I just love the clever title of this romantic comedy by Lois Winston, Talk Gertie To Me. And you will never guess who Gertie is! Read on….
Setup of scene:
On the worst day of Nori Stedworth’s life, she first discovers her BFF naked in the Jacuzzi with her two-timing louse of a boyfriend. Then she finds her mother, along with several suitcases, camped on her doorstep. Finally, she learns she’s lost her job. With her imaginary friend Gertie in tow, Nori escapes to a neighborhood coffeehouse to lick her wounds over a cup of latte she can no longer afford.
Excerpt of the first meeting:
I yanked open the door of Bean Around the Block and headed for my favorite table. It was taken. By a young couple making goo-goo eyes at each other over steaming cups of cappuccino. “Figures,” I muttered, searching the room for another seat and finding not an empty table in the place. The normally quiet café was filled with chattering strangers who nearly drowned out the Wynton Marsalis piece playing in the background.
“How about over there?” suggested Gertie, motioning to an empty chair at a table occupied by a guy with his head bent over a laptop. “He’s cute. And I’ll bet he’s not a loser like Dave.”
“Don’t you dare start playing matchmaker,” I warned her. “For all you know, he’s downloading kiddy porn.”
But I headed for the hunk’s table and planted myself in front of him. Okay, so Gertie knew cute. I couldn’t fault her on that. But then again, under the circumstances, wouldn’t Gertie define cute in the same terms I did? “Do you mind?” I asked Cute Guy, AKA Tall-and-Lanky-with-a-Shaggy-Crop-of-Chestnut-Hair-that-Fell-Over-One-Eye-Guy.
He glanced up. Brown eyes. Nearly black. The color of espresso. Even better. “Not at all.”
“Kind of crowded here tonight, isn’t it?”
“Hmm.” He dropped his gaze back to his computer screen. End of conversation.
I sat down and deposited my laptop on the table opposite his, flipped it open, and powered it up. “Cute but uninterested,” I told Gertie.
“You give up too easily.”
“Hey, which one of us was dumped today? In the most humiliating way possible, in case you’ve already forgotten. And don’t give me any crap about getting right back up on the horse. I’m dealing with a lot more than a bruised ass or twisted ankle. Besides, I have other problems. Like no job and an uninvited houseguest who’s going to want to drag me back to Ten Commandments the moment she finds out I’m unemployed.”
I signaled Amber, one of the two regular evening waitresses.
She waved back from the table she was clearing. “Your regular, Nori?”
“Thanks, Amber. What’s going on here?” I scanned the room once more, wondering what had happened to my favorite hang-out. Normally a quiet refuge to read or write and sip coffee, the small café now buzzed and hummed, the din escalating until it obliterated all traces of Wynton’s trumpet. “I’ve never seen the place so crowded.”
Her face broke out in a wide grin as she abandoned her task and bounced over, her pixie cut, orange and red streaked blonde hair bobbing around her. “You haven’t heard? We’re the new ‘in’ spot. HBO filmed scenes for the new Sex and the City movie here this morning, and it’s been wall-to-wall people ever since. And guess what?”
She paused for effect but didn’t stop hopping up and down on the balls of her purple Nike-clad feet or flapping her arms like some deranged canary. She held her breath, waiting for me to respond.
Like a dutiful captive audience of one, I took the bait. “What?”
Amber squealed and clapped her hands together as she continued to jump up and down. “I got to be an extra! I’m going to be in the movie! So’s the entire staff. Can you believe it, Nori?”
“There goes the neighborhood,” muttered my table mate.
“He speaks,” said Gertie.
Amber and I turned toward him. “Next thing you know,” continued the Cute Guy, “there’ll be a velvet rope across the entrance and some beefy looking bouncer checking your name against the A-list.”
Amber’s face filled with the wide-eyed hopefulness of a teenage wannabe groupie. “You think, Mr. Randolph? That would be so cool!”
He grunted his lack of enthusiasm over the idea and went back to typing.
She frowned, either confused or too dense to comprehend his sarcasm, but then she perked up and continued her chatter. “I think we should get rid of that boring jazz music and put in a Karaoke machine, don’t you? Wouldn’t that be awesome? We could change the name to The Karaoke Koffee Kafé, with K’s instead of C’s.”
“Clever,” muttered the Cute Guy, AKA Mr. Randolph, although I was beginning to think of him as Grouchy Cute Guy.
“With a C, not a K,” he added in deadpan, not bothering to look up.
Amber ignored him. “I’ll be right back with your coffee, Nori. You want another, Mr. Randolph?”
Grouchy Cute Guy scowled at his empty cup. “Sure, but make it quick before the price triples to cover the cost of new signage and the bouncer.”
She stuck out her tongue as she grabbed his cup. “Just because you didn’t get to be on television is no reason to take it out on me.”
He continued to type. “Believe me, Amber, I have no desire to be a part of television. On or off camera. Radio prima donnas are enough of a pain in the ass.” He glanced up. “Now, are you going to get me more coffee, or do I have to go down the street to Starbucks?”
“Okay, okay.” She turned to me and stage whispered, “He’s usually not such a creep. I think he’s kicking himself for missing a chance to meet Sarah Jessica Parker.”
“Right.” Grouchy Cute Guy shook his head and chuckled as Amber stuck her tongue out once more before heading toward the coffee bar.
I started typing out my frustrations, listing all the wrongs that had been visited upon me over the past eight hours and trying my damnedest to put a positive spin on the events. Wallowing in self-pity wasn’t going to get me anywhere.
End of Excerpt
How will Nori and Gertie get Grouchy Cute Guy’s attention? Visit Lois Winston’s websites and click on her buy links below to learn more about her and her characters.
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