Ruby and Pete and Rex the Cheat
The Hubpages Characters
I tried to get everyone's character in this story, and I think I succeeded although a detail or two might be missing. This was a challenge and a lot of fun. I want to thank everyone who donated characters for this story.
Interestingly, my co-writer called me the other day wanting to borrow a cup of characters. "Are you out?" I asked her.
"No," she replied. "But you know I don't like to run low."
Anyway, long story short, I told her she could borrow these wonderful characters that were donated to me. When she finishes her story with these same characters, she will post it here on HubPages. It should be interesting to see what she has done with our characters.
Now, without further ado, I take you to the scene of this story. A coffee shop.
Ruby held the pet taxi close to her side as she threaded her way through the busy coffee shop, hoping her trench coat would help hide it. Inside, Pete was making small anxious noises, peeps really, and Ruby shushed him.
“Just be a good cat for a few minutes,” she pleaded as she found a corner table. “I just want to grab a bite to eat, and then I’ll get you to the vet. Like that’s a real treat for you anyway. You should be glad we’re stopping here for a while.” She placed the pet carrier behind her chair and draped her coat over it. Maybe the darkness would encourage Pete to take a nap. She could hear the swish of his fur against the side as he turned circles within the small enclosure.
“What can I get for you?” A tall dark-skinned woman with flaming red hair stood by the table with pen and pad in hand. Ruby was startled; she hadn’t heard her approach over the muffled conversation and other noise in the place. She looked up at the tag on the woman’s brown blouse.
“Abigail,” said Ruby.
“That’s right,” Abigail said slowly, “and I’m your waitress. You sure seem jumpy, miss.”
“No, I’m not!” Ruby burst out. Then quieter, “No, I’m not jumpy at all.” She sat her purse on the table, knocking over the cardboard menu. She and Abigail watched it flutter to the floor. Then Ruby burst into tears.
“I take it you’re not crying over the menu falling down,” Abigail said. She handed Ruby a napkin. “Want to tell me what’s wrong?”
“Do you have any children, Abigail?” Ruby asked as she blotted tears from her eyes.
“Yes, I do, as a matter of fact. My son, Toby. Here, let me show you a picture.” Abigail reached into her pocket and pulled out a wallet. She opened it and stuck it under Ruby’s nose. A slender dark-haired boy of about seven stared at her from the photo. He looked nothing like his mother.
“Where is he right now?” Ruby’s voice had a worried tone.
“He’s at daycare. With his favorite daycare worker, Iwanna.”
“Iwanna? Seriously? What’s her last name?” Ruby pulled from her doldrums for a moment, pondering the unusual name.
“You’re pulling my leg now,” Ruby said. She almost smiled. “Iwanna Beleve. Very funny.”
Abigail chose to ignore this. “Anyway, Iwanna is really good with the kids, although I think she’d rather be raising ferrets. I think Toby likes her because she’s short. I mean, really short.”
Ruby seemed interested, but Abigail changed the subject. “What about you, honey? You got any kids?”
This brought fresh tears from Ruby. “No,” she wailed. “And I never will have. Look over there across the room. See that couple?”
“Well, that’s Carol Orion. I work with her. And sitting next to her is Rex Stanton, our sales manager. He was also my boyfriend up until this morning. And I thought Carol was so shy and conservative. She dresses like a librarian. How can he stand her? She’s cute but her face breaks out all the time, and Rex is a perfectionist. Still, he’s sitting awfully close to her.” Ruby’s voice trembled as she dried her eyes again with the napkin.
“They do look pretty cozy,” Abigail observed. “But honey, there’s more than one fish in the sea. You can find someone else.”
“I’m too old to go fishing any more! My bait is drying up and my biological clock is just about to wind down. Rex was my last hope. Look at him. Wouldn’t he have produced a gorgeous baby?”
“Well, he thinks so, obviously,” Abigail said dryly as she watched Rex admiring his reflection in the back of a spoon, brushing at his sandy hair with one hand, and widening his china blue eyes as he preened. In fact, despite sitting too near her to be merely casual, he seemed to be ignoring his date.
“You’re right about that,” Ruby agreed. “He does appreciate himself quite a bit.”
“I’ve got to get back to work,” Abigail said. “Can I bring you something? A Danish and some coffee, maybe?”
“Okay, honey,” Abigail patted her shoulder. “I’ll try to squeeze in a few minutes to chat with you when things slow down. I have some good advice for you.”
As she walked away, Pete meowed softly and Ruby murmured to him while she looked around. She noticed Hercamer Fannylick, the company phrenologist, standing at the counter next to Freddy Funk, the accounting clerk. It seemed everyone from her floor was there to witness her humiliation. She could probably get a date with Hercamer if she wanted, she thought. At 46 years of age, bald, hunchbacked in spite of his 5’8” frame, he was hardly the office catch. She reminded herself he was quick with a smile and had the kindest soft gray eyes. He lit a Virginia Slims cigarette and blew the smoke toward Freddy, who wheezed.
“You can’t smoke in here!” cried the cashier.
“I’m sorry,” Hercamer said contritely as he ground the cigarette on his heel. “I forget.”
Sara Smith, his administrative assistant, rushed to his aid. “Don’t yell at him,” she said in her sweet voice. “He didn’t mean to break any rules. He only smokes those because they remind him of his mother.” She patted Hercamer on the arm and held out a Styrofoam cup for him to discard his butt.
“Let him speak for himself, sister,” the cashier said gruffly, crossing his beefy arms over his chest. Sara cringed. She still responded automatically to aggression with a defensive posture, even though years had passed since she was assaulted. Ruby shook her head. She was familiar with Sara’s past and sympathetic to her struggles. There wasn’t a nicer person in the entire company than Sara, but her timidity and anxious helpfulness often made her a victim. People took advantage of her. This time, however, Freddy stepped in. He was successful in defusing the situation, largely due to his high squeaky voice, obvious Elvis-inspired hairstyle, and two differently colored eyes. The cashier couldn’t stop staring at him, seemingly intrigued by his eyes which were not only different colors, but different sizes, due to a mishap with fireworks as a youth. Freddy carried himself with confidence, however, thinking he was sought after by all women. He had no idea he presented such a comical picture. The cashier shrugged and turned his attention to the next customer in line, and the tension drained from the moment.
Just as Abigail returned with her order, Ruby overheard Hercamer say, “I was just about to offer to feel his head for free.”
“Somehow I don’t think he would have appreciated that,” Sara said as the three of them took their drinks to a booth. Ruby hoped they wouldn’t see her. She didn’t want company. They did fix their eyes on Rex and Carol. Hercamer shook his head and she knew he was feeling sorry for her. Ruby wanted to crawl under the table. She busied herself with her Danish and coffee, looking around the room as if expecting someone.
She turned toward the door in time to see Jumping Jake stroll in, his skinny tie swinging and his briefcase tapping against his leg. She recognized him from the jazz club where he played sax every Friday night. He had a “day job” as a freelance film critic, but he loved to play. It was obvious in the way he caressed his instrument on stage. Ruby had stared at him many times through the smoky haze. She thought he was sexy, but too young for her. She watched him glide to a window table and take a seat, drizzling into the chair like melting wax.
Later on, Ruby would remember this moment because Jake was soon joined by Ford Onbeirg, a nobody then, but a man who would soon take the box office by storm. Ruby couldn’t help but admire his striking looks. Nearly six feet tall with unruly black hair and rich deep brown eyes, his melodic voice carried to her table. She couldn’t make out the words, but the tone nearly mesmerized her. He had gentle but sensuous mannerisms and she felt a strong attraction. There’s somebody who could make me forget all about Rex, she thought, but he’d never give me a second glance. (Other women over the past few years had shared that thought. And they were dead now. Ford’s gentle ways hid an evil side that even he did not know existed.)
Ruby glanced over at Rex and Carol again. She felt a jolt when Carol’s eyes met hers, and her face set in hard lines. At least Carol had the decency to blush and duck her head. Rex, on the other hand, seemed not to even recognize her as his gaze flitted impatiently around the room. He suddenly lifted his hand and waved to someone near the door. Steve Krushcek, the shipping manager, marched over to Rex’s table. He seemed angry as usual. Jerking a chair out, he flopped down and snatched the menu from the center of the table. Abigail went to his side to take his order. As soon as she left, Ruby could hear his voice booming over the café noise.
“I guess you heard about Peterson getting that promotion,” he practically shouted. Rex shrugged, and Sara looked down as if embarrassed. “Shoulda been mine, you know.” He ran a hand through his thinning hair and sighed in a put-out way as he slid forward in his chair, his poor posture turning him into a question mark. “One of these days, I’m just gonna snap. Snap, I tell you!”
A cop sitting at the counter turned to stare at Steve. He looked like he almost would invite trouble to relieve the boredom. Ruby tilted her head and watched him. He was close to her age, mid-thirties or so, had a rugged visage, but handsome. She wondered where he had gotten the scars, one on his left cheek and a smaller one above his right eye. In spite of these blemishes, he was a good looking man. Perhaps he was not in the shape he once was, his muscular build was trending toward fat, but still he radiated strength and confidence. His bearing revealed a military background. She felt her heart rate pick up. His light blue eyes swept the room, almost as if he had felt her gaze. When they stopped on her, she felt a slow swirl inside her belly. He gave her a quick smile before turning away. He had felt the connection too. She just knew it.
She pulled her cell phone from her purse and called her best friend.
“Tamilia,” she said. “I hope you’re not busy. I mean, that’s a dumb thing to say to someone who homeschools her three kids and is starting her own design studio on the side.”
Tamilia responded with her low velvety laugh. “I’ve got a few minutes. What’s up?”
Ruby pictured her friend, leaning against the breakfast bar, her curvaceous figure hidden in her signature flowing skirt, loose blouse, and long jacket. She knew Tamilia dressed for comfort, but had a flair for fashion that managed to shine through anyway. Whatever Tamilia wore seemed to compliment her warm chocolate skin and deep brown eyes. The natural afro she wore to embrace her heritage, gave her a regal appearance, like an African princess. Ruby thought Tamilia was the most beautiful person she knew, and that’s why she wanted her advice at this moment. The clicking in her ear told Ruby that her friend was turning her head to check on the children as she spoke, causing her gold hoop earrings to tap the phone.
“I’ll talk fast,” Ruby began. “Originally I was going to call to whine about Rex dumping me. But, Tamilia, I just saw the most delicious man! And I don’t know what to do!”
“Well, I have no idea where you are, but I would say just go up and talk to him,” Tamilia said.
“I will, I will,” Ruby whispered. “But if he’s interested and if he asks me out, will you help me dress for the date? I want to knock his socks off.”
“Oh, of course I will,” Tamilia assured her. “In fact, I already have an outfit in mind for you. You are gonna be gorgeous when I get done with you!”
“Oh, he’s coming over here,” Ruby said. “Talk later. Bye.”
She slid the cell phone back into her purse as Officer Rick Stuckman approached. At that very moment, Pete had decided he could take no more of his confinement. A howl erupted from behind Ruby’s chair and increased in volume until everyone in the place turned to look at her. Rick looked surprised and tried to see around Ruby’s chair to find the source of the noise.
“Oh, my,” Ruby muttered. As if sensing he had everyone’s attention, Pete ramped up his efforts and screeched at the top of his lungs, flinging himself against the side of his pet taxi at the same time.
“What the hell is that? You got a cougar back there?” Rick asked, reaching for his gun.
“Oh no! It’s just a cat,” Ruby said, as she got to her feet. “It’s just the office cat. I was taking him to the vet.”
“We don’t allow animals in here!” yelled the beefy cashier as he strode toward the table.
Pete yowled again and rocked his cage so hard it fell over with a thump.
“Everyone just calm down!” a voice cried. All eyes turned to the woman standing on a table near the center of the room. “I’m a professional. I’ll handle this!”
She leaped from the table to the floor like a giant fairy, her wispy pink skirts swirling around bony stilt-like legs. Knobby wrists protruded from a purple turtleneck whose sleeves were too short for her exceptionally long arms. Thin pale skin stretched over an abnormally large cranium topped by frizzled platinum hair. Thanks to her skill as a break dancer, her awkward-looking body touched the floor with unexpected grace and she bowed to the gaping crowd.
“Who are you?” Ruby gasped.
“I am Margery Newbert, cat whisperer,” the female scarecrow announced. “And this is my calling. Out of my way, everyone!”
Seventies disco music blared from the earphones now dangling round her neck as she busted several moves over to Ruby’s table. Bending low, exposing her bouncing rear end encased in its crepey pink wrapper, she put her garish red mouth close to the pet taxi and whispered.
“Mmm. Mmmm-hmmm,” she said after a fashion. She stood to give her decree. Everyone paused to listen.
“This cat does not like being in this pet taxi,” she stated authoritatively. “And she says there is a bee inside the office that plagues her at night. An evil bee named Cannibal Nector! Something must be done about this at once if you want your cat to find his center and be as one with the natural world. I have spoken!”
Everyone applauded and Margery bowed again. A man broke from the crowd and made his way to her side.
“Carmine LaRoche, here,” he said, shaking her hand. She pulled away and looked at her hand with disdain, wiping it on her pink skirt, leaving a greasy trail. He nervously smoothed back his thinning hair which was thick with Brylcream. “I’m an agent. I’d like to represent you.”
Margery’s face broke into a smile, transformed by the prospect of fame. Taking his elbow, she led him away. “You know, I have lots of ideas about my career. I someday want to conduct webcam counseling sessions with my feline friends. Maybe we could do something with youtube? Anyway, I have lots of talents. I assemble bird feeders too, and paint them myself. Usually gold and maroon. Those are my colors, don’t you know…” She bent over Carmine’s wiry little frame like a praying mantis over a succulent mate.
“I play guitar, when it doesn’t slide out of my hands,” he said. “I could come up with a jingle for you.” They disappeared into a booth.
Ruby down at Pete, now sleeping peacefully in his pet taxi, and then up at Rick. A smile broke out on her face. Rick returned her smile. The meaty cashier stood a few feet away, tapping his feet and giving her a dirty look.
“How about I drive you and your cat to the vet?” Rick asked, glancing at the cashier who fumed nearby.
“That would be lovely,” Ruby answered as she slipped on her coat, threw her purse over her shoulder, and hoisted the pet taxi.
(to be continued…maybe. But probably not by me!)