The Cutters Lounge 2: CARLA
We were all invited to The Katman’s Cutters Lounge cigar bar to share in his review of a new cigar. The Katman’s daughter served the ceremonial Clynelish 20-year old Scotch to Michael, Rick, David, and me. Rick had his guitar and was softly strumming chord progressions from different songs.
While The Katman mumbled smoke rings to himself and took notes, David turned to me and asked “How’s work going?”
“Oh, I’ve got one for y’all. You guys know that I work at Generi-Tech, off of Mesa Drive? It’s a glass box on top of one of those mesa hills. Anyway, in my office I can look out into the parking lot and the ocean beyond while I pretend to work. Not bad. Anyway, last Sunday I was in getting a few things ready for Monday…”
Michael scoffed, “But mostly you were desperately writing your story for Fiction Weekend, right?”
“Of course. Anyway, I got hungry but I didn’t want to go out for fast food, so I went out of my office to the desk of my Temp Associate, Carla…”
“I wish. She’s nice. She does the monthlies. Good worker, good sense of humor, all that…”
Michael leered, “Do you work her…hard?”
“Please. We kid around a lot. Anyway, she always has snacks at her desk. So I opened a big lower drawer, and there in the back behind the hanging folders was a bag of chocolate covered pretzels. Perfect, ok?”
Michael made a sour face, “Good Gawd, man. How about you share what you were smoking that day?”
“Hey, I used to think they sounded weird, too.”
Rick chimed-in, “Ah, employees stealing each others’ food. A classic.”
“Hey, I buy my guys breakfast burritos and shakes!”
David said, waving his hand impatiently, “Go on. Ignore them. I want to hear this.”
“Thank you, Your Honor. Anyway, I lift out the bag of pretzels and I notice that underneath it is a cluster of travel-sized toiletries: shampoo, soap, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, Q-tips, a bag of pink Bic razors. So of course I open another drawer and there in the back, behind hanging files, are folded towels and face-cloths. In another drawer is a couple pair of folded pants. And, get this, in her middle work drawer, behind the pens and staples and Post-It Note pads are panties and a bra!”
David asked me, straight-faced, “How did they fit?”
“Oh, perfectly. I’m wearing them now. But listen, all that got my curiosity up. So, I moved my car to the adjacent parking lot, out of sight. Then I set my cell phone alarm for 5:00 AM…”
The Katman looked up from his notepad and blew a smoke ring.
“And I waited.” I said.
“Swinging life you got there, Allen,” said The Katman as he returned to his notes.
Rick asked, “You slept there?”
Michael asked rhetorically, “So what else is new?”
Rick continued, “Where did you sleep?”
“This is top secret, guys, but I have a tall chair that leans ‘way back and I put my feet up on my desk on top of some soft ‘Rush-Rush-Urgent’ documents. Sweet Dreams. I had the lights out and a CD in the computer.”
“Playing what? Highway to Hell?” laughed Michael. Then Rick burst into the chorus from Highway to Hell and we all sang goofily along. Across the dimly lit room, The Katman’s daughter Katie made a face and held her nose.
“Anyway, my alarm goes off and I’m watching the parking lot with the lights off and before too long I see a beat-up little compact car loop into a parking place near the front door. It’s Carla. And a young girl; I know Carla has a teen-age daughter. And I see a cat up sitting in the rear window. Then Carla and her young daughter enter the building lobby.”
“There is no security guy. We only recently added a card key system because some client wanted us to. I mean, we’re out in the boon-docks. Anyway, I’m peeking out of my office and I see Carla and her daughter go to Carla’s desk and gather some toiletries and some towels. Then they head back downstairs.”
The Katman says, “You’re a regular Sam Spade, Allen.”
“The two of them head to the Production area and I see them go into the technicians’ bathroom. Then I can hear the showers going. It is now about quarter-to-six and pretty soon the set-up crews will be here and will be getting ready in that bathroom.”
“Did you rush into the showers to warn them?” smiles David.
“I was only guessing what the situation was. It would have been too creepy for me to expose… (don’t even say it) … reveal myself.”
Rick asked, “They were homeless, right?”
“I was pretty sure. Anyway, they did come out soon enough, wet hair, made-up and dressed, carrying their stuff back to Carla’s desk. Except the wet stuff. They took that back to the car and I saw them spread it out on the back seat. Then they left.”
“This was now Monday morning, right?” asked Rick.
“Yes, but Carla came back in about a half hour by herself. With the cat.”
“You figure she dropped the teenager at school?” asked David.
“I hope so, at least. Anyway, I didn’t say anything to her. She was a little surprised. I’m usually a half-hour late. But I headed out for those breakfast burritos and shakes.
“Doesn’t she have a husband or family?”
“You know, her whole family is back in Guatemala. I don’t know what happened.”
Rick strummed and softly sang, “There was a young woman who lived in a car, her whole life was there but it couldn’t go far-ther than stories they told in the Cutters Lounge bar…”
The Katman’s eyes glowed red reflecting the tip of his diminishing cigar. He asked, “Allen, what did you do about it?”
“I told you guys the story.”
So we all agreed to chip-in a get her into an apartment.
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