“You need a refill, sweetie?” The young blonde coffee shop waitress held an outstretched coffee pot inches from Modell Taubert’s chipped brown mug. The nametag above her perky left breast read CAITLYN.
“No, I’m alright,” Modell replied, his face still buried in the classified ad sections strewn about the booth. “Thank you, though.”
“No problem. Holler if you need anything.”
“Will do.” Modell raised his head and gave Caitlyn his seductive green eyes, along with a grin. It was obvious she was fresh from the farmlands because her voice still had that rich Southern twang. Maybe he had a chance.
Caitlyn bestowed a tremendous smile upon him before she trotted away to retrieve another customer’s order from the kitchen. Her smile was one a sitter might give the children under her care, however, not the kind that would ever lead anywhere. Modell frowned and once again submerged himself in miniscule newsprint. To his dismay, attracting beautiful women had never been one of Modell’s strong suits. Love was definitely tougher for a wee man.
Screw it. I’m small, dark, and handsome. There’re plenty of women out there. Plus, Modell had no trouble attracting attention. Everyone always looked twice at his 3’1” frame, short black hair, and deep green eyes.
By trade, Modell was a car salesman. Chevrolet to be exact. For nine years he had worked at Johnson’s Chevrolet in Staten Island and his life had been fine. He lived three doors down from the dealership in a slummy apartment complex, but the rent was cheap and he saved every penny he made so one day he could buy a houseboat and leave all the stares behind. Yet some recent events had aborted that plan. Two weeks ago, a real estate developer had purchased the entire block he lived on in order to make way for three high-rises of pricy townhomes. The deal also included the struggling Chevy dealership, whose land had been designated for a parking lot. Old man Johnson sold out pretty quick, and, rumor was, for pretty cheap. Fucking gentrification. So that was it. Goodbye. No severance, no month to find another place to work. Pack your stuff and get lost was all the farewell Modell received. Since he had no relatives he could turn to, Modell had been living out of his car for the last week. His precious houseboat funds were now squandered on tasteless diner coffee and shitty vending machine sandwiches. This is why he currently scoured the classified ads on the table in front of him.
“You see that little fella out there? He’s so cute. Reminds me of my little brother.”
“Or one of those big stuffed animals you win at the Fair. I just want to hug him.”
Even though Modell sat in a booth clear across the restaurant, he heard the waitresses’ conversation and their high-pitched cackles. When he was a teenager, their blather would have crushed him. Now, at twenty-eight, he understood exactly how the world worked. This was simply the hand life had dealt him. Modell thought he played it pretty damn well most of the time. He leaned forward to grab the wallet in his jeans, suddenly eager to leave the establishment, but an unread classified ad caught his eye:
Butler Who Is Unafraid Of Hard Work.
Must Be Willing To Obey,
Able To Follow Directions,
And Ready to Work Immediately.
Room And Board Included.
If Interested, Apply In Person:
Von Stead Manor
1 Holloway Court
Modell’s body jolted on account of the good news. He was tired of New York anyway. This was exactly the change he needed. But what did a butler do? Answer the door, serve dinner? He could do that. Besides, room and board were included! That meant he could save every penny he earned for his houseboat. There was no phone number listed in the ad, however Modell knew where Newberry was located – in the forests near Maine’s eastern coastline – because he had been a Christmas season delivery driver for UPS one year and spent twelve long hours lost on the highways trying to locate the place. This time he would use the navigation app on his phone. If a job came from his efforts, any money spent on gas would be well worth it.
Modell dug his wallet from his back pocket and threw down a couple dollars to cover his morning coffee and a meager tip for Caitlyn. Then he pulled on his pleather winter coat and pushed through the coffee shop’s front door. Of course, it being New York, huge gray clouds began dumping rain the moment he stepped outside. Soon, torrents rushed down the sidewalks and the streets became white-washed rapids.
“Damn it,” Modell said when his Converse All-Star Chuck Taylor’s molded to his feet after a few steps. Each pebble of rain was harder and thicker than the last. A young boy yelled when Modell passed him. “Mommy! There’s one of them. Like those midgets we saw at the circus. I can’t believe it. Hey!”
Modell looked up at a mangy boy who must have been six or seven. The kid pointed and tugged his mother’s hand.
“Tommy!” The woman in a beige power suit yanked her son back towards her. “That’s not what we call them, remember? They’re little people. Lit-tle peo-ple.”
Modell’s nostrils flared as he brushed by the pedestrians. Midget? What the fuck? Little person? Even worse. For Christ’s sake, he was Modell Taubert. A human being just like everyone else.
To chill himself out, after he took refuge in his powder-blue Ford Escort, Modell focused on his new prospect of employment while he wolfed down half a loaf of French bread he’d purchased yesterday. It was hard as a rock. He needed to get to Von Stead Manor stat. Maybe he could even eat dinner there.