The Disoriented Dutchman's Gold Mine
The Disoriented Dutchman's Gold Mine
It came as no surprise to Frijole Joe, when he drove to the rear entrance of his restaurant that his girlfriend of five months, Melanie Fairbanks, had once again taken his reserved parking spot. This was something she had made a habit of doing over the past couple of months, a habit that he chose to think of as endearing rather than irritating. He wended his way across the loose-dirt of the crowded, parking lot, and scanned for an open space.
The restaurant bustled, the sounds of Mariachis hinting at a festive mood inside. It was Melanie's birthday and despite the brevity of their relationship, Joe had decided to pop the question to her tonight. He eased his Ford Explorer into an empty parking spot, glanced down at the dozen roses lying on the seat next to him and felt for the ring in his pocket. Despite the light coating of dirt on his windshield, he could still make out the sign above the back entrance. It read:
FRIJOLE JOE'S MEXICAN FOOD RESTAURANT
Below it, in smaller lettering, was the query:
HOW YOU BEAN?
Although the restaurant, nestled at the base of the Superstition Mountains in Apache Junction, Arizona, bore his name, technically it belonged to his parents. They had left him in charge when they had abruptly left on an extended vacation. Joe felt that, even for his parents, this had been erratic behavior. Now, nearly one year to the day since their departure, he was less inclined to think of it as a joke, despite their keen sense of humor. They did, however, make it a point to keep in touch, and called him from remote locales around the world, to inquire about the restaurant and his prospects for marriage.
Despite their urgency concerning his marital status, Frijole Joe, now in his early thirties, did not consider himself desperate when it came to matters of the heart. On the contrary, as far as he was concerned, he could be classified as a romantic. He had first seen Melanie Fairbanks five months earlier at the Herberger Theater, in downtown Phoenix, playing the role of Lina Lamont in the musical, Singin' in the Rain , a performance which left him so smitten that he had returned for the following night's engagement, without the previous night's date, roses in hand.
Their brief meeting had been electric. From the first moment, he was struck spellbound by her exquisite beauty. When she opened her mouth, however, it became apparent that the voice she had used in the role of Lina Lamont had been no act. Only by a Herculean effort had he been able to refrain from laughing.
However Joe had felt a connection with Melanie from the beginning and after five short months was without question in love, even though he was not entirely certain she reciprocated that particular emotion. It was for this reason that his stomach was now doing flip-flops as he shuffled his way through the dirt parking lot and paused at the restaurant's entrance. Music and the scent of refried beans filled the air. Clearly the Mariachi's were in rare form tonight. Taking a deep breath, he strode through the door.
"Joe! You look terrible. Where have you been?" Sylvia, who had been the hostess at Frijole Joe's since the restaurant had opened, declared. And then, without waiting for an answer, "Melanie's been driving us all crazy, asking us every couple of minutes if we'd heard from you."
"It's good to see you too, Sylvia. Me? Oh, I'm great. Thanks for asking. How are the acting classes going?"
"Way to change the subject, Joe," she replied, sweeping her dark hair back from her face. "They're going okay I guess. Still waiting for my big break."
"Is Melanie out on the patio?"
"No. I tried to get her to take a seat on the patio like you asked, but she said it was too cold. She made it quite clear that she wanted to be seated in the dining r