Dottie walked in the library about two in the afternoon and headed straight for the circulation desk. She still wore the light blue cafe uniform. She held a dishtowel, wringing it tight. Brenda saw her coming and put on a smile. Dottie had the best gossip.
"Hey, Dottie. How's the salmon running?"
"Hey, Brenda. Is that boy here?"
"The redhead who works here."
"Freddy? Nah. He comes after school."
"Well he weren't in school today he weren't. You need to have a talk with that boy," Dottie said.
Brenda cast a glance around. The library was quiet. All this with Dottie was wrong. The two of them often talked about people in town, sure, but also Brenda's momma or Amy. They had a joke about the specials, with the salmon running. That was Brenda's favorite. Normal, safe things at the circulation desk. Now all this about Freddy. This wasn't how this relationship went.
"Now, I'm sure you saw something, but it wasn't our Freddy. He's on the baseball team. Say, you got any fresh salmon this week?"
Dottie shook her head. "I tell you it was him. I had just served the Howell twins their usual, double bacon sliders with cajun fries and cokes. I set them right, you know how Jill likes her ketchup."
Brenda nodded. "That's how you tell them apart."
"I decided to take out the trash. I told Ray and got the bags together, then looked out the door for the racoons."
Dottie paused, twisting the washcloth tighter, and Brenda felt better. All this direct talk of Freddy having problems. That would not work. A story about raccoons in a dumpster though, well, Brenda could handle that right to the ground.
"I looked out and saw Freddy smoking by the dumpster."
Well shit, Brenda thought.
Dottie kept talking. "I thought for a moment that it wasn't. He's so nice when I come for my Barbara Michaels. But it was. He had it cupped in his hand, like, well… You know."
Brenda did know. She had smoked for years, back when she was in Europe on tour. Those years had been a wile waste of time, playing music for exotic men and smoking all she could, laughing with the boys on the beach until Anthony. Anthony told her about her inner dragon and shown her the way.
"And I went out after he left and it was not tobacco. You need to talk to him. Smoking marijuana and littering. Just left it right there on the pavement, right by the dumpster where anyone could get it."
"Or a racoon," Brenda said.
"I mean, I could have gone to his momma, but I didn't know where he lived."
"He don't talk about them much. Don't you worry. I'll see what I can do."
Dottie frowned, dropping the washcloth to her side. "You said that. I guess we'll see."
Dottie left the building, not even getting a book. Brenda felt unsettled as something inside her moved and stirred.
To Be Continued...