Fool Me Twice

Depositphotos_36473739_xs“We’re going to the Internet Cafe!” Alex cried from the back seat of the car.

We’d driven 20 miles to Draguignan. It’s name was printed in a large, bold font on our map, so we concluded it was big enough to have a grocery store and an Internet Café.

I reluctantly shelled out all the Euros in my wallet to the girl behind the desk in exchange for five passwords. As we took our seats at our respective computers, I noticed no coffee, tea, or anything else that qualified this place to be called a Café. I logged on to my e-mail account and read a message from Shari. Only seven cookbooks had been sold since we left. That worked out to less than one per week. On a good note, those profits would cover the cost of this Internet session.

I scrolled down and was alarmed to see a message from my boss. Perhaps he just wanted to wish me well and hear about my adventures. I reluctantly clicked through. The message indicated that if I didn’t return to work within the next week my position would be filled. It was followed by some legal mumbo jumbo he probably copied and pasted from the human resource manual.

Hadn’t I made it very clear to him I’d be gone for five months? I still had over three months left. My reaction was mixed – a toxic blend of anger, relief, and sadness.  Anger: mostly with myself, in a fool-me-twice-shame-on-me sort of way. After earning a bachelors degree and spending all those years paying my dues in reputable companies, I felt like a major fool ending up at a mortgage company where the managers didn’t know their asses from their elbows let alone if their employees were employees or not. And they were firing me! Relief: I was done with that job. Sadness: I’d have to break the news to Donna that when this trip was over, we’d be poor.

Back outside, the kids spotted a record store and ran ahead of us. This was my chance to break the news to Donna. I told her about the message and she shook her head and laughed.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“You hated that job Jeffery.” She pointed across the street. “Let’s go check out that bakery.”

* * *

We spotted a neat little family-owned market down the street from the bakery. Donna grabbed a cart and the kids didn’t hesitate to start filling it. I perused the meat case. Among the neatly arranged cuts, I noted some giant chicken breasts – the biggest I’d ever seen so I thought they might be from a turkey. The store owner – a French version of John Denver seemed to pick up on my concern. I pointed to the breasts, held up my hands, formed an exaggerated look of confusion on my face and asked “What is this?”

He disappeared for a moment then returned holding a dead chicken by its ankles. It wasn’t a feathered, sanitized looking chicken, this was a dead-as-hell chicken with feathers and lifeless eyes looking at me.

“Got it.” I said, looking around to ensure Donna was out of sight. “Two please.”

In no time the shopping cart was over flowing. The owner and his wife helped us carry our bags to our car which was really nice considering it was parked two blocks away. They didn’t seem to mind leaving the store unattended. It made me feel happy and hopeful, which I definitely needed.

* * *

Donna came out of the bathroom rubbing a towel through her wet hair. “I’m a little frustrated.” She said, sitting down on the bed.

I looked up from my book. “Because my job is gone or because my cookbook is not selling?”

She shook her head. “Neither. It’s Alex.”

“Alex?”

She tossed the towel back into the bathroom. “Didn’t you notice the way he was acting all day?”

My mind had been a little preoccupied. “Been a little surly?”

“Little?” She thought the visit to the Internet Café set him off – connecting with his friends and seeing what he was missing out on.

“We could send him home.” I offered. “That would save us a fortune in Internet fees.”

“Not funny Jeffery.”

I clicked off the light and exhaled. What a day.

GONG!

I clicked the light back on.

“Ignore it Jeffery”

I laid back down and contemplated another sleepless night. How the hell was I going to pay the bills when we got home? Why didn’t we stay home a little longer so I could promote my cookbook? Why was Alex raining on Donna’s parade?

Yeah, this trip was a great idea all right.

NEXT: It’s Harder than in Looks

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