Batresh explores St. Louis in 1977, and meets an old friend
Batresh pulled out of the parking lot onto Big Bend. She wore a brown jacket with a belt and slanted zippers. She thought it odd that at this time, 1977, the belt and zippers were purely decorative. Her black boots reminded her of an environmental suit. She wore a gray skirt. Looking to her right, she saw the park, trees growing so thick, she couldn’t see into the small forest. “Thus, the name,” she thought to herself, “Forest Park.”
She passed stately homes from early in the century, indications of former wealth. Sitting at the confluence of national railroads and major rivers, turn of the century economists prophesied St. Louis would become the wealthiest city in the U.S.
Crossing Kingshighway, within view of an apartment building with curving windows, she found a parking spot right on Lindell Boulevard.
On Euclid Avenue, there were signs of commercial businesses on both sides of the street. The sidewalk, badly damaged by thick roots, consisted of disconnected slabs of concrete pushed upwards crookedly. An empty lot to her right, overgrown with dried weeds, showed signs of the crumbling mansion recently demolished. Disintegrating brick supports stood among tall grasses. Trees lining the street, now here for 80 years, arched protectively high above, their roots destroying the sidewalk and splitting pavement. Walking southwards, she carefully made her way over uneven, crumbling rectangles of stone. To her left, another large, but empty house, sat badly maintained for decades.
She noticed automobiles were smaller than they were in the 60s. She passed a hotel to her right, a dry cleaners, and a drug store. A pink and blue, sun-bleached sign hanging above a restaurant door caught her attention. The Majestic was what locals called, a greasy spoon. Through large windows she saw men sitting inside. Walking through the weathered door, expecting the men to turn to look at her, being only one of three women here, she was surprised they hardly noticed her. A short Greek woman gestured to an empty booth.
The two waitresses were busy, signaling their customers with gestures. The Greek woman who invited her to sit, pointed to a coffee pot she raised with her other hand. She looked at Batresh as if asking a question. Batresh nodded yes. The waitress stopped and chatted with a table of portly, middle-aged men. They burst into laughter. She gave them a knowing look and smiled, then rushed into the kitchen. The other waitress sped around the dining room with the pot of coffee. A breathless, short, Greek woman, appeared suddenly at Batresh’s table, with beads of perspiration above her lips. She had a pad and pen in hand, looking determined. But, Batresh had no menu. She quickly looked around and saw eggs and meat on scratched plates. “I’ll have that,” she said, pointing to a young man’s plate. The waitress nodded, and hurried on to the kitchen.
“She’s a whirling dervish today,” the young man told Batresh. He was wearing a tight T-shirt and leather jacket.
Batresh nodded. She couldn’t help notice the young man showed no signs of attraction towards her. She was puzzled. In Tupelo, almost every man she met seemed to communicate sexual desire in some way. Perhaps it was the way she was dressed.
The waitress came by and quickly put down a cup of coffee, a metal container of milk, and a small glass of water. The coffee spilled on the table. The man next to her laughed, and offered a paper napkin.
Batresh smiled back.
Without asking or speaking, taking his coffee and breakfast plate, he moved over to her table, looking into her face openly. “I haven’t seen you here before.”
Batresh shook her head. He was young, no more than 21. “I haven’t been here before,” she offered.
“What made you want to come have breakfast with a bunch of Queens?” he asked, teasingly.
She looked around the room. There were no Queens here, she thought to herself. Only men, and in a poor neighborhood at that. Why would a Queen come here? She looked back at the young man with confusion.
“You really are a newbie, aren’t you?” he laughed.
She wondered whether the language had changed so much she no longer had facility in it. She looked at him with wonder. The Greek woman slung a plate of eggs and bacon onto the table in front of her. Batresh was startled.
“You have to look over her,” he said again, trying to get Batresh to respond in some way. Then, he raised his voice so the waitress would hear, “We only come here to be insulted!”
The waitress, already on the other side of the room, shouted back, “If you come to be insulted, then you come to dee right place.” She spoke with a thick accent. This comment brought a burst of laughter from the other men.
Batresh lifted her fork, but noticed the young man was not going to allow her to ignore him. He had a teasing smile. She knew those eyes, the way he formed words was familiar, his gestures. Then, without realizing it, she recognized him. She knew him. Or rather, she knew his spirit. Surely, this was not a coincidence. She marveled at the Seven Hathors, and their ability to know where and when to place reincarnated spirits, the inner cores of energy, the Ka. Why did they send him here? she thought to herself. Did they send him here to work with her? She looked to her left. A car was stopping at an intersection.
She put her fork down, and responded, “Are you speaking English to me?” She returned his mischievous smile and took a sip of coffee.
“OK, OK,” he began, “I’ll be gentle with you.” He put his fork into his eggs, and took a bite. “Where are you from anyway?” he looked to his right at some of the men laughing and talking. “…Ladue?”
She smiled, “I am from a star system just a little more than 65 light years from here.”
“Ooooh, touché!” he responded, having no idea she was being truthful.
“You know,” she said, as she put a forkful of eggs in her mouth, chewing slowly, to increase his curiosity. “I don’t normally tell a man I just met, where I am from.”
“Oh honey!” he exclaimed laughing. “I am just a small-town girl, like you.” Batresh must have looked confused, because he put his chin in his hands, batted his eyes, and moved closer. “You can tell me EVERYTHING.”
Now, Batresh could no longer restrain herself, but laughed openly.
“Actually, I AM new here,” she said, putting a piece of bacon in her mouth.
“mmmm hmmm,” he continued.
“Perhaps you can help me,” she offered.
“It’ll cost ya,” he responded. She was familiar with his playfulness and felt grateful the Hathors placed him here.
She was certain his was the spirit of her beloved Vizier of Sekhem, her childhood friend, Rekhmire.
She looked back at him. “I am looking for an apartment.”
He put a piece of bacon in his mouth.
“I’m looking for something quaint, stylish, but not too expensive,” she added.
“You are talking about an apartment, right?” he laughed. “Because I am all those things.” he smiled. “Why just last night…”
She interrupted him, “Do you have any ideas?”
“Well, yes,” he said. “But, we are strangers. How do I know I can trust you?” He took a sip of his coffee, smiling at his new partner in mischief.
“Miriam Kaplan,” she said, extending her hand to him.
“David Lumpkin,” he responded, taking her hand in his. “I don’t see a ring on that finger,” he continued.
Again, she was lost. She looked at him with curiosity.
“Don’t you want to know what I charge?” he added.
She removed her hand from his, and took another sip of coffee.
“If you don’t have at least a boyfriend, I’m afraid the deal’s off.” He asserted.
She looked at him, while chewing a bit of buttered toast.
“You will have to tell me all the juicy details of your relationship, that is my payment” he looked at her slyly. “But, you don’t have a man.”
“OK,” she offered, “I will sign a promissory note, and vow to give you details when I find a man.”
“Hmmmm,” he responded. “I’m taking a big risk.” He looked out the window to his right, then back into her face. “OK, deal.” He extended his hand to her. Not knowing this custom, she brought her hand up to his. He took her hand, and shook it as if he were making her acquaintance.
“I don’t have a car yet.” She stated flatly, playing his game.
“Ooooh,” he groaned mockingly, while beaming at her with happiness. “You mean I have to drive you around too?”
She smiled at him affectionately. “I am using a big, ugly station wagon. Maybe you can help me find a car, and an apartment!”
Suddenly, he looked excited, and clapped his hands together, “Goodie, goodie.” He took a sip of his coffee, not removing his gaze from her, “When do we start? Today?”