Just a Horrible Haircut

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Frankie Delgado, a socially awkward girl, comes across an enthusiastic rolling stone, Gustavo Tracy. Gustavo introduces Frankie to his incredibly complicated restaurant and everyone who runs it. Remember to comment, like, or/and subscribe!

Submitted: July 27, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 27, 2012



She has given up on being part of the crowd in such a way that she starts to hate the people who dare to assemble and laugh as she sits alone on the bus not a foot away. Who is this though? A guy sits in front of her when there is clearly room in the lucrative "back row." Yes, the back row, where all the rich girls and funny guys sit. The ones who mock her loneliness with joy. He turns around, perhaps he's noticed his friends in the back and will leave to them without so much as glancing at her or her book. She hates her book; it perfectly completes the poster child image of nerdy and alone, well, she's literally alone but the damn book amplifies the point.

No, he's talking to her, "Whatcha readin' there?"

He speaks fast with a strange accent she can't place.

Wake up, she screams at herself. "A book."

She winces, hoping she didn't sound like a total anti-social bitch. He laughs. His laugh is enthusiastic and... real. She laughs, too. She hates her laugh. It spurts out the way vomit does when people try to hold it.

He speaks, "No shit," he lightly smacks his forehead, "what 'bout?"

Does he have a thing for me? she wonders, hopes. Keep in mind, for these girls, hope is dangerous. Hope is a gamble in their eyes, synonymous with performing a trust fall with a stranger. He's managed to not so much as tear down the walls built inside her, but has put himself past them and burned the bridge so no one else can follow. She doesn't know it but he will leave abruptly. For now, she is astonished anyone has taken a special interest in her. Bing! Was that my stop? she panics, No, mine's a block ahead. He's still talking to me. He hasn't asked for directions to a mall where he can meet his friends and forget the creepy girl from the bus; he hasn't asked me a question his friends dared him into asking. He has asked me what I'm reading, what I like to read. In exchange, he's told me his opinion on my current book (looks intriguing) and his opinion of my person (intriguing looks). Was that sarcasm? she dreads.

"I like your goofy book bag." The slightly torn bag sits on her lap, covering her slightly torn jeans.

They weren't bought that way; they're the low quality pants she barely affords. The back row girls wear designer jeans with a bevy of tears and he is sitting here with her. He does the thing she wanted to never see: pull the bus cord to signal a stop.

"Well, this is where I get off." Quickly, his words shoot out and gun down her good mood.

She's about to pretend her stop, which she passed, is also his by some convenient coincidence; God himself lends a hand.

"You hungry? I'm dyin', dude."

Her mood resurrects like a zombie.

She jumps at the opportunity, "Yes."

"Cool beans. Where'd you say?"

She fumbles for a response; she realizes his speech is hard to follow and doesn't want to seem like a klutz. "Uh. I don't know."

Stupid, stupid, she hazes herself.

True, she didn't know what he meant, if he wanted a suggestion as to where they'd eat.

"Tell you what. How 'bout some," he drums his fingers against the bus seats, "How 'bout some o' those big burgers? Yeah, is that cool?"

"Yes, let's eat some cows," she tries, and fails, at a something clever.

He doesn't hear the comment; he thanks the driver and exits the bus. She follows and stands next to him, unsure of what to do.

"Listen, broski," he said, "I live a block down an' a block over, like an 'L,' yeah?"

"Ok," she anticipates he will invite her to his apartment; she would willingly follow.

"I saw this one place 'bout the same distance. I usually walk the L an' down one more, like a 'Z,' you follow?"

She nods, a little too hard.

He laughs, "Cool beans. Anyway, I'm goin' to say you don't mind walkin' a few blocks for a bite, eh?"

She nods, slowly this time.

He frowns, "Hey, kid, relax. For all I know, you could be a total nut, right? Listen, dawg, I'm, like, totally cool, right now, with you, I mean, okay?"

"Where are you from? Your slang isn't consistent and you glue your word together almost," she blurts.

Oh my god, he's going to think I'm a bitch!

He tilts his head, like a dog, and shrugs, "Everywhere, my friend. I'm a bonafied rollin' stone, you know? You name the state an' I've driven through it or at least pissed in a truck stop restroom there, am I right?"

He's so rude and uncensored, she thought.

After several minutes of silent walking, she speaks, "I was born and raised by my mom here in Dani California."

He howls and claps his hands, "Red Hot Chili Peppers! I love those guys."

"Yeah? Me too."

"Am I right?"

There, he confused her again.

Before she could answer, he spoke up, "Lo an' behold! The first an' only no-holds-barred, grease-spoon, high-end eating establishment. Owned an' operated by yours truly, o' course."

The restaurant was by no means any easier to introduce than with a series of contradicting adjectives. He introduces the restaurant, "Here, I created a sports bar an' grill for the weekend guys who want to see the game or the fight an' knock back a few cold ones, right?"

A stained glass ceiling with a rendering of the continental U.S. adorned overhead while a hefty number of flat screens played either some football game or boxing match. Each TV set had a crowd of loud patrons cheering and booing, but they were enjoying themselves. A bar staffed by women with large breasts served all sorts of beers and spirits, supplying a steady current of liquid courage to the party-goers. Food came from one very unique set of grills with fire blasting out of dutch-style open ovens.

"Come on, there's more." He took her past the loud customers and through a door marked: Incognito.

Music streamed from the center of this dark section where a circular bar had been built; a laser show complete with black light began. A crowd surrounded the island inhabited by the "Masters of Mix." Black light causes liquids to become fluorescent, and by the way the bartenders were flinging alcohol around, the counter had a glowing aurora, giving off an alien vibe.

He grabs her hand, "It's too loud here! Let's go to the dining area, how 'bout it?"

She mouths: Ok.

They push through the pulsing crowd and into a secluded door marked: employees only. This one led into a bustling kitchen. Inside, cooks ran in an organized chaos as they vied to fulfill each order placed. More than a few times, a hurried chef nearly cuts her or a busboy with a mountain of dishes barely misses the confused girl. Angry words in various languages are expressed in the kitchen, all screaming the same thing: get out! A hand shoots out and pulls her out of the mess.

A giant chef has her, "Vat are you doing in my kitchen, little vun? Ze door is over zere!"

"I was with..."

"Me. She's with me, Von Gough," he interrupts.

The towering man scolds, "Next zime, follow ze leader."

"She'll do exactly that, sorry, honest mistake, right?"

As she leaves the hectic kitchen, Von Gough keeps his eyes on her. They walk out and into a third section. The dining area is a throw-back to oldie restaurants complete with a Rockola jukebox playing a contemporary classic.

"Here, groups of nostalgic elderly folk interact in an atmosphere from an age when they had their youth," he said coherently. And with a hint of pride. "I had this part of the restaurant soundproofed so these folk can enjoy a burger without having dubstep blasting away their hearing aids." He offers his hand, "My name's Gustavo Tracy. The sports bar calls me Gus, if you like that. Also, the dance bar calls me GT, if that's better for you. This place calls me Tracy."

She shakes his hand, "I'm Frankie."

He cocks his head again, "Cool beans. You like?"

"I'm blown away. This is truly a no-holds-barred, grease-spoon, high-end eating establishment."

"Each adjective is one section o' the buildin': the first is for workin' people, you know, blue collar construction guys; the second appeals to the club scene o' college students or socialites and such; the third is for the demographic least appealed to and most ignored."

"Old people?"

"They have money an' they have appetites, right? My staff here can make food to order for their special needs. Some folk can't chew so my guys chop up the food, you know what I'm sayin'? Others are diabetic or on special diets. But, you know what? My guys fit their needs like a fitted glove."

"This must have been one confusing endeavor," she pondered.

"Not really, I found the most obvious way to attract a maximum number of customers: create the ideal settin'. You see, the sports bar, The High Light Reel, is littered with large boobs, beer, meat, an' sports. Boom, ultimate man-cave, am I right? The club, Incognito, is laden with today's techno an' high-tech light shows an' fancy, expensive drinks made by fancy, expensive bartenders. This spot, Tracy's Burgers, has the look an' feel of an old-timey diner. An' there is still one other area you haven't seen."

This far into the restaurant, she doesn't know what to expect. Another somewhat hidden door revealed a fancier side: Amontillado's Cellar, an up-scale section with an all string band slowly serenading richly dressed visitors. Almost every table had a bottle of no doubt expensive, imported, vintage wine. Frankie noticed each section had one thing in common: they were all packed. Neither was empty or scarcely populated.

"In this place, I'm Monsieur Gustav."

"How do you do it?"

"Easy. Come."

She follows Gustavo through yet another crowd, this one composed of high powered executives and lawyers. They stop at an elevator. Gustavo takes a key and unlocks the machine. Inside, the room has one button and, with a ding, they slowly rise. And with another ding, the doors open and Frankie is immersed in a room with a thousand screens which she can only refer to as the brain.

"Here, call me omniscient. I see everythin' in my domain, Frankie. Except the bathrooms."

But she doesn't hear anything as she takes in the marvelous wonder that is Gustavo's restaurant. Her feet nimbly avoid the many cables strewn haphazardly across the floor; she ducks to avoid the low hanging consoles and draping cords.

She finally bumps into Gustavo, "This is like Howl's moving castle."

"An' I'm Howl? Does that make you Sophie, the cursed housekeeper?"

"I don't think so. Howl falls in love with Sophie."

Gustavo brings Frankie closer, "This isn't too bad for a start."

He places a light kiss on Frankie's head.

She goes on the tips of her toes and delivers an awkward kiss to his lips, "But we can do better."

The elevator door slides open, letting in a small group of assorted people.

"Ahh, here we are. Frankie, this is the backbone o' my operation. These people operate each wing individually," He approaches the closest of the group, "This is Tom Giovicci o' the High Light Reel bar an' grill."

Frankie offers her small hand to the plump manager, "Hello, I'm Frankie Delgado."

The bearded man grunts and pats her head.

Gustavo proceeds to the next one, "This little spitfire redhead's name is Linda Xioa. She manages Incognito."

The short, thin woman hugs Frankie, "I also DJ that side by the stage name La X."

Frankie smiles, "Cool beans."

Gustavo introduces the oldest member, "Tracey's Burgers is under the control o' Walter Erickson."

Walter nods at Frankie, "Frankie is a fella's name, you hear?"

"Yes I know, sir."

Amidst the group, Frankie recognizes the lumbering man, "You're Von Gough."

"That's right! Hector Von Gough, the master chef in charge o' other foodly affairs," Gustavo exclaimed.

The last person is introduced, "Our fancy Amontillado's Cellar is managed by Madame Simón."

An impressively dressed, angelic woman bows, "Hello Frankie. It's my pleasure to make your acquaintance."

Frankie follows suit with her own bow, "Likewise."

"We meet today for a group therapy session, am I right?"

Linda playfully punches Gustavo's stomach, "Never mind him. We are, like, here to discuss issues and stuff."

"Yeah, muh bah is low on beah. Alsah, dah gals ah ovawhelmed an' I need moah servahs."

"We'll get to that as soon as we hire, like, a few bouncers because these guys get stinking drunk and get, like, feisty, you know what I'm saying?" Linda interrupts.

"No. My restaurant needs to restock on the wine," Madame Simón adds.

Von Gough says, "My kitchen is in dire need of better cooks. Zese novices are liabilities."

Gustavo nods, "What 'bout you Walter? Any complaints?"

The old man shakes his head.

"Excellent," Gustavo claps his hands, "I'll handle everythin', yeah?"

The group moves to a couched area in the control room, "Frankie, you can do whatever. Just don't break anythin', okay?"

Frankie wanders deeper into the intriguing room. Monitors of every make and model display the many components of Gustavo's marvelous restaurant. The Incognito TVs displayed in night vision to overcome the dark setting. Frankie spots the disturbance Linda had referred to earlier. An obviously drunk man tries to hit on a rave girl; she doesn't want anything to do with him. She leaves but the man clumsily follows. Fortunately, the lady's boyfriend appears, pushing back the intoxicated intruder.

The next time it'll be an entire mob of hooting drunkards. And the girl might not have a boyfriend to protect her, Frankie predicted.

"You noticed the hyena problem, huh?" Gustavo asked from behind her.

She jumps, "Oh Christ. You scared me. Yeah, but what are you going to do about it?"

"We are leavin' right now to recruit a few guns."

"Oh, I hope you have fun."

"What? No, you're comin' with me an' La X. Unless it's late?"

"No, I'm good. Where are we going?"

"To the Brass Knuckle Hideaway."


Linda, Frankie, and Gustavo arrive at a crowded warehouse. The night seemed to attract a swarm like a floodlight does to insects.

From outside, Frankie can hear a mob of men yelling and fighting, "Who are we looking for here?"

"If you want the best you have to be the best."

"Okay that confused me."

"He's gonna, like, fight some guy, or something. If GT loses, then he'll forfeit some cash. When he wins, he'll take his opponent back to Incognito as our new bouncer," Linda explained.

"Why not just put up a 'now hiring' poster? Isn't this all unnecessary?"

"Shut it," Linda places her finger lightly against Frankie's lips, "We're going inside with GT. Stand back and watch."

A burly guard obligingly allows Linda and Frankie in; Gustavo shakes the man's hand, "A bribe," Linda whispered to Frankie.

What Frankie next encountered can accurately be described as a series of arenas built for pure blood sport surrounded by testosterone fueled schools of piranha-like men. The fighting cages were installed around the converted warehouse.

"You see those guys by the cages? The ones on the podium?" Linda points to several men looming over the masses, "They're, like, bookies."

"Where's Gustavo?" Frankie asked worried.

"He's, like, trying to buy his way into one of the cages," Linda replied nonchalantly.

Frankie exploded, "What? He can't fight these monsters!"

"Just watch, baby girl."

A Don King type voice broke through the noise, "Gentleman, the main event is about to begin! Please speak to one of our fine bookies if you would like to place a bet!"

The crowd surged toward the most sizable cage; Gustavo stood on one end of the circular slaughterhouse wearing unimpressive white shorts. His hands and feet were wrapped in athletic tape. He spots the girls and offers a quick salute.

The once rowdy mob grew quiet; the Don King announcer spoke with potency, "Gentlemen. Here is your champion, Tony 'The Cannon' Danworth!"

Like a manly volcano, the warehouse suddenly erupted as a bear of a man ripped through the chain linked walls of the arena.

"Holy Hell! Gustavo has to fight him?"

Linda chuckled, "I feel bad for Mr. The Cannon."

A referee appeared, scanning the men with a metal detector to ensure a more or less fair fight. After they were cleared, a bell set the whole thing off. Gustavo put his fists up in an old-fashioned boxing stance. The Cannon casually neared him, a grave error. In one smooth motion, Gustavo opened with a clean right hook followed by a well-placed kick to the kidneys. The behemoth fell to his knees; Gustavo reared up for one more kick to the side of Tony's head. He unleashed a force powerful enough to cause the man to blackout.

"It's over! We have a new champion. Nameless warrior, we respect your anonymous status. May it remain so."

Much to Frankie's surprise, the patrons accepted Gustavo instead of rejecting him due to his "anonymous status."

"Now what? Will the guy come with us? I mean, he beat the snot out of him so he'll come, right?"

"I can only tell you so many times before it gets old. Come."

They met Gustavo as he pushed his way past his new fans, "Hello, ladies. I gather you saw the fight, yeah?"

"It was... You were incredible," Frankie gawked.

"Yep. I am pretty bad ass, wouldn't you say?"

Frankie nods in her excited manner, causing Gustavo to chuckle at the girl who had begun as a socially reluctant hermit. Now, he saw an exuberant young lady, one that hasn't even noticed yet she had left her beloved book on the bus. Back in the cage, the referee and his assistants finally reanimate the former champion.

Gustavo takes the chance to speak to the woozy fighter, "Listen, you made a great effort."

Tony replied with both a drunk's speech and intelligence, "Yeah. I punch a lot, huh? Buddy, I lost but if it don't matter who wins or loses, then keep score, huh?"

Gustavo pats Tony's broad shoulders and says, "Where d'you work, pal?"

"I work-"

"With me, yeah?"

"Yeah, when do I start, boss man?"

"Right now, buddy. How does $12 an hour sound?"

"Sounds like money," Tony laughed.

Gustavo lifts the man to his feet and leads him through the horde, holding up their fists in mutual victory.

Once outside, the fighter loses consciousness again, "Linda, Frankie, grab a leg. Let's put him in the car."

With Tony loaded in the back, the group leaves with one new employee.

"Madame Simón wants to restock on wine, Gustavo," Linda reminded.

"There's only one place to go. The Golden Vineyard." "Is that another illegal fight club?"

"The Golden Vineyard is Orange Grove's premier vintage wine emporium. Gustavo managed to get an appointment with Yvette Spectre, the owner," Linda said to Frankie.

"How is he going to recruit help?"

"No, honey, we going there for sweet wine and the rest of Tom's beer."

"But how is he going to get it?"

"Babe, watch and learn," Linda repeated.

A hefty woman met them with a healthy voice as they arrived at the winery,"G-man! It's been awhile."

"Not long enough. I would've thought you'd have enough time to make a better nickname," he hugged the woman and kissed her considerable cheek.

"Who's this pretty thing?" The woman mentioned at Frankie.

"Oh, where are my manners? Yvette, this is Frankie Delgado."

Yvette whispered to Gustavo under her breath, then spoke to Frankie, "What are you bringing to the table?"

Frankie offered a confused look, "I don't understand."

Yvette laughed and put her arm around Frankie and Linda, "Let's go inside."

The winery had an impressive interior: the walls were of a rustic, medieval quality; the floor had a sleek granite finish, and the furniture was a dark, heavy oak.

"Wow, this place looks like a king's mess hall," Frankie commented.

The largest table held four goblets and numerous bottles of wine, "Let's take a seat," Yvette suggested.

"Okay, gang, the name o' the game is mercy," Gustavo said, "Last drinker standing, so to speak, wins. Puking and passing out is an automatic DQ."


"I wanna go on record by sayin' Yvette is cheatin'," a very drunk Gustavo claimed.

"No, no, no. I'm goin' on record by sayin' you are guilty o' bein' gay," Yvette retorted.

The alcohol had taken out Frankie's weak tolerance two goblets in; Linda vomited after six. Now, sixteen goblets later, Gustavo was starting to feel a lot like the punch drunk Tony.

"Wanna quit, loser?"

"Never, woman," Gustavo replied.

"Imma drink you so far under the table you'll..." The rest of Yvette's message was lost to sixteen and a half goblets worth of fine wine.

She fainted with a grace not customary to drunks, almost like she slipped into sleep. Gustavo followed with a more typical move, falling like a bag of rocks.


With an array of hangover cures replacing the wine, Yvette whispered, "Okay, you win. The stuff is yours."

"Shh. I'll call someone up for it. Now, help me carry my minions away."

"How about no?"

"Come on. They weigh like 90 pounds soakin' wet."

Yvette shook her head.

"It's cool; I know a guy."

Tony gently placed the women in the back seats of the car and boarded the passenger seat as Gustavo drove away from the Golden Vineyard.

"Keep an eye on them, Tony; I don't want them puking."

Frankie groaned, "Did we win?"

"Yep, Boss cleaned house, little lady," Tony answered.

"Wait. Gustavo, what did you wager for the alcohol?"

"Uhh. Well, I bet you," Gustavo shrugged.

"What? How?"

"Yvette is a lesbian of epic proportions. If I lost she would've had her way with your unconscious body."

Frankie attacked him, wrapping her hands around his throat, "You fucktard! I'm not your whore! Next time, bet your own asshole!"

"Tony, help please."

She released her hands before Tony could touch her, "Is this why you talked to me on the bus? To recruit?"

"No, you got it all wrong. I'm genuinely interested in you, Frankie."

"Why? I'm a skinny, flat-chested girl who looks like a guy from far away. I mean, I'm still a virgin. My phone's contact list is 5 people long and they're all from work," Frankie confessed.

"I didn't know that when I met you. I saw a girl with no story. Now, by bein' with you, I'm fillin' in the blanks."

"You can't wager me like that," Frankie insisted.

"I have a unique business method. I won Linda over by havin' a DJ battle. Police were lookin' for a serial burglar an' if I had lost Linda would've had me take the fall," Gustavo explained.

"She used to be a criminal?"

"Yep. She planned to pin the heat on me. She had a signature when she robbed: eatin' everythin' in the fridge."

"And you were supposed to be caught?"

"Yeah," Gustavo nodded.

"Is that how you won all your employees?"

"Pretty much. Except Walter; he's my only freebie."

"You are strange, Gustavo."

"If it makes you feel better, you are the first person I've invited into the monitor room."

"As long as I'm the last."

"Cool beans."

"What's next?" Frankie changed the subject.

"I'm droppin' you off. It's past midnight. 3 to be exact. Tomorrow, we have to go extort a client. Where am I takin' you, darlin'?"

"If it's all the same to you, I don't want to go yet."

"Cool. I'd like that. We still have to get rid o' Tony an' Linda."


Morning found Frankie with a massive headache. She stumbled out of bed, stubbing her toe. The door wasn't where she usually found it. Neither was the switch. Her hand ran the length of the wall before finding a button. A stereo system blasted hard rock when she pressed it. She clicked it again, standing in the darkness, afraid to touch anything else. After a series of claps, the lights finally came on; an unimpressive room revealed itself.

"Did you sleep well?" Gustavo asked.

"Did we sleep together?" Frankie wondered.

"Are the answers related? Because I'd like to think one is the response of the other."

"So we did?"

"And I ask again: did you sleep well?"

"In other words, you are asking me how the sex was."

Gustavo nodded enthusiastically.

"I can't be an authority on that. Remember, I've never had it before. But I'd say it was mediocre."

"Well, we can practice until I get it right, yeah?"

"I'd like that," Frankie slid under the covers to cuddle with Gustavo, "You go by G-man, GT, Gus, Monsieur Gustav, and Tracey. Can I call you Howl?"

"Sure, babe, whatever you want."

"Cool beans."

"As much as I'd like to lay here forever, we have work to do," Gustavo said as he emerged from the bed.

"Wow, you sleep fully clothed?"

"Yep. Never had a reason to strip before sleepin'," Gustavo replied.

"I don't have spare clothes and I want to shower," Frankie said.

"Linda has a room here. She should be able to spare some undies."

"Yeah. Where am I exactly?"

"You are in the basement o' my buildin'; I live down here when I'm not out an' about," Gustavo explained.

Frankie wasn't surprised the restaurant had this feature. At this point, not much would.

"Go down the hall an' you'll find another room. Knock though; Linda'll be inside," Gustavo suggested.

Frankie did as he requested, stepping out into a crammed hallway; it reminded her of the low-class rooms from Titanic. The connection made her feel claustrophobic so she hurried to Linda's room. Frankie was about to knock when the door creaked open.

She entered, "Linda?"

No answer.

"Hey. Up and at them."

Still nothing.

"Okay. I'm going to leave."

"Hey!", Linda poked Frankie's ribs from behind her.

The startled girl began laughing, "Oh, you ass! You and Gus have the habit of sneaking up on people."

"Yeah. What can I do you for?"

"I need to shower and I have no spare clothes," Frankie shrugged.

"Let me see what I can do. Come on," Linda pushed Frankie into her room and clapped on the lights.

The trend of amazing architecture continued in Linda's bedroom: a spiraling staircase led to an encompassing catwalk with multicolored stage lights; her bed was suspended from the overhead fixture by cables; the floor had an eerie spider web design.

"My closet's over here," Linda led Frankie to a couple of Japanese sliding doors, "How much clothing do you need?"

Her closet had been built with high walls and a sprawling array, "Take your time, Frankie."

After selecting her rather modest outfit, Frankie stepped back into Linda's room, "Where's the shower?"

"Keep walking to the right and you'll see another door," Linda directed.

She exited and entered the compact hallway. It led her down a narrow corridor that seemed to shrink as she progressed further. It's like a dungeon, she observed. Just as the claustrophobia began crushing her, she came across the door to a showering room. The facilities bore an uncanny resemblance to a locker room shower. Frankie stripped and found a shower head.

"Alright. The dial has to be here somewhere."

"Hey," Gustavo's voice echoed in the shower room.

She jumped, "That's getting real old."

"Aren't you gonna pull out some pepper spray an' yell rape?"

"Where could I possibly keep the stuff on me?"

He raised one eyebrow, "I can think of a few places. If you know what I'm sayin'?"

Frankie held out her arms, "Show me, Howl."

Fortunately, the showers, despite being built for an entire team, never saw more than two occupants at the same time; Frankie and Gustavo were undisturbed. But Linda, on the other hand, didn't have to be in there to know what occurred. After her shower, Frankie returned to Linda's room for something she's always wanted to do: wear makeup "like a girl".

"You know, Frankie, the point of taking a shower is to get clean. I could hear ya'll from here," Linda scolded.

"Sorry. I guess post coitus finds me a bit..."


"Shh, Linda! You bitch!" She throws a pillow at her.

"What? There's no one here to find out you're a whore."

The girls burst into laughter.

"Why the makeup?"

"I want Gustavo to have a pretty girlfriend."

"Girl, I wouldn't try to settle with GT," Linda warned.


"We've only seen him, like, twice in two years," she revealed.

"He might stay."

"Says what? None of us know where, why, or when he goes or what he does."

"Maybe he'll leave with me."

"Honey, don't take it the wrong way but the guy is, like, 31 years old. Don't think you're the only person to wake up and fumble the stereo on."


"After he won me over, I fell in love with him," she confessed,"I didn't know he lived like a rolling stone. He tried to get me to work for him before but I refused to leave Club Elevated."

"Then he challenged you to some crazy contest."

She chuckled, "I lost. But also won."

Frankie's puzzled look requested an explanation, "Honey, I own, like, one of the most successful night clubs east of the Orange River. Elevated paid me, like, $400 for one gig, if I was lucky enough to make the rotation. GT noticed I worked hard every time to please the crowd. The other guys made a few good remixes and played those repeatedly. The real competition was a bikini wearing, talentless skank. GT gave me all this. And to think I fought back. He won, took me back here, showed me his nearly empty club and told me to do what I was born to do. I went from struggling to striving. But then he left one day."

"Did Gustavo take you to the monitor room?"

"No, I tried sneaking in but he wouldn't let me. The other managers wouldn't let me in either."

"He loves me."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Gustavo's giving me his nearly empty heart and telling me to do what I was born to do."

"You'll go from struggling to striving."

"Then he'll leave," Frankie finished.

"I hope not, babe," Linda whispered.


Frankie sat quietly beside Gustavo as he drove to the location of the two chefs he sought. He didn't try to engage conversation, but Frankie didn't exactly freeze him out either. This time Linda had stayed behind for reasons undisclosed to Frankie.

"I have really bad news," he finally said.

Frankie braced herself for the wrong thing.

"Walter suffered a serious stroke a few hours ago. Linda's in the hospital with him because his son is off in some road trip with my younger brother."

"Why didn't you tell me this earlier?"

"The news shocked me; I just now managed to compose myself enough to tell you."

"Who'll manage the diner now?" Frankie asked, anticipating the answer.

"I'll have to," Frankie rejoiced at the prospect of having him around longer, "With you, obviously."

She came back to life, "Where are we going, babe?"

"I heard some guys are fresh off the boat from the war-ridden Middle East," Gustavo had fallen back into his old self.

"Those are your cooks?"

"Yep. Two brothers who owned a floating restaurant off in the Mediterranean Sea. I kept up with them via e-mail because I wanted a similar eatery. But, you know, the Orange River only has frogs, tires, missing people, but no fish."

"Wow. A boat for a restaurant," she marveled, "Why are they here if the endeavor turned out successful?"

"The war soon cut off their wealthy customers. One day, a faction commandeered their ship. They were broke, homeless in a hostile environment."

"So they came here to start again?"

"Yep. Two master chefs after a paycheck. Perfect."

"Will they come easily?"

"Oh Hell no. I gotta win them over."

"What'd you have planned?"


"Okay, my friend. You need to put one bullet in chamber, spin, and pull," a lanky Gypsy said.

Gustavo took a .36 Magnum's chamber and spun it. He cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger. The gun went off with a deafening thump. Frankie's ears rung as she wiped red goo off her face.

The Gypsy snapped his fingers in disappointment, "You win, asshole."

Watermelon dripped from the ceiling and onto Gustavo's head, "Now ya'll have to keep your deal's end."

A second identical Gypsy pats the first's back and says, "Come Misha, let us be honorable."

Misha sighs, "Asla is too enthusiastic about this. He wanted to lose."

"But we can continue to our passion for food."

Gustavo walked the men out of their apartment. Frankie tailed behind, taking one last glance at the pulpy carnage. The men begin bickering in their native tongue in the back seat of Gustavo's car. Frankie can only speculate at the exchange. Gustavo stared through the rear-view mirror, smiling to himself.

He whispered, "They speak Yiddish."

"Do you?"

He nodded. In short time, they arrive to Gustavo's business. The men walk in identical strides, blatantly ignoring each other. Upon entering the main kitchen, they simultaneously unfold their arms and awe at the wonderland of burners, stoves, cabinets and utensils, and astonishing varieties of foods, some of which they didn't even recognize.

"It's beautiful," they said together.

Misha and Asla look back at each other then at the kitchen. They nod in mutual agreement, yes, they do want to work here. Perhaps learn as well. Gustavo stood back with pride and happiness. He left the men as they entered the havoc of the kitchen, taking Frankie with him on the way out. He kissed Frankie with more passion than ever, holding it longer before tearing away. Frankie looked on as Gustavo started his car and drove away without another word.

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