#ShortFictionSunday : The Matriarchs of the Ravenna Porch Society
The Matriarchs of the Ravenna Porch Society
“Bring me some sugar, will you?” Ethel Flannigan, a tall, Scottish-complected lady in her late 60s, smiled sweetly at the new waitress at Cuddy’s Diner. The poor girl, no more than seventeen, skinny as a rail, looked like she had just seen a train coming head on.
“Are you new?” Ethel asked.
“Oh,” she snapped out of it. “Yes, I’m Matilda, but everyone calls me ‘Tilly’.”
“Everyone except your employer,” Ethel pointed a perfectly manicured finger at Tilly’s name tag.
“Oh, right,” Tilly nodded. “Sugar?”
“Yes, Tilly, the others will be here soon.”
“Yes, Tilly. Others. Don’t worry, we’ll each leave you a tip. Now scoot!” Ethel shook her head. Youngsters.
At the sound of the bell on the entrance door, Ethel saw one of the ‘others’ had arrived.
Yolanda Fairway, an African-American lady in her early 70s, sporting a short, natural pixie cut in a distinguished grayish white color, pursed her lips at the sight of her dear friend. Ethel swore Yolanda was somehow related to Hallie Berry. “Ethel Flannigan!” Yolanda let her purse drop into the seat of the booth across from Ethel. “One of these days I’m going to make it here before you.”
Ethel snickered. “Oh, Landa, you’re just upset because I took your parking space. Sit down, Tilly is coming back with sugar.”
Yolanda sat down across from Ethel. “There’s only one handicapped spot in the whole parking lot, and you got to take it every time!”
“I let you have it last week.”
Yolanda let her shoulders sink. “Honey, I can’t remember my own name most of the time – you think I can remember what happened last week?”
Ethel stifled a laugh.
“And who is Tilly?” Yolanda asked.
“She’s the new waitress.” Ethel explained.
“New waitress? Who left? Wait! Was it that girl,” Yolanda paused, searching for words. “You know, little white girl, mid-twenties, dark hair, always smiling?”
Tilly appeared with a small container of sweetener packets, and quickly scampered away. The bell on the front door rang again as the last and final member of the group descended upon Cuddy’s Diner: Angela Tolini. Angela was tall, blonde (thanks to Madame Clairol), and in her late sixties. With the legs of someone twenty years younger, (all the Zumba had definitely paid off), anyone could hear her coming a mile away with her heavy-heeled canter. “Darlings! How are you? Sorry I’m late.” Angela slid into the booth next to Yolanda.
“Well, my dear, fashion is never on time is it?” Yolanda laughed.
Ethel took a sip of her tea. “Alex?”
“Alex who?” Yolanda raised an eyebrow.
“The girl you were just describing.” Ethel explained.
“Oh, you guys are talking about Alexandra Mezzo! She put in her notice at Cuddy’s, and she has already left.” Angela poured herself a cup of tea.
“Yes! That’s her! Where did she go?”
“To work for her cousin, Vinny, at his transmission shop downtown.”
“How do you know this?” Ethel asked.
“I just got off the phone with her aunt before I left for Cuddy’s.” Angela explained. “Vinny needed some extra help.”
Yolanda shook her head. “I don’t know about the two of you, but I don’t think it is right for a little girl like that to working with all those men.”
Angela let out an exhausted sigh.
“I understand what you’re saying, Landa,” Ethel said. “This just wouldn’t have happened thirty years ago.”
“Maybe,” Angela paused, her painted pink lips curving into a wry smile, “all she needs is the right guy.”
Ethel laughed. “You think she could benefit -”
The bell on the door sounded. Yolanda glanced back at the door, and instantly turned around to hush the group. “Here she comes!”
The three matriarchs casually turned to assess their next subject. Alexandra Mezzo stood just over five foot seven, had shoulder length dark hair, a pale complexion, and greenish-hazel eyes. Her dark hair was stuffed in a bun up under a black baseball cap, and taking no time to change, she stood in the middle of Cuddy’s Diner in over-sized coveralls.
All of the matriarchs turned back to their cups of tea. “You’re right,” Ethel said. “She needs our help.”
“Right,” Yolanda whispered. “Let’s watch.”
Tilly came to the counter where Alexandra stood. “Can I help you?”
“Yes,” Alex said with a pleasant, distinctly female voice. “Carry-out order for Miselli.”
“One second,” Tilly disappeared into the back of the restaurant.
As if on cue, the bell on the front door rang again. This time, a man came in wearing a look of disgust, giving the three matriarchs flashbacks of Marlon Brando’s character from A Streetcar Named Desire. At the sight of Alexandra at the counter, his jaw tightened. “Hey! You work for Vinny?”
The matriarchs watched as Alexandra swallowed, and slowly turned to face him. “Who wants to know?”
“I do,” Brando took a step closer. “Tell your dad that he should stick to domestics, or fold up shop.”
Alexandra’s jaw tightened, and she raised an eyebrow, folding her arms as she did. “I know you,”
“Oh, do you?” Brando looked amused.
“Yeah, 2005 Toyota Celica, red,” Alexandra walked a circle around him like a piranha circling its prey. “Landfill in the backseat – yeah, that’s you. Oh, he’s not my dad. He’s my cousin, F.Y.I.”
“Man,” Brando stifled a laugh. “If you knew transmissions as well as you knew trash, you might actually be able to help me.”
“If you got your facts straight, and acted like a human being, I might be willing to help you.”
“Nah,” Brando folded his arms. “Don’t want your help. I’ve got your number sweetheart. The only reason you knew I drove a Celica is because you read it on the deck lid.” He turned to the door. “Deliver the message, kid.” Brando hit the front door, sending it sailing, the bell ringing ferociously.
The matriarchs sipped their tea nonchalantly, watching Alexandra clench her teeth, pay Tilly, and storm out of the restaurant.
There was nothing but the hum of the meat slicer in Cuddy’s restaurant for a minute or two.
“Well?” Angela asked her friends. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know,” Yolanda looked to Ethel.
Ethel folded her hands beside her cup of tea. “It is obvious, ladies. They’re perfect for each other.”