Friday, March 9, 2012

(I wrote this during the kids' swim practice. I'm trying to develop Jan a bit.....)

This coffee shop is their place, Jan's and her mother Penny's. They have been meeting here on Wednsdays ever since it opened three years ago, just after Timmy started first grade. Penny has no late classes on Wednesdays and it's Jan's day off. This is a college town coffee shop. Barristas, liberal arts majors clearly, covered in tattoos. Jan loves it. It's the kind of college experience she always wished she'd had.

Jan studied biology with the vague idea of medical school. She never went to coffee shops, barely left the lab, just long enough to get herself knocked up the fall of sophomore year. She had the baby over the summer and was back in school by fall, a mother at 20. Jan and Penny have been through a lot.

They order at the counter, black coffee for Penny, decaf chai latte for Jan, and take a seat by the window. The place is all old brick, wood and glass. It used to be a textile factory; now it sells coffee. With the sound of the espresso maker backlit by chatter and the drone of traffic you can almost imagine treadling of the looms, the women in shirtwaist dresses, the thump of sewing machines.

"I picked up a new house," Jan says. She loves to impose her chosen profession on her mother. Force her to face it head on.

"Jesus Christ," says Penny. "Have you been drawing?"

"It's an old colonial out past the Admissions Building. It's gorgeous. Four bedrooms. There's just a middle-aged couple living there, two dogs, no kids."

"Are you trying to kill me?"

Jan's housecleaning is the most lucrative job she's ever had by far. She cannot believe how much money she makes cleaning other people's houses, all under the table. She's not deliberately avoiding the taxman. She simply has no idea where to begin, which forms to procure and fill out. There's so much of the adult world she doesn't understand and chooses to ignore. Somehow she gets away with it.

"Mom, I'm cleaning an essentially clean house once a week. 150 bucks a shot."

"These are strange times. Are you drawing?"

"Yes, actually, since you ask. I'm working on a new series based on rooms in people's houses."

"You're drawing the rooms you clean?"

"More or less. I add stuff, take stuff out. It's all very whimsical. It's fun. I'm kind of excited about it."

"Good. I can't wait to see them."

"Not yet. I'll show then to you in a couple of months. I'm not ready for you yet.

They walk in together and order at the counter

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