... Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Debbie....Reed's girlfriend and her sister Delores....Delores had been seeing a guitarist from singer,Ingrid Rhodes's new band..They were on the road too....They of all people knew how she felt.
Then....He walked in!!! He was about six foot two, brown skinned, with curly hair and a dimple in his cheek...a pleasent smile and a tight t-shirt that seemed to hug every muscle.....The shirt simply said..."Bottom of the C...Seafood- Philadelphia-Atlantic City." He had on a nice pair of black slacks to go with the t-shirt....
He had on too much cologne..He was three seats away and she could smell his scent...but it was a fresh scent...a scent she had never smelled before...she liked it...She found that she couldn't take her eyes off of him.
"What'll you have Ralph?" said Gus the bartender...
"You got some of that imported beer I like?" he asked with a smile...
"You bourgie types kill me." said Gus ,who was ribbing him.
"Can I help it if I got class?" he laughed and then turned his eyes toward Mabel....If Mabel had been taken by him....the feeling was mutual....He couldn't get over those curves that had curves that seemed to hug that dress she had on..... He stared at her breasts so long that she caught him looking and he tried to avert his eyes and play it off... She just smiled. "What a dog...he looks as if he were undressing me "she thought and then smiled to herself...
"Hey Gus....give the young lady there a refill." he said.
Gus gave Mabel a drink...She looked at him, smiled and quietly said "Thank You." She liked that he didn't immediately think that gave him a right to just come down and talk to her. He was playing it cool..So far , so good...She thought.
Downtown Rob Brown had put a new band together and was the featured entertainment tonight.
He had gotten better since his early days here....He actually had the audience engaged in what he was playing....Hanging around Reed Nelson had finnally paid off.
"I hear you are a hell of a cook young lady." came the voice. Mabel turned around and to her surprise was the man with the tightly muscled t-shirt..
"I do alright." said Mabel....
"That's not what I hear...People rave about your cooking....And I've even been in your restaraunt a time or two." he said.
"You have?" said Mabel....Now she was surprised..She never remembered seeing this man before.
"Oh yes....I had the pleasure of meeting two of your lovely sisters...Corrie and Anita...and I must say....Every last one of you girls is gorgeous...my..my..my.." he laughed.
"Thank you...it's a shame I wasn't there." said Mabel.
"I'll say.....I've been wanting to meet you for weeks." he said.
"For weeks eh?" said Mabel....Was this guy putting her on?
" I tasted your food...and I say to myself...She is from Louisiana...Only a Louisiana woman cook like that." he said.
"I'm from Monroe,Lousiana...Me and Corrie....My Older sister,Victoria is from Baton Rouge and my baby sister, Anita is from New Orleans." she said.
"Really? I'm from New Orleans myself.....I guess your family moved around a lot." he said.
"No...My daddy did....it's a long story." said Mabel.
"If you've got time...I'd love to hear it one day." he said.
"Really?" laughed Mabel.
"Excuse my rudeness...I'm Ralph...Ralph Scallion." he said.
"I'm Mabel..Mabel Jenkins...but then again...you already know that don't you, since you been stalkin me." she smiled.
"Yeah....From the time I first laid eyes on you...in here about a month ago, I had to know everything about you...Where you lived, where you worked....everything." he said.
"Okay, now you're scaring me." said Mabel...
"Don't be..Ralph Scallion is a lover and a cook...not a stalker." he said.
"Well you could fool me......You a cook? For Real?" asked Mabel.
"Indeed...I work at "Bottom of the C". Seafood"he said.
Mabel looked at that T-shirt and those bulging muscles and said sardonically- "I would have never guessed that Ralph."
He laughed and he ordered another beer and two more drinks for Mabel....They laughed and they talked the rest of the night...through both of Downtown Rob Brown's sets... Victoria, Anita and Corrie all watched their sister...They knew that look...They hadn't seen her have that look in ages...They all smiled a conspiratorial smile to themselves...
By the time Mabel and Ralph had left Josies...All of her sisters and their men had long since gone..She wondered if Gus had seen her and Ralph leave? If he would say anything to "88"?
Finnally she reasoned...She hadn't done anything but talk to a man in a bar..She hadn't done anything she had to be ashamed of...Not yet anyway! She smiled.
Ralph walked her to her car....
"Ms. Mabel...Here is my card.." he said.
"I know where your spot is..I know the owner..."Dollar "Bill Robinson...." she said.
"Oh , then you must come and dine at my spot....I will fix a special Lobster Bisque just for you."
"Really? For moi." she laughed.
"Don't tease me Ms. Mabel." he said with a fake frown..
"Just call me Mabel....That Ms. makes me feel old." she said.
''Aint nothin bout you old.."he said...openly eyeing her figure and her breasts.
"Ralph...I guess I should tell you that I'm spoken for....I have a boyfriend." she said.
"You do? He's a lucky man..where is he tonight?" he asked.
"He's out of town." she said..hating herself for even telling him that....
"He should be with you...If you were my woman...I'd never leave town and leave you alone." he said.
"Thank you, that's very nice." she said....even though she'd heard that before...from every half bit playa who thought they could get in her pants because "88" was away...They had all failed, including Ralph's boss..."Dollar" Bill Robinson... Only Clerow, who didn't have to use any lines had succeeded and that was only that one time...She had been loyal to "88"....but tonight, this guy's cologne, his smile, his laughter and his voice , which reminded her of home was making her
mind think thoughts....bad thoughts...
"So you'll pay me a visit?" he said.
She heard herself tell him "Yes", even though she wanted to say 'No."
(To Be Continued....)