"Hot coffee, comin' atcha." Wanda's voice came sailing from thediner's interior through the kitchen doorway, past the fry cook, down the foodbasement steps and reached a halt by a shelf of large, glass jars of generic,pulpy ketchup.
"Where's my donut?" mumbled a dryer, older voice that didnot travel very far.
"In your ear and on its way." This time Wanda'svoice sailed out the diner's window, past parked cars and a dented, tree-tiedbicycle to a bird's nest lodged in tree branches a mile down the road, where ayoung hatchling's heart burst from the sympathetic vibrations of Wanda's Maineaccent. He died happily. The family of birds did not mourn his passing, butwished him well in his afterlife.
"Wanda, honey, I want the eggplantparmesan fritters." This voice was thick and fat and fell like a crowbar, killingseveral dust mites that had lodged themselves into the cracks of thefloor.
"Eggplant, one eggplant." This time, Ernest heard.
So didPhyllis, the senile old lady. She jumped up from where she was sitting (she hadbeen tucked away on a stool in a corner of the diner where the diner's eatingcounter curved in toward the wall) and sat back down. "Hell no," she exclaimedgrumpily, staring at the wall. Her voice bounced against the wall art, a greasestained picture of an infant child trying to shove a hamburger the size of hishead into his mouth, and somehow managed to boomerang itself into Wanda'sbandanna.
"Wanda, baby." It was Brian, the fry cook. "Ain't no eggplant uphere. Send Jimmy down the cellar."
"Jimmy's getting cigarettes for me,"explained Trisha from across the diner, where she was serving two customerssticky buns and coffee. Brian and Trisha's voices rolled around on an empty tabletogether, finally catching each other by the tail to make love in unbridledpassion.
"Never mind, I'll go down myself and get one." Wanda's heavyMaine accent sank below her words, sending them on a hearty curve, bending themaway from their initial trajectory (which was a small nest of mice in the wallabove the kitchen doorway, they would have fainted dead away and remained incomatose ecstasy for days) and down once again to the cellar where Ernest sat,lodged hidden among the ketchup jugs. "Infinite," exclaimed Ernest, uponreceiving his message. "Infinite," he repeated.
Wanda sang the lyrics to"Louie, Louie" to herself in a slightly offbeat tune. Her improvised lyrics weresurprisingly close to the song's actual wording. As she approached the cellarsteps, Ernest caught each word faster, more violently. Her tempo quickened."Fabulous," he sighed.
Wanda began snapping her fingers.
"Intrinsic," he yelped.
Wanda began looking on the right cellarwall, where the rest of the non-canned fruits and vegetables wereshelved.
"Dislocated," Ernest tried to yelp, but his voice would not carryfar.
"Mm, we seem to be out of eggplants," said Wanda, putting her handson her hips.
"Re-stationed!" Ernest yelled, as loud as he could, but theword hit the thick, purple inside of his hide and remained there, stuck anddrowning inside of him.
Wanda turned slightly andgrabbed a small can of tuna. "Tuna fish parmesan?" said Wanda to herself. Herwords ran around the cellar like caged field mice, raced up shelves and aroundketchup jugs to sear through Ernest where they gathered extra mass and heat fromthe burning desire in his inflamed and smoking heart and then ran up the cellarsteps, through the kitchen, up an empty counter stool, through someone's coffeecup (reheating and re-caffeinating the luke warm de-caf) and around the counter'scurve to land in Phyllis' lap, crawled around her thigh and under her, lightingher seat on fire. "Hell no!" she exclaimed, jumping up and running from thediner, never to return again.
"Nah, tuna fish parmesan won't make goodfritters," muttered Wanda to herself, placing the small can of tuna back into itsoriginal setting.
"Wanda!" Ernest yelped her name over and over,desperately. "Wanda!" he cried. "Wanda!"
"Eh?" The sputter of a wordescaped her lips like a frantic, lustful kiss as her head whipped toward the leftwall, dislodging Phyllis the senile old lady's "Hell no" from Wanda's bandanna.Wanda's "Eh?" hit Ernest so quickly and with such intensity that he wobbled onhis blunt, purple bottom. She had caught him completely by surprise. He wasecstatic.
Suddenly the "Hell no" came bounding through the giant ketchupjugs, tossing them to the cellar floor with enough violence to shatter the glassand send ketchup flying in waves to hit each wall. The "Hell no" zoomed in towardthe horrified but defenseless and stunned Ernest, bursting through his thick hideon impact, creating a miniature vegetable explosion. Ernest's yellowish, saucy,liquified guts dribbled through the cracks in the wooden shelf and dripped to thefloor to mix with the coating of ketchup that pulled on Wanda's approachingfootsteps with little slurps.
"Oh, wow," said Wanda, slipping on theketchup, shooting her arms out in front of her to steady herself. Sheinstinctively grabbed toward the wall, finding her base of support on the dyingErnest.
"Oh, wow," repeated Wanda, having regained her balance and nowpicking up Ernest gently.
Suddenly the door to the cellar opened, lettingin a wash of light on the ketchup splattered basement. It was Brian, the frycook, checking up on his next-to-favorite waitress.
"What the hell's goingon down there, Wanda?"
"I don't know, Brian, honey. I guess a shelf camecrashing down. There's ketchup everywhere," Wanda called up thesteps.
"But I got your eggplant," Wanda added.
The customer who hadordered the eggplant parmesan fritters was gone. He had been too impatient forhis food, and not seeing Wanda, had given up his desire to sit and wait for anindefinite period of time.
Wanda sighed, a cup of coffee in one hand, ahot plate of fleshly made eggplant parmesan fritters in the other.
"Sitdown, Wanda, honey," It was Trisha. "You look so tired. I'll take care of yourlast customer. I'm all through with mine anyway."
"Thanks so much,Trish."
Jimmy was busing tables on the other side of the diner. Brian washumming to himself gently in the kitchen, running his grease stained hands on hisapron, happily regarding Trisha through the kitchen window.
Wanda sighedagain, taking her head in both hands to rub her eyes. She smiled, sipped hercoffee, and ate the most glorious meal of her life.
And when it was over,Ernest could not have been happier.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.