Doe was singing. At first it was “Delta Dawn,” and then “Stand by Your Man”. I thought that if she slipped into an Anne Murray tune, Cronic would kill us all for sure. She was singing in the woman’s washroom and she would not come out.
Cronic was not only flustered but actually looked embarrassed. “You go on an’ get her out,” he said, squirming and darting his eyes every which way. “I can’t go in there, Scoobie. You hafta.”
“I can’t,” I hissed. “You know I can’t.”
“I ain’t comin’ out, Cronic,” she sang. “Not till you promise me a full chicken dinner and some cherry pie. ‘Stand by your man….’”
“You know we gotta stay movin’, Doe,” he said. “This ain’t a good time or place.”
“I know a whole bunch of songs, Tweetie Bird, and I’m prepared to sing ‘em all, less you promise me a full chicken dinner and some cherry pie.”
“Goddamn it, Doe, you know I can’t. Not right now. Maybe later tonight, when there ain’t so many people. But we—“
At that, two middle-aged women approached the rest room area, curious expressions on their faces.
They were heavyset and looked anxious, cigarette butts dangling from their lips. One wore a dress that was gray, covered with dark pink roses; the other, dark pink with gray roses. They were negatives of each other, right down to the post-menopausal blankness in their eyes. They both had the same dye job, hair the color of rusting train tracks.
“There a problem here, boys?” asked one. She was the smaller of the two, though not by much. A Happy Meal or a plate of biscuits and gravy would put her right up to the other’s fighting weight.
“Nawp,” said Cronic. “My l’il sister won’t come out o’ the shithouse.”
The other woman gawped and then smirked. “Headstrong, is she?”
“Yes’m, she sure is.”
“You’ve got to learn to say no to the young ‘uns,” offered the smaller of the two, she of the gray dress and pink flowers. “Yep, today’s youth don’t know come here from sic ‘em. You just hold your ground to that little missy.”
I suddenly felt defensive of Doe.
Excerpt from Cronic: A Novel — Coming soon