The Sandpiper Bar & Grill overlooks the mouth of the Rogue River, and right now the parking lot is jammed with cars. A red Mustang convertible—the top down, for this is a starlit night in June—circles slowly to the back door.
In the kitchen, the scene is a whirl of cooks, busers, and dish washers.
Wearing an apron and a floppy chef’s hat, Dean cuts into a fresh cheesecake and passes a slice to the server waiting in the pantry window.
Above the din, a line cook hollers—
“Stockton, you’ve got visitors out back.”
Fellow pantry cook Victor Lee is shucking littleneck clams next to Dean, who says—
“Cover for me, will you?”
Backed into a loading zone behind the restaurant, Curt’s freshly waxed convertible couldn’t be shinier. The girl from Brookings is still seated on the passenger side; Curt opens the door for her.
Dean takes off his hat as he pushes through the screen door. He runs one hand through his hair, sweaty from the heat of the kitchen, while his eyes stay glued to the girl’s legs as she climbs out of the low-slung car. Her dress—white with tiny black polka dots—rides up and he can see all the way to France. She blushes but there’s reason to believe she is more pleased than embarrassed.
“Dean, I’d like you to meet Isabelle—oof!”
Curt’s date removes her elbow from his rib cage.
“You know I don’t like that name," she says.
“Well, how am I supposed to introduce you?”
She turns to Dean—
“Just call me Smiley," she says. “That’s my last name but it’s what everybody uses.”
They shake hands. Hers are soft and smooth—so much so that it’s unsettling.
“What’s wrong with...?”
Smiley cringes, so he doesn’t say her first name.
“It reminds me of my grandmother," she says. “I was named after her, actually, but I can’t stand her. The feeling’s mutual, I’m sure.”
“You don’t look like an Isabelle anyway.”
Only two words, but they say Dean is exactly right—and Curt is just … mean.
“Busy tonight?" Curt asks.
“A madhouse. But I think we’ve got it under control now. How was the show?”
Curt holds his hand out flat, palm down, and tips it from side to side. Smiley looks appalled at his lack of enthusiasm.
“She cried the whole time," Curt says.
“Well, it was sad ... but I liked it," Smiley replies. “You should see it, Dean.”
Since Dean doesn’t have a girlfriend and has never been to a movie alone, he’s not sure what to say.
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