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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Author Day on Beat Street: Whatcha Got?

I was at a table in Brooklyn somewhere, sitting with a man named Ralph and his friend Michael. I'd been in the city maybe one or two days and they were taking me out for coffee, or drinks. I had moved from Boston to New York to be an actress. I was 23 years old.

The waitress walked over slowly and looked at us like a snake, waiting to strike.

"Whatcha want?" she asked.

"Whatcha got?" Ralph said.

She looked him up and down. "Nothin'."

I can't remember if she had a uniform or her own clothes, but I know they were black. She had dark, curly hair and crimson lips. Long, dangly earrings. In seven seconds she'd managed to terrify me and become my hero. 

Ralph just laughed.

I think he got some kind of eggs and a drink, I got coffee and Michael got something too but I can't remember. I think her name was Rita, but that may just the name I've given her. I wanted to write a story about her. I never did.

Years and years and years have passed, and I've written thousands and thousands of words. I was an actress for a few years and then became a writer. I kept seeing a young girl wander in and out of vision, dark and tough, with a bit of a chip on her shoulder. A little angry, but smart enough to be funny about it.

I named her Ruby. I can see her being this waitress in her early twenties, in Brooklyn somewhere.

Whatcha got?


I don't know where my Ruby will end up, and this waitress thing could just be a pass-through, probably is. But that one night was the night she was born.

Funny how they come to us. How long they can stay.