Welcome to What-A-Burger @janewithay
Chapter 16: The Witch Doctor

The Witch Doctor

I told the witch doctor I was in love with you
And then the witch doctor he told me what to do

He said that
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang

***WTWAB***

"Okay, let me see if I understand you correctly. I have to skate the food out to the customers?"

"Well, yeah … but only on the weekends. Don't tell me you never skated before!"

"Uh …"

Rose heaves a sigh that can be heard the next town over.

I sigh too; well, groan is more like it. I vividly recall Renee trying to teach me how to skate before I went to live with Aunt Margaret. It did not end well. I still have the scars on my knees to prove it.

"Alrighty … we'll just let that slide for now. Maybe Bip can teach you tonight when ya'll get home."

Home?

"You are staying with Boots, aren't you?"

"I …" Have no idea. We didn't discuss my living situation.

Because we were far too busy making whoopee to discuss much of anything – apart from moaning about how good it felt.

My face must redden at the thought because Rose narrows her eyes and then shakes her head.

"Oh – sorry, I just assumed … what with you being all cozy-poesy in his bed and all."
"I wasn't in his bed; I was in the guest room bed!"

"Yeah, you were, and by the looks of it, so was he – so don't act all wide-eyed and innocent, girl. Lord." Rose chuckles.

I clear my throat and my thoughts.

"To be honest, I haven't really thought about my living situation yet. But I think I'd like … I mean … it would be fun …"

"To move in with Boots? Yeah, I bet that would be fun."

"Actually, I was going to say, with you."

"Me?"

"Well, yes – of course, you. And Alice and Miss Vick. "

"You're joshin', right?"

"Well, no. That is if you'll have me."

"Have you?" She laughs outright. "Girl … of course, we'll have you … there's no problem there. I'm just confused. Is it because of Elizabeth?"

I bite my bottom lip, considering.

"Partly, I suppose. But also, it's because I've never really had any girlfriends to hang out with, and I think I'd really like that, Rose. More importantly, I think - no, I know, I need that."

Roses face softens for a moment, and then she laughs. "You know what, Bella … I think you're right. I mean – who're ya'll gonna tell your darkest secrets to if you're with the man himself.? Besides … something tells me you could use a girl's night out, or a hundred. Now Alice and me … well, we're not hittin' on much as far as bein' educated and all, but we do have men figured out in spades, mores the pity."

"So … I can stay with you all for a bit?"

She shakes her head and chuckles.

"Girl … let's get you inside and start your day. If you still wanna move in with us by the time we put the gone fishin' sign' on Burger, then I think it'll be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Now … you ever jerked a soda before?"

Two hours later, I've already dropped one tray, stumbled twice, got the orders wrong three times, and almost killed Horace Hogg. In my defense, no one bothered to tell me Mr. Hogg was allergic to peanuts.

Thank God, Carlisle arrived just in time. One epi shot later, Mr. Hogg opened his eyes, popped up where he lay, and asked: "Say … ain't you the lil gal I saw runnin' half-naked down Main Street a few days back? Is that gonna' be a nightly thing or just a one-hit wonder?"

I blew the hair out of my eyes and promptly burst into tears.

I'd like to say that was the only time I cried … but, no

The first time was when I realized the word jerk in soda, referred to the one pulling it.

Me.

The second time was when I slid like a 727 making an emergency landing in front of the Jukebox.

In my defense, Page Pigg had spilt his strawberry shake on the faded checkerboard floor.

"Hey, Mama … in't that the lady who ran past us in her bath towel? You remember … Daddy said he hoped she'd catch it on the Hydrangea bush and give us all free show."

The third time was when I slammed my finger in the drawer of the cash register.

I may have said, fuck.

Polly Pigg said I did, at any rate. That was after she asked me if I was homeless and if I wear a size eight because she had lost twenty pounds and was down to a size four. "Bless your heart."

I may have said, bitch.

Rosalie said I did.

I think.

She was laughing so hard it was rather difficult to tell.

By twelve o'clock, I was ready to walk back to Massachusetts and beg James to kill me.

Then, Boots walked in.

"You bout ready to take a break, B?"

That was the fifth time I cried.

***Burger***

"Here," he says, digging into the pocket of his work pants. I look up to see him pull out a faded green bandanna. He hands it to me and tells me to "blow."

I must look at it rather dubiously because he chuckles and says, "Don't worry, it's clean."

I take it and give it a good honk. He laughs and I roll my eyes.

"Do all men carry handkerchiefs in the south?" I ask, wiping my nose with a corner of the bandanna. I must look like, as Jasper would say, crap.

"Sure. It's sort of a requirement in our Guide to Being a Southern Gentlemen; I usually keep it in my snood, but I lent mine to Jake."

I look up in time to see his lip smirk and his left eye wink.

Snood?
I burst into laughter – the kind that's real. The kind that's going to take a long time to recover. The best kind of good.

He follows my lead, though his is mixed with head shakes, and, "what's so funny?" between chuckles and snorts.

"You. Saying snood. That you even know what a snood is, cracks me up."

"Bella, I have lived my whole life with women; I know what a snood is, believe me. I've probably seen Gone with the Wind a hundred times, and don't get me started on Steel Magnolias. Lord – I thought I was gonna have to resuscitate Rose the first time we saw it." He shudders.

That makes me laugh even harder.

When I finally get myself under control and wipe the last of my tears, I sit back on the ledge of the sidewalk and hand him his bandanna.

"Uh, you better keep that one; I gotta feelin' your jag ain't over for the day."

I stuff it my apron pocket and grimace. It better be over for good, let alone the day.

"So, you wanna tell me what brought all that on? Because I can't imagine it could have been all that bad."

I tell him why in chronological order, beginning with Horace Hogg's near-death experience and ending with Page Pigg's strawberry-shake-lake.

This time its Boots who cracks up and can't seem to stop.

"Girl … I'm gonna need that snot rag back after all. Lord – you have had a time, haven't you?"

Ruefully, I nod my head.

"Well, we've all had to pay our dues at Burger … this is just baptism by fire, honey. It'll get easier as the day goes on."

"I sure hope so."

"C'mere." He opens his arms, and I lean into them as he pulls me close to his chest. He smells like soap, grease, and home. I think that might be the best scent in the entire world.

"Sorry, I know I probably smell like a grease monkey." He kisses the top of my head, and I don't think I've ever felt so loved. Yes, loved. I snuggle into his chest deeper, just inhaling him and the feelings in.

"You smell good," I mumble into the crook of his arm.

"You're crazy," he chuckles.

"About you," I mumble into his neck, like a lovesick pre-teen.

"Yeah?"

"Yes," I say, just as his mouth slants over mine, sealing my words in a kiss.

"Boots – you leave that girl alone now, you hear? Bella – get'cher tail back in here. Breaks over!" Boots lifts his arm, shoots Rose his middle finger, his lips never leaving mine. We break apart laughing, just in time to hear Rose chuckling and the click of the back door.

"So … I'll see you tonight?"

"Um … I'm not sure."

"You're not sure? Do you have a date already? I knew leaving you to these yahoos was a big mistake," he drawls, mischievously.

"No … no date – at least not with a man."

"Huh … well, I didn't see that coming."

I laugh.

"It's just; I thought I'd settle in at Miss Vicks – maybe spend a little time with the girls." I bite my lip waiting for his response.

"I'd feel better if you were with me – I really want to make sure you're safe."

I want that too. Still … we need time to digest everything that's transpired between us, and that won't be possible if I'm in his bed. Besides, after talking to Rose, I realize a little girl time is not only sensible; it's necessary.

Boots twirls a strand of broken thread on his pants leg, seemingly lost in thought. After a minute, he looks up and nods his head.

"Okay."

"Yeah?"

"I mean … of course I'd rather have you stayin' with me, but it's completely up to you. But you should know - I'm gonna reserve the right to carry you back with me from time to time."

"Carry me?"

He rolls his eyes; "That's just an expression in these parts. Like … I'm gonna carry Miss Vick to the Cash and Carry. Not that she'd actually let me carry her – literally or figuratively, bless her heart."

I nod my head in understanding, though I stifle a laugh at the Bless her heart, bit. I've already had my own heart blessed seven times today, so I know full well, it has several meanings … and mine were mostly that of pity.

"Anyhow … Bip and I will be at Miss Vicks this evening; it's Elizabeth's last day of school, so Mama and Daddy will be bringing food and cake."

"That sounds nice."

"Oh yeah … they always make a big to-do about these things; probably be fireworks, too. Anyway, I know you'll be safe with Miss Vick in charge – that 'ole gal is one hell of a crack shot."

"Crack shot?"

"Hell-yeah … she's the one who taught me how to shoot. Taught all of us, I guess."

"You've got to be joking."

"I swanny."

The image of this formidable old woman in her heavy brocades and parrot canes is not consistent with women who carry weapons. I shake my head, trying to imagine it, but I can't.

"Anyway … even if she didn't get to her riffle in time, Rose and Alice sure as hell will, and that's the truth."

"Wow." I'm sort of bewildered; Massachusetts frowns on gun ownership.

"So … you'll stay there for now, and we'll see how it goes, okay?

"Okay."

"I'll be by to court you."

"Court me?"

"Yup."

"Court me."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"I – I don't even really know what that means," I confess. I start imagining Boots arriving at Miss Vicks – dressed in gaiters and tails, with flowers in one hand and a book of sonnets in the other. We'll sip iced tea on the veranda and stroll through the arbor. Maybe he'll stop to kiss my cheek or my gloved hand.

Then I look at him, all rolling muscles, sly smirks, and greasy overalls. The image of a courting Boots fades faster than a summer tan.

And I wouldn't want him any other way.

I mean … look at his hands. They're large, rough, and elegant. Yes, elegant; he has these long, lovely fingers. That yes, are at present, marred with a little oil.

But God help me … I love those hands. I want them tickling, touching, and tracing all the curves and planes of my body.

He says something, but I have no idea what. Obviously, my recent traumas have rendered me senseless.

"Hmm?"

He chuckles

"Well, sugar ... you just leave that part to me," he says, patting my leg.

Now my mind is thinking about parts.

I'd better snap out of it before I start something I can't finish.

Rose stands in front of the window, pointing to her bare wrist.
I stand up and head to the door.

"Hey."

Boots comes over and gives me a hug.

"You're gonna be okay, Bella; you know that, right?"

His eyes are wide, pond green, and sincere. I want to grab him and just love on him for the rest of the afternoon.

And the rest of my life, I think to myself.

It's too soon for those thoughts, though, so, for now, I tuck them away along with the green bandanna.

But they're not going to stay there for long.

Five minutes later, I'm back in the lady's room, splashing water on my face. Apparently, my mascara ran, and I looked like a "Hot Mess," according to Rose.

"Oh, lord ... good thing I decided to come in after all; you look like ten miles of bad road, girl."

I look up to see Alice walk in the door.

"Here ... let me help you with that," taking the lipstick out of my hand.

"Allow me," she says, expertly applying the deep pink to my lips.

"Smack your lips."

I do as I'm told, and she blows me a kiss in return.

"Much better."

Peering into the mirror, I agree; I look a lot better now than I did a few minutes previous.

"So ... you and Boots, huh?"

"Uh …"

She laughs, waving me off.

"Never mind ... we'll get all caught up tonight. But I did want to ask if you've given more thought about contacting the police?"

"Boots and I talked it over last night. He mentioned contacting an old friend who's working as a detective somewhere in Boston. Said he might be able to make inquiries about James without rousing too much interest in my whereabouts."

Alice nods her head. "Emmett."

"Yes."

Alice gets a faraway look in her eyes – almost like she's in a trance. It's quite unnerving.

"Wow … I didn't see that coming."

"What … what did you see?"

"Nothing concrete, yet. Just … things are going to get remarkably interesting, and not just for you, although you're the one who sets it in motion."

"I don't understand … what – is he … you're scaring me, Alice."

She shakes her head, and when her eyes meet mine, they're clear and steady.

"There's nothing to worry about right now, Bella. Honestly … everything is going to be fine – more than fine, you'll see.

Now you better get back out there before Page Pigg spills his third shake of the day."

"Third?"

"Yeah … he's kind of a legend 'round here … drink three get one free … and that 'lil pig Pigg manages to do it every damn time."

My head is starting to swim from Alice's bizarre words, but I promised myself that I was going to put my faith in Boots to keep us all safe. Besides, I swore I would not allow myself to live in fear anymore.

I square my shoulders, tweak my kerchief, suck in a quick breath, and head back for round three.

The rest of the afternoon goes much better than the morning; I don't fall or kill anyone. Rose spends some time teaching me about the soda fountain and how to craft their famous, "Witch Doctor."

"You best pay attention because this recipe has been in the family ever since we first opened. It's a little complicated, but you'll get the hang of it."

I do as I'm instructed, but it isn't exactly chemistry … just a bunch of different sodas all mixed. It looks disgusting … like something a ten-year-old might make when he's bored.

"Take this over to Mizz Maupin. She's the lady sitting in booth number seven; the one with a yellow bird on her hat."

I do as I am instructed, and when I hand the women her drink, I swear that stuffed bird flaps it's wings at me.

This town has more characters than the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

What did Aunt Margaret use to say?

'It is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.'

That should be Masenville's town motto.

Rose glances at the clock and tells me it's five and that Boot's called and said he was waiting for me in the parking lot. I peer out the window and see him craning his neck; Elizabeth clutching his one hand, and the tiny dog in his other. They look adorable. I practically sprint to the door.

"What in the ever-lovin' hell? Bella!"

I pause mid-step and turn around.

Rose looks upset.

Miss Maupin looks disgusted.

My stomach drops.

"You drop a pickle in Mizz Maupin's Witch Doctor?"

"A pickle? No … I made it just like you told me, Rose."

"Well, there's a big ole pickle floating in her soda pop, Bella. Come see for yourself."

She thrusts the glass under my nose, and sure enough … there is a big ole pickle stuck between the ice cubes.

"I – oh, my goodness … I am so sorry … I have no idea how that got in there," I say, horrified. "I- I'll pay for this one."

I want to cry.

Rose and Miss Maupin look at each other and collapse into peals of laughter.

"Honey … that there pickle is the very definition of a Witch Doctor; it's our secret ingredient, girl!"

Alice looks up from the broiler, all smiles, and chuckles.

"Welcome to What-A-Burger, Bella."

Welcome, indeed.

I march out the door, and straight into Boot's waiting arms, sandwiched between Elizabeth's giggles and her dog's wagging tail.

Boots bends down and whispers in my ear.

"Did you know that I'm having an affair with a married woman?"

***Burger***

B/N: This here is Boots. Mizz Jayne said it was okay if I continued to leave a note at the end of her chappies from here on in, since ya'll are more interested in the words of a grease monkey than that of the author. That's fine with me ... seeing as she don't ever see fit to tell my point of view in this tale.

Well, I ain't got much to say about this chapter. Bella's in for a time, and that's the truth. But she's gonna get the hang of it after a fashion.

Now bout that ending ... even a hick like me recognizes a cliffhanger when he see's it, js. And this one's a doozy if I do say so. Which, I do.

Ya'll gonna have ten fits, a cow, kittens, and a hemorrhage in your unders tryin to figure this mess out. I know how you girls roll. Good thing I also know how Mizz Jayne's mind rolls. It's a scary ride but she'll get us there eventually.

Anyhow, Mizz J says to thank ya'll for your reviews and such. She's busy peckin away so she ain't got too much time for replyin, but I can tell ya'll she was plum tickled that anyone was still readin this here antique.

Well, she got plans for me in the next chapter so I best head back to her imagination.

Pray for me.

Ya'll stay smart now.

Boots

PS: Forgot to send a BIG shout-out to Mizz Fran for her edit. Poor ole thing has nuff on her plate without addin Mizz Jayne's grammar problems to her plate. Bless her heart.

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