No Janey Like Home

He stops at The Mooselook, as usual, for a medium rare Slugger, as always, but orders it, this time, with no lettuce—not because he doesn’t like lettuce, but because the cook always adds half a head of the stuff and he has to pull it off just to get the damned thing into his mouth. He’s become such a regular that the waitress already knows what he’s going to order when he walks through the door, but he’s only recently put a hold on the lettuce, so he has to remind her, knowing that she’ll probably remember next time he show up.

Janey’s been working there for ages, and he’s been stopping in once or twice a month for almost half a decade. She knows what he’ll order, but she hasn’t yet bothered to learn his name like she has for the daily or weekly regulars. He’s not sure her name is Janey, either, but Janey’s what he calls every woman he writes about except His Beloved Sandra. He likes to think Janey’s intrigued by him, showing up like clockwork, always taking the corner booth if it’s available, writing in his journal and picking at his fries until the burger’s almost too cold to eat. But it’s hard to tell. Janey’s nice to everyone.

She asked him, once, what he was writing about. When he told her he was writing about having lunch at The Mooselook with Janey, she looked around to see if anyone was waiting to join him.

He’s got Janeys wherever he goes. He treats them all the same; treats them like they’re his favorite Janey, the only Janey that really matters. For the most part, they all seem glad to see him whenever he shows up. They all seem interested in what he’s writing about, though most of them never ask. He suspects that secretly they’re all hoping he’s writing about them. Even when he’s not, it seems like he is.

When he finally gets the day behind him, crosses the last ridgeline and is home, he reads his latest Janey to His Beloved Sandra. He feels a little guilty but, after all these years, he’s pretty sure she knows that half of his Janeys are fiction and the other half, while real, are only real on paper and will never own his heart like she does.

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