A knock wakes him. Mac climbs out of bed opens the door. It’s Myrna.
“Myrna, I told you …”
“I know,” says Myrna. “That’s not why I’m here. Can I come in? I’m not here about us. I’m here about you.”
Mac let’s her in and shuts the door. There are no chairs. They sit on the bed side by side.
“It’s late. Why are you here?” asks Mac.
“I found something,” says Myrna. “Something that might help you with your past.”
Sitting on the bed, Mac realizes how much he’s attracted to Myrna. He knows it’s a bad idea but he can’t help himself. His hormones get the best of him.
“What do you mean you found something?” he asks.
“I went back to the spot where we found you and looked around real good. I found this.” Myrna holds up a silver chain with what looks like a pendant. She hands it to Mac.
The pendant is a Chinese coin, the kind with a square hole in the center. It’s attached to a chain with a copper bezel. The bezel is engraved but it’s difficult to make out what it says. The coin is tarnished with a patina that dulls its look. Mac squints his eyes. The name Mariano Rosales is etched onto the copper ring.
“Haven’t seen it before,” says Mac, but he’s not sure. He holds the chain away from his face and looks it over. “No, I don’t remember it at all.” There is something familiar about the name, Mariano Rosales, but he doesn’t say anything.
“Do something for me,” says Myrna. “Take off your shirt and put the chain around your neck.”
“Why?” asks Mac.
“Just do it, please,” says Myrna.
“Okay,” says Mac. He takes off his shirt and puts on the necklace.
“Look,” says Myrna, “where the pendant touches your chest. There’s a mark there. It’s yours Mac, you were wearing this the day you fell. The chain was broken when I found it. I had it repaired. It has to be yours.”
“I don’t know,” says Mac. “I just don’t know.” He buries his face in his hands.
Myrna puts her arms around him, holds him close.
“You’ve been through something terrible, Mac. I feel it. Give yourself time. You will remember. Time heals all.”
Myrna pushes Mac down on the bed. They make love, slowly and sweetly, this time without interruption. Mac falls asleep. When he wakes, it’s dark. Myrna is gone. The chain with the coin pendant is still around his neck. He rests on his back and stares at the ceiling.
Mac usually washes dishes on the night shift—dishwasher, busser, gopher, problem solver—whatever nasty chores need to be done always seem to fall into his job description. He works days if needed. His arrangement with the boss is loose and subject to change. He knows his place and doesn’t want to rock the boat even if he thinks he’s being taken advantage of. This attitude plus his ability to deal with whatever job he’s given has created a special bond between Mac and the boss. The boss confides in Mac and tells him personal things he tells no one else.
It’s too early for the restaurant to open but Mac hears the boss downstairs. He goes down and sits in the coffee shop. The boss joins him.
“We’re going to get married,” says the boss, “Brin and I.”
“Wow, that’s good boss. I like her. She’s right for you. How did you two meet anyway?” says Mac.
“I met Brin during my last year of graduate school,” says the boss. “She was a blond beauty, finishing her degree at Chico in early childhood education. She was visiting a friend in Berkeley and we met at a party. We were both standing away from the crowd, uncomfortable with all the craziness going on.”
The boss takes a sip of his coffee. He wants to talk. Mac is a good listener.
“I asked her if she wanted a cup of coffee,” says the boss. “That’s how it started. She looked at me with those aquamarine eyes, the pupils expanding and contracting. It was a tense moment when all the options were open. I watched as she transferred her weight to her left foot slightly bending her hip in that direction. “Okay, sure, let’s go to Peet’s,” she said.
“Peet’s was a coffee shop at Walnut and Vine in the Gourmet Ghetto, an area where serious foodies hung out,” says the boss. “Brin told me she was born on the Mendocino Coast. She says her family has roots here going back to the last century.”
“What would you do if you could do anything you wanted, no strings, no complications,” Brin asked me earnestly.
“It bothered me, that directness,” says the boss. “I considered the question. I looked at this cute girl badgering me. I don’t know where it came from, it must have been some dream I’d repressed. I’d like to own a restaurant, I told her, but that’s pretty much impossible.”
“Nonsense!” she said with a confidence that shook me. “You’re young, you’re free. A wise woman told me once the end is rarely roses dear, so go for what you want even if it’s risky.”
“So that’s how it happened?” says Mac. “Wow, that’s quite a story.”
“There’s more,” says the boss. “I walked around campus for a few weeks in a daze mouthing the lyrics to Wild Thing. I couldn’t get Brin out of my mind. I had applied for a job teaching economics at U.C. Santa Barbara but my heart wasn’t in it. I drove all the way up the coast to Mendocino. The next morning I ate breakfast at the Frolic. That’s when I found out it was for sale.”
“And so you bought it,” says Mac, “just like that?”
“It wasn’t so easy,” says the boss. “I didn’t have the money. I had enough for a small down payment that I inherited when my father died. I checked with the local banks. They weren’t interested in lending to a young inexperienced wild-eyed graduate student but I did convince an old manager at Wells Fargo to lend a fraction of the value of the property. If it was going to work, I needed to get the owners to take back a pretty large second mortgage.”
“You mean Hawley and Shirley?” says Mac.
“Right,” says the boss. “They’d improved the building and turned the business around. They added the dining room, dug a cellar and turned it into a popular bar, transformed an adjacent Victorian house into a rustic Inn and changed the name to the Frolic Café. They sold the Inn to a lady in Los Angeles and rented the rooms for her. They had grown tired of running the restaurant and wanted to sell but Hawley was adamantly against taking back a second mortgage.”
“So, what did you do?” asked Mac.
“I almost gave up. I took a walk around the headlands. The ocean was deep blue at the horizon, green near the shoreline, murky from the soil leaching in from Big River. Cow lilies waved in the wind above the green grass. I walked through a patch of redwood sorrel with its purple flowers. Tiny pink and white Salal buds hung like little tears above the sorrel. Wild peas, wild iris, various colors of foxglove—I took all of it in and breathed. I knew I wanted to make a life here if I could. I decided to give it one more shot.”
“The job offer from Santa Barbara came in. I packed my car but before I left town I drove out Comptche Road. The Martins had purchased a piece of property out there. Hawley was down the hill cutting brush. Give it your best shot Shirley told me. Then she called to Hawley.”
“Hawley appeared, first his head, square, salt and pepper hair, bright eyes and white teeth poking out from under his mustache. Then his neck, short, thick, then his shoulders and sturdy waist. Finally he was standing beside me on his solid sure-footed legs. He brushed off the dust and brush remnants as he walked toward me. Leaving so soon, he said with a smile. We shook hands and the deal was done.”
“It wasn’t long before the problems started,” said the boss.
“What do you mean?” says Mac.
“The first week after I took over, I was sitting right her with Mary Lou who cooked days. She looks at me and says she’ll give me two weeks then she’s gone. That’s how I learned to cook.”
“That’s one hell of a story,” says Mac. “So, what about Brin?”
Before the boss can respond, the fire siren goes off. It’s not always a fire. Sometimes it’s a rescue of someone who falls into the ocean or a medical emergency like a heart attack.
The firemen are all volunteers, local guys who drop whatever they’re doing to answer the call when it comes. Time is critical in life and death situations. Mac knows these men from the coffee shop or the Cellar Bar where they often hang out. The Frolic Café and the firehouse sit side by side in the middle of town.
Two firemen arrive and take off in a fire truck. The morning staff comes in. The boss walks into the kitchen and speaks to the cook. Mac leaves for the headlands where the cliffs fall into the ocean. The fire truck isn’t there so the problem must be somewhere else. He walks along the edge. The ocean pounds the rocks below. Mist sprays up to greet his nostrils with the smell of salt and seaweed. The sounds of an osprey carry his eyes across the grassy fields up to the ridge clothed in evergreen forests and hundreds of miles of redwood trees, the oldest trees we know. Here he is isolated in a wild and magical land. He may not remember his past but for now he’s happy just to be here.
Mac has only been in the Cellar Bar a few times. It has been compared to an opium den with its oriental carpets, round brass tables, stuffed animal heads and other Bohemian artifacts. As Mac looks out to sea, he thinks of the Frolic sailing brig, what it must have been like when it arrived from the other side of the world. It crashed onto the rocks and sank just a few miles north of where he now stands. After exchanging opium in China for a mishmash of exotica bound for San Francisco, the unlucky boat sank less than a day out from its destination. There are so many connections he doesn’t understand. The Frolic, the Cellar Bar, his great great grandfather, why he’s here in the first place and the accident that blurred his memory. The boss says Brin’s family goes almost as far back as the wreck of the Frolic. Maybe she can help him.
Mac heads back to the café, the Chinese coin bouncing on his chest, Myrna on his mind. The significance of that coin around his neck suddenly becomes clear. Mariano Rosales. Yes! That was the name of his great great grandfather.
When he walks into the café the gals from Mendosas accounting department are sitting at the front round table. They start off lunch with a round of boilermakers, a shot of whiskey and a draft beer. “Okay, now we’re ready for menus.” They eat lunch and then toddle back to work. Now, that’s country living, Mac laughs to himself.
“Hey Mac, where’ve you been?” says the boss. “The dishwasher called in sick. We need you. Get your apron on.”