Mid Shift at La Fiesta with the Texas Teacakes Chapter of the Red Hat Society
She’s here again with the red hat ladies. They come in once a month, like a gaggle of great aunts, during the lull between lunch and dinner when only the bartender and I are on. We needed Girl Time, Cookie says, and Girl Time usually requires a lot of extra tending to and running back and forth by me — lemon fetching and refilling iced teas and taking dishes back to the kitchen that are deemed too spicy.
Cookie always asks for a table in back, in the section that’s closed because it’s by a window and she likes a view. She acts as spokesperson for the group, enunciating the ladies’ combo orders like it’s a Junior League meeting and not Tuesday at La Fiesta in the corner of a mostly vacant strip mall. The ten to twelve silver-haired ladies, whom Cookie calls the gals, smile in their purple getups and sport their hats proudly, fedoras, berets, a fascinator or two, a straw porkpie number, all in different shades of red: crimson, burgundy, rust, vermillion.
The gals are absolutely exhausted from shopping today.
And when I serve the chips and salsa: The gals absolutely love hors d’oeuvres.
Cookie calls me Ashley even though my name tag says Allison. She says I remind her of her daughter who’s on the East Coast and CEO of some important company. She tells me the name of the company, and when I haven’t heard of it, she looks at me as if I’ve withheld something on purpose. Do you have any children, Ashley? she asks when she sees my ring, then clucks in sympathy when I say no. I stopped correcting her a while back, have found it’s easier to just answer to Ashley and get on with things, than shout my name two or three times, which can get awkward for everyone. The bartender thinks this is hilarious and when the red hat ladies are here, he also calls me Ashley.
On weekends, Cookie comes in for brunch by herself, sans hat, and will order a dry martini with her crispy beef taco and queso puff, which she calls a cheese puff. Then she’ll camp out for hours at my two-top, sometimes with a paperback, Danielle Steele or Nora Roberts. When I ask if she’d like some water, she says, Honey, please. I bathe in water.
With the red hat ladies, she orders iced tea with extra lemon, even though I always bring a bowl of lemons with the chips, limes too if the bartender’s not looking, and he usually isn’t. We don’t chat about much on the red hat days, but Cookie always tips well, always 20 percent and always in two-dollar bills, because she says no one ever forgets a gal who tips in two-dollar bills.
Siobhan Welch lives in Austin, Texas. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Split Lip Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Switchback, and elsewhere.
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