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The Diner

“What can I get for you this evening?”
I stared down at my newspaper. The small black letters blurred together and my hands shook. The young waitress tapped me on the shoulder. She was pretty when she smiled. “Sir?” she asked. “Are you ready to order?” I smiled back at her. Then her words registered in my mind. I felt my brow furrow. “Should I come back in a few minutes?” I slowly nodded my head yes and turned back to the sports section. Oh. This is the world news. The waitress took a menu from the end of the booth and placed it next to me. She came back a few minutes later with a cup of coffee. She was a pretty girl.

*****

“What can I get for you this evening?”
I glanced up from my iPad.

“Just a water.” The young waitress scribbled something down on her paper pad, and I turned back to the excel spreadsheet I had been creating. I could tell the girl was still standing there. She was frustratingly timid.

“Excuse me, sir,” she interrupted. I didn’t have time for this. What did she want? Couldn’t she tell how busy I was? No, of course she couldn’t. She was a petty waitress. I glanced up at her a second time and waited. “Can I get you something to eat? An appetizer?” My patience was running thin.

“No. I asked for a water, didn’t I? If I want anything else, I’ll flag you over. Thanks.” She stood there a short moment longer.

“I’ll be right back with your water, sir,” she said as she turned and finally walked away.

*****

“What can I get for you this evening?”

The waitress had come over too soon. I didn’t know what to order yet! I really wanted spaghetti, but no, I couldn’t get that. Much too messy. I’d look like a slob. I should probably go with a salad. That would be the right thing to order. I don’t really feel like a salad, though. Maybe a turkey club? That would be safe, right? I looked across the table at Joel. He was looking at the waitress. She was pretty. Was she prettier than I am? No. Maybe. She’s too old for him anyway. He looked at me and smiled.

“What do you think, Poppy?” He was so attractive. What was I going to order?

“Umm…” I loved that smile of his. “I’ll go with the turkey club.” The waitress smiled knowingly and wrote down my order on her pad. Then she turned her attention to Joel.

“And for you?” she asked. He answered that he wanted a burger, and she wrote his order down next to mine. “Let me know if you two need anything else. I’ll be right back with some ketchup for your fries.”

“Thanks,” Joel and I said at the same time. I blushed, and the waitress smiled again, leaving us to ourselves once more.

*****

“What can I get for you this evening?”

“French fries!” Mommy put her hand on my shoulder to make me stop bouncing and gave me the Lucas, you need to try that again look. “I mean, I would really like to have some French fries.” Mommy raised her eyebrows. “Please.” The waiteress smiled at me.

“You got it. Anything else?” I looked at Mommy and she nodded because I should be talking to the waiteress and not to her.

“Yes,” I said. “French fries are not a dinner, so I would also like mac ‘n’ cheese, please. And a soda!” Mommy put her hand on my shoulder again to make me stop bouncing and gave the I’m sorry smile to the waiteress.

“A milk will be fine for him,” she said. “And Lucas, honey, I don’t think the mac ‘n’ cheese comes with French fries.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” the waiteress said. “I’m sure we can make an exception.”

“Hurray! French fries!” Mommy gave me the Lucas, what do you say? look. “The magic words!” The waiteress laughed.

“You’re very welcome!” she said. “I’ll be back as soon as I can with those French fries.”

*****

“What can I get for you this evening?”
By the time my shift is over, I’ve said those eight words at least 50 times. Sometimes I wonder why I come to work day after day. It’s not like I have nothing else to do, quite the opposite, actually. I’ve never had so much work for school before. But, if I don’t go to the diner, I won’t be going to school either. And it’s not that bad. Sometimes it’s tiresome, but there’s always someone who makes it worthwhile. Tonight the old man was there, just like every Thursday night. It used to upset me that he couldn’t remember who I am, but I didn’t understand then. The poor man doesn’t remember that he only ever orders a coffee, much less who brings it to him. But it makes him happy to be there, so we all play along.
There was a businessman there, too. I felt bad for him. He looked like he was under a deadline. He must have been really stressed. I know he probably felt like no one understood what he had to; he probably felt like no one was as busy as him. That’s not true, though. There’s always someone with just as much work, even more, than you. And chances are, they understand. I know he felt bad about the way he spoke to me. He left a huge tip. That didn’t make it okay, but it was easier than saying “I’m sorry.” I didn’t mind.
I saw a girl there tonight; she might have been 16, with a boy. She was very pretty, and even more nervous, I could tell. She shouldn’t have been, though, he really liked her. Everyone could see it, except her. That seems to be how those things always go. She ordered a turkey club, the classic first date food. The way she lit up when he looked at her made everyone else smile. I hope I see them back.
Tonight my favorite was a little boy. He was so excited about getting French fries that I was excited about bringing them to him. Sometimes I forget to appreciate the little things in life when there are so many bigger things going on. It took a little boy to show me that there’s always something to be happy about. I gave him extra French fries for that.

*****

I only work at the diner to pay for my education, but sometimes it seems like I learn more there than I do in class. I love seeing all the different people that come in. They’ve unknowingly taught me more about life than a professor ever could.





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