General Fiction posted November 3, 2017

Not yet exceptional. When the exceptional rating is reached this is highlighted
Dining Out Story


by ragerde

It was midweek, a sunny Wednesday in July, but not oppressively hot. Flo walked toward the rear entrance of the church and took her place in line. There must have been at least twenty or so other people in front of her. She didn't mind the wait. At least it was warm, and the rain had stopped earlier that morning. How many times had she queued up in the rain or freezing snow to partake in this weekly ritual?

Every Wednesday afternoon at two o'clock, the Riverside Baptist Church Clothing Service opened its doors to those in need. Items which were not sold at the semi annual bazaar were offered to those who waited in the line. Flo was a regular. Every week, she showed up to select a new outfit for the coming week. The minute the door to the large store room opened, Flo made sure she got in to make her selections, before the best items were gone.

Flo, short for Florence, was a woman in her mid-fifties. However, it was difficult to gauge precisely. Her life had not exactly been easy. She had short cropped blondish hair with a natural wave to it. She was short in stature. . .petite some might say . .no more than five feet. Her eyes were steel gray with just the slightest hint of Iris blue toward the cornea. She still had a faint limp from the time a bicycle messenger had run her down as she was crossing Sixth Avenue. And it was she whom the light had favored, she would stress to anyone to whom she related the incident.

Flo entered the room and headed immediately to the area where the women's apparel was kept. She knew the racks and shelves well. As she aimed toward her target, Pat, the pert, young volunteer who operated the clothing service greeted her, "Hi, Flo! What will it be this week? �¢?�¢ Flo did not respond. Her mind was on her new outfit. She headed for the dress rack. Flo only wore dresses and skirts. She was old-fashioned and believed that they were the only suitable attire for a lady. Each week, she would donate back to the Clothing Service the outfit she had selected the previous Wednesday, so perhaps another lucky person could enjoy them. After all, she kept herself clean. She washed herself every day in the ladies room of the MacDonald's. Restaurant in Times Square.

Flo didn't ask much from life. Her needs were simple. She had grown up poor. Her mother was a widow with three children to raise. Her two brothers had been placed in foster homes, but her mother would not be parted from her youngest. This was the child she had named Florence Nightingale Jones. not so much in honor of the famous nurse as for the bird. Flo's mother loved music, and it was her opinion that the nightingale had the sweetest voice of all God's creatures.

Florence, herself, had always dreamed of being a singer, and she did have a lovely voice. As a youth, she had been a frequent soloist in the church choir as well as the high school chorus. She pictured herself a blues singer. She figured with the experiences life had dealt her, the blues just came naturally.

As Flo made a beeline to the dress rack, something caught her eye. Fuchsia in color, it was a 'Party dress'. 'Could it possibly be her size?' she wondered. She looked toward heaven and prayed. Then, she took it off the rack to admire. It was made from taffeta with an overlay of chiffon in the same shade. It had a V-neckline, a tapered bodice, puffed sleeves and a very full skirt, with a sewn-in crinoline petticoat. She could not believe her good fortune, finding such a dress. It was gorgeous! She especially loved the rhinestone buttons which ran down the bodice like a constellation of stars on a clear night, and also appeared on the cuffs of the sleeves.

Flo took her splendid find to Pat and asked if she could please try it on. She did so, and much to her amazement, it fit as if it had been tailored for her. She modeled it for Pat, who said, "Lovely Flo! Perfect!' Flo beamed. "Now, all we have to do is accessorize it. We'll make you a complete outfit," Pat added. She took Flo's arm and led her to the shelves of shoes, scarves and belts. Flo picked out a pair of black patent leather pumps with the slightest heel. They pinched her a bit at the toe, but she would grin and bear the discomfort. These were perfect with her new party dress.

Flo never dreamed of wearing such a creation. Couture was not part of her vocabulary, but she sensed this dress was very special. The label sewn inside the neckline, which read 'Oscar de la Renta', meant nothing to her. Pat returned with a black silk-covered belt which she fastened around Flo's waist and patent leather clutch bag which matched Flo's new shoes to a tee. Flo was already in heaven when Pat reached into her pocket and pulled out a string of costume pearls that she had been reserving for the next bazaar. Flo knew she would not return this dress to the Clothing Service. She turned to Pat, gave her a big hug and departed to show her new acquisitions to the world.

In her excitement, Flo thought. Where could she go? What should she do? She felt like a princess on her way to the ball. She decided she would walk down Fifth Avenue. She had once heard that Fifth Avenue was the place where all the elegant people could be found. As she took her stroll, people would turn, look and smile. She was not aware that one did not wear an evening dress at midday.

When she reached Rockefeller Center, she walked around what during colder months was an ice skating rink and in the summer was an outdoor bistro. She felt, in her elegance, she fit right in with the crowd seated at the umbrella tables. So, she sat down at one of the tables on the perimeter. A waiter walked over, placed a glass of water at her place setting and handed her a menu. For curiosity's sake, Flo glanced at it. She knew, at once, she could not afford even the least expensive item. The waiter returned with a basket filled with sliced French bread and two rolls, one pumpernickel and one with sesame seeds tucked into a pale, pink linen napkin.

Flo was so lost in her own dream of being a fine lady, that almost instinctively, she picked up one of the rolls, cracked it open and spread it delicately with a pat of butter. Awakening from her reverie, Flo realized what she had just done. She uttered a barely audible gasp. What had she done? What would she do? What could she say? Would they arrest her for one roll? The deed was already done. Too late to turn back, she formulated her strategy. She would enjoy the pleasant day in her beautiful new dress. She would eat the remaining bread and drink her water.

The waiter returned and inquired, "Have you decided?" Flo fumbled for the menu. "Not yet, thank you," she replied sheepishly. "Could I please have a little more time? The young man left her to her thoughts. When he returned again, she bemoaned, "Well, I guess I've been stood up. I believe I've lost my appetite. But thank you anyway." With that, she got up, wiped her mouth with the napkin and departed to continue on with her day of imagining.

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Artwork by CammyCards at

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