For your reading pleasure, today’s tidbit from For Your Eyes Only comes with a side of Tortilla Flats green chile (YUM!) and The End of Civilization as we know it. Here’s the menu from Tortilla Flats. I’m really, really hungry now. Bet you are too.
John’s head snapped left, in time to see salsa drip off a chip. Red and green speckled sauce landed on the front of her pink turtleneck. He watched bits of tomato slide off her top and plop on the tiled floor, one red chunk landing next to her small foot, just missing her shoe. She’d changed out of the green converse sneakers she’d worn fixing the tire. She had tiny feet and boy howdy suede heels did something fantastic to her legs.
He leaned his forearm on the tabletop and smirked. “Maybe you need to wear a bib.”
She leaned across the open space between their tables. “Maybe you need to get your sleeve out of your enchilada sauce.”
John lifted his arm and gazed at the spicy stain just near the gauntlet buttons on his cuff. He sucked it off. “What are you doing in my restaurant, Your Majesty?”
“Having lunch. And Tortilla Flats isn’t yours. It belongs to Dean Alexis.” She sat back and drank the last bit of beverage in her glass then set it on the table.
“I meant this is my favorite place. I come here regularly. I can’t get enough of the green chile.”
She watched him suck on his sleeve and pointed. “So why not save some of that stuff on your shirt for later?”
“Is that what you’re going to do with the junk on your top?”
“I was thinking about having it for breakfast tomorrow.”
John chuckled and stretched into the aisle to get a look at her food. “What do you have there?”
“Yeah. It’s a good day for soup.”
“And not much else.”
“You seem to be doing a decent job on those corn chips and salsa.” He raised his eyebrows. Then he sat back to let the restaurant’s hostess by with a group of patrons.
Willa snagged a chip and peeked at him between a couple preparing to be seated at the table to his right. “Did your niece get to her party on time?” She bit into the crunchy corn triangle.
John shifted to see past the large Hispanic man who was peeling off a Navy pea coat. “Yes, and it was the most frightening thing I’ve ever witnessed. Twelve screaming eight year olds dressed like…” He huffed and gave his beard an agitated rub. “Let me get your opinion on something.”
Angie the waitress squeezed in behind the fat man. “Here you go, Officer John,” she said, placing a basket of steaming hot sopapillas in front of him.
“Thanks Angie.” He gave her a little wink and inclined sideways again. “So your opinion,” he said. “Is it me, or is the fashion for little girls just too mature lately? Do we really need to have a five year old wearing a leopard-print bra top and make up?”
“Ah. Your niece’s eyeliner…the end of civilization as we know it.”
“You think so too?”
“Well, you tell me,” Willa rested one hand on the seat of her chair and leaned closer, “in your professional opinion—”
“My professional opinion?”
“You’re a policeman, aren’t you?”
“Detective. How’d you know?
“The waitress called you officer, and you called me ma’am. I figured you were either law enforcement or military, but your beard made me lean towards cop.” She had to sit up to make way for a bus boy carrying a load of used dishes.
“So my professional opinion?”
Willa glanced at her watch and reached for another corn chip. “Does make up and bad fashion lead to organized crime among pre-teen girls?”
“You mean you haven’t heard of the ‘Tween Mafia?”
“They’re an offshoot of the Gambino Crime Family, aren’t they?” she said, cocking her head. “My point is people get so wrapped up in appearances they fail to see beneath the exterior. Your niece was well mannered and sweet, despite the five pounds of eye make up. OK, yes, I admit I think make up and revealing clothing is inappropriate for girls under eighteen, but every generation right down to Socrates has always believed that younger people will be the downfall of civilization, you know, with the Rock and Roll and all the dancing.”
“Well, someone just watched Footloose.”
“Let’s hear it for the boy.” Willa grinned and stuffed one last chip into her mouth.
“You look different, Queenie.”
“I combed my crown.” She waved her hands around her head like a game show model. Her once-snarled nest of hair was a neat, smooth bob that curved about an inch beneath her chin.
Willa sighed. Damn. For some reason she’d expected him to be different, but it always came down to the same question. She sighed again. “Because I like it.”
“I don’t dye it because I like how it looks. It turned white when I was twenty-two. I liked it then. I like it now”
A laugh puffed out his nose, sniff-sniff-sniff. “I wasn’t going to ask about your hair, which by the way, I like too. I was just wondering if you’d care to join me.”
“Yeah. You know, have lunch with me so we can continue this witty banter and eat at the same time, without leaning across and getting in the way of the wait staff.”
“You think this is witty banter?’
“Just like something out of an old Tracy-Hepburn feature.”
“So which one are you, Tracy or Hepburn?”