10 / 365 – Popular

JACKIE

People who didn’t grow up here used to be surprised when I told them I didn’t have many friends in high school. Ben Rahlf, he’s one of the guy who hauls for everyone, he used to say, “I would have thought you were a cheerleader.” When I started working at the C-store I was still shy. I had to get over it. Dan said, “You’re pretty, you know. When you smile, people will want to talk to you.” He used to say the sweetest things then, back when we were first having kids. “You’re nice to talk to, people will want to talk to you.” Well, pretty soon I knew everyone. It was like everyone forgot who I had been in high school, now they wanted to know me. I don’t hold it against anyone, all those years. Sometimes I think it would have been nice to have had more fun in high school, but then again, you see a lot of those kids end up in trouble, or married maybe too young, because before their kids are even ten they’re dying and want to break out and run away. Like Sharon Grandalen did, just up and left town, left her kids with her husband, who wasn’t much of a dad to begin with, mostly just interested in spending nights at the Eagles Aerie with the same group of guys he used to drink with in high school. Kids ended up with her parents, after awhile. And then they’ve been lots of trouble.

Now it seems like I know everybody, or at least half the town, the half that comes in here. There’s people I think who won’t come in here because they’re old friends of the Coopers, and they think the town’s not big enough for two cafes. Sometimes on a slow day I wonder if it is, and maybe they do too. Maybe some people don’t trust it because we make things they hadn’t seen, like salads with lettuces they don’t know. “What’s rocket?” some of those old guys say. One guy thought he was funny: “Rocket is something you’re supposed to shoot into space, not dump in a salad.” They thought that was funny, some of those old guys did. But most people have been OK. I try to help by being friendly, getting to know them, just like I did at the C-store. I always hoped people might stop in to my station so they could say hi, and it made my day go along faster. I had to practically teach myself to be friendly like that, but now it’s easy. I miss people sometimes on my days off.

I didn’t want my kids to feel left out. This is too small a town for that. But I didn’t mind if they’re not the ones being stars on the basketball team or the smartest kid in the school. I don’t think being happy in high school means you’re going to be happy the rest of your life. I mean, look at Finn Tillary, he’s a nice guy and there’s nothing wrong with flipping eggs and burgers in the little town cafe, but he does seem kind of confused, you have to admit, going from the big basketball star who went off to the big city and now he’s here and his girlfriend, who sounds very nice, is off in Chicago. He seems very confused. Him and Sara. I have to be careful around those two. They’re like magnets for confusion. I just like to keep things simple.

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