Cal Oaks Miracle Diner
Author's note: I just kinda made this up. I don't know anyone like this to be honest, but I'm sure there are,... Show full author's note »
Late Night BreakfastThe word ‘normal’ doesn’t apply to me anymore. Not since… the accident. I’m only 17 dammit! Seventeen year old guys shouldn’t have to take care of a little sister. We shouldn’t have to be the sole provider for a family, and we most certainly shouldn’t have to bury our fathers. We shouldn’t have to cuddle our little sister’s close, and tell them mommy isn’t feeling well, and lie, saying she’ll get better when we know she won’t… But we do. Because life demands that we do so.
My name is Hunter Wolffe. I’m seventeen. I work at Cal Oaks Diner on Ceader Lane and Circle Street. My dad was killed in a hit and run. My mom’s now an alcoholic. And I have to juggle bills and school and family… in my senior year. Fantastic. You say your life is bad.
I threw a raw patty onto my stove top, and watched it sizzle, steam billowing off the top like a locomotive. One burger, two orders of fries, a shake, and three orders of onion rings. This was a ‘busy’ night for the diner. Jackson Hole isn’t exactly a big town. Population around five hundred, most people make the trip over to our neighboring town, Santana, for their big Friday night plans. Better then hanging around here I guess.
I flipped the burger. It hissed when it hit my stove again, and I meticulously placed two slices of American on it, making sure the corners stuck out like a star.
“Hey Wolfy! C’mon, your girlfriend is here!” One of the waiters, Mason, called out. I scowled. I didn’t have time for girlfriends or worrying about acne or any other normal teen thing.
“She’s not my girlfriend Mase. I don’t even know her name,” I told him. He just rolled his eyes.
“Just go get her order,” He told me.
“I’m a cook!” I yelled, but went out just the same. My life had been so choppy, so unhinged lately, that just this one regular customer made it seem like my life had some little tradition left in it. I almost convinced myself sometimes. Almost.
“Hello, miss, welcome to the Cal Oaks Diner, can I get you a drink tonight?” I asked politely, the basic rundown for waiting on tables. I smiled at her. Great waiter I was. But Mason had a point. She was cute, with light orange hair and freckles spotted over her pale skin. And her laugh… God it was adorable. But I had a family to raise. I stopped my thoughts on-
“I think we’re past that. I am here all the time. I’m Aspyn,” she said. Ok, I stopped my thoughts on Aspyn right there. She smiled at me, her teeth perfect.
My breath caught. What was I supposed to say? Do? I just kind of stood there, my deer-in-headlights act.
“Gonna tell me your name? You guys don’t wear tags in here,” she added, hedging me on. I gulped.
“I’m Hunter. Nice to meet you, Aspyn,” I said. Her name seemed roll off my tongue with difficulty.
“Hey Hunter. And I’d hardly call this meeting,” she added, biting her lip as she lazily scanned the menu she probably memorized already.
“Uh, can I get my usual?” She asked. She was always polite. Which is more than I can say for all the other snobs and jocks that bombarded the place after games and stuff.
“Of course,” I said, pretending to scribble down her order even though I had it memorized by heart. A grilled cheese, fries, and a cookies n’ crème shake.
“I’ll have that right out for you,” I said, looking up from the pad, and surprising myself when I gave her a smile. She returned it and I scurried away, preparing her meal. Yes, waiters and cooks are usually completely separate, but it was a small diner and I needed the money.
I came out fifteen minutes later with her meal balanced on my arms and placed it in front of her. She was there in her seat until five minutes before closing, and left a generous tip.
All that was left to do was wipe down the tables and stack the chairs before I headed out, walking the five blocks to my house. The streets were basically deserted, and the wind made the trees shake and quiver. Street lights flickered overhead, and only a couple of houses still had lights on. See, in Jackson Hole, there isn’t really rich vs. poor. Pretty much all the houses are the same, and really, your wealth is only shown through if you have a car, or if you’ve got an iPhone.
It wasn’t super late, only about ten, when I walked in. Our house was a little worse for wear, but I managed to keep the lawn nice, the porch presentable. My mother was passed out on the couch, a couple whiskey bottles around her. I sighed, and carried her to her bed and closed the door. She’d have quite the hangover in the morning, and hopefully that would mean I’d have Maya at school before she actually got up.
I cracked open Maya’s door, making sure she was ok. Her brown locks were smooshed against the pillow and she had one hand wrapped around Hamilton the turtle, the other under her pillow. I couldn’t help but think that she was so young, especially like this, when her face seemed to look even more innocent that she already was.
And I was determined to keep it that way. I always thought that maybe if it was just me, maybe if I was an only child, things would be different. But they wouldn’t. I’d still have to work to pay bills because my mother’s unemployed.
Running a hand through my tawny colored hair, I walked to the kitchen. Funny, I worked at a diner basically from the moment I was out of school until ten, and I came home to eat after cooking for everybody else. Some things in life never lost their irony on me.
I cracked two eggs into a pan and leaned against the kitchen counter. Dirty dishes, papers, and trash littered the counter top, and I moved almost robotically, cleaning up the mess.
Believe it or not, we probably couldn’t afford eggs if it wasn’t for the chickens we had outback. It had been a sympathy gift after my father’s passing, and you might think it’s strange, but it might honestly be the best gift we got. The chickens eat pretty much anything, and give us fresh eggs.
“Hunter?” I heard, a ghost of a whisper, come from the hallway. I looked over and saw little Maya, dressed in her long sleeved nightie, rub the sleep from her eye.
“I’m sorry kid, did I wake you?” I asked, walking over to her. I picked her up (she was light for an eight year old), and sat her down at the worn dining table.
She shook her head. “No, I was hungry,” she whispered. I felt my chest tighten with the familiar feel of anger. Our mother had been too far gone to even feed her own daughter! We were barely getting by, and I’d bring home leftovers from the diner when I could, but we couldn’t afford snacks. Maya and I were on free lunch at the schools, and I’d taught her how to bring home any food she doesn’t eat, but mostly I had to cook.
It was easy during the summer and spring. I’d made a garden out back, and our staple was potatoes. You could have potatoes with every meal every day, 24/7. They were quick and simple.
“Well, I’m making eggs and toast, you want some?” I asked. She nodded her head so quick the anger just swelled. She deserved more, far more, that this crap hole of a life. She deserved so much better. And as terrible as life was right now, as terrible as it might get and seems, I was determined that she would get a great life. If it was the only thing I ever accomplished (and it probably will be,) I will give Maya the life she deserves.