"Well, I'll Be John Brown"

Real stories about folks who have blessed my life with the joy and fulfillment of laughter. Long may they live.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A Southern Boy - Born In Alabama, Reared In Georgia, and Matriculated, Married & Initiated Into Manhood In Tennessee.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Autumn Belle - Chapter 4"

Autumn Bell Hamilton was now a career woman. After her first day at the paper, at dinner her daddy reminded her that the working world plays by its own set of rules. Even the aristocracy who walks amongst the commoners must observe standard practices of business etiquette. And sometimes, he was careful to point out, the upper crust must perform at an even higher level than the average Joe just to prove they do "belong" in the driver's seat. "One day, the paper and most everything I own will be yours, sweetie," her daddy explained, "but, until then you have to prove yourself. Once you have done that, then and only then can you run the paper with credibility and authority."

Such things had never been unfolded before Autumn Belle's eyes in this way. She didn't like hearing it. Everything had always come so easy for her. Why should she now have to go out just like any other young, college graduate and start all over again? Couldn't she just cash in her seven-figure trust fund and go lie on the beach in Kaua'i? Who did this Sibley woman think she was, anyway? She was not family - just a mere salaried employee. Autumn was not a happy girl on her second morning's commute. So out of sorts was she that, as she made her way through the busy Atlanta streets, the Silver Skillet never crossed her mind.

Later that morning, as she sat in her cubicle looking through the story assignments that lay before her, someone a few cubicles over unwrapped a hot sausage biscuit from the Silver Skillet. The aroma quickly filled the area. The work space was instantly in a ravenous state of hunger. As Autumn sat there, reading over the list of social events she was to begin covering, she was overcome with hunger. This also triggered her memory. She sat straight up in her chair and blurted out, "It was HIM!" One of her co-workers sitting a few cubicles over asked, "It was HIM, who?" "HIM!!", Autumn Belle declared again, with an air of disbelief in her voice. The young man at her debutante party, those arms, THAT voice, so strong, so erotic, so masculine, SO....It was HIM behind that grill at the Silver Skillet!

Autumn sat back in her chair as if one of life's great mysteries had been solved. She felt relieved. She also was suddenly filled with anger and incredulity. "But, what was HE doing at MY party?...A cook?...Somebody who works behind a grill at a greasy spoon?!...The NERVE of somebody like THAT crashing MY party!", Autumn muttered to herself - her temper growing hotter with each sentence.

How dare such a lower-class brute show up at her party, grab her around the waist, hoist her in the air, and then lecture her about her name. "I'm going back down to that little greasy hole-in-the-wall and give him a piece of my mind!", she said, banging her fist on the desk. Autumn's voice grew louder with each passing burst. Her co-workers stopped what they were doing to watch the bratty tantrum. In a moment, Jewell appeared from Mrs. Sibley's office and wanted to know what was going on. "Little Miss 'Sugar Britches' is pitching a fit," said one of the male staff writers from across the room. Evidently, Lewis Grizzard's inaugural greeting had caught on. From that day forward, Grizzard's off-color reference to Autumn Belle became her unofficial office nickname.

Jewell calmed the storm by suggesting that everyone had deadlines to meet. There was no time for anyone to be throwing a fit, or watching one. Everyone turned back to their typewriters and resumed their work. Everyone, that is, except, "Sugar Britches."

Her mind turning wildly, Autumn ran and re-ran the images over and over. How it felt being in his arms, the feel of his hands sliding down over the top of her hips, his body next to hers, the sound of his deep, mature voice. More than this, she was exasperated that this man had come to her exclusively private party, made himself out to be someone who socially and culturally belonged there, and then so brazenly proceeded to "handle" her as if she were his own private cupie-doll. Forgetting about the fact that SHE was the one who ran into him, and that SHE was the one who spilled her drink on his jacket and into his face, Autumn could see little else beyond the image of him sweating, laboring, and hiding behind that nasty, greasy grill at the Silver Skillet.

As she sat pondering these things, her vengeful side gained the upper hand. How could she repay this ogre for his violation of her dignity? What could she possibly do that would humiliate him in an even greater way than he had done to her? Her musings about this went on for the better part of the remainder of the morning. It was not until she got up to go to lunch that THE idea came to her. Marching up the hall to Mrs. Sibley's office, she asked Jewell if she could speak to Mrs. Sibley before going to lunch. "I've got a better idea, " Mrs. Sibley suggested - coming out of her office as Autumn was speaking with Jewell, "Why don't we go to lunch together?" Autumn reluctantly agreed. She did not relish having to spend an hour in the company of a hired employee, and especially one who had insulted her as Mrs. Sibley had done on her first day at work.

Their lunch at the Rich's Department Store lunch counter went much better than Autumn had anticipated. Mrs. Sibley was charming and friendly. They talked about family, the many ways Atlanta was changing, and other small talk. Toward the end of the lunch, Autumn brought up the Silver Skillet Grill. She mentioned George Decker, whom Mrs. Sibley knew, and spoke of his being an icon in the Atlanta business community. Then Autumn made her move. She suggested, for her first really big project, that she be allowed to do a feature story on George Decker and his famous restaurant. She would cover it from all angles - the historical significance of the Silver Skillet, the celebrities who had eaten there, its local popularity, and of course, she would include a behind-the-scenes look at George Decker and his "staff."

Autumn was passionate and animated as she made the sales pitch to Mrs. Sibley. Her effort was valiant and, surprisingly, successful. Celestine Sibley agreed on the spot that the idea was a good one, and that Autumn Belle should begin the project immediately. On their way back to the newspaper offices, Autumn felt very smug and satisfied. Not only had she been able to sway one of the toughest old birds in the Atlanta news community, but she had also found a way to even the score with Beauregard the fry cook.

She could not wait.

Her plan was to get up way before dawn and be standing at the door when the Silver Skillet opened for business the very next morning at 5:30 AM.