Prompt: “A waitress welcomes an elderly regular as he takes his seat at the counter in the diner. The man just got word his wife is dying of cancer. The cook watches through the order window.”
Mae just sat Mr. O’Brien. What day is it? Sunday. Doesn’t he usually come in on Monday mornings? I guess he’s just changing up his routine. Bacon’s done on this side. I thought the old guy was so stuck in his ways. Maybe he has Alzheimer’s. Nah, he doesn’t have that dazed look about him. I’ve seen that look on my uncle. He always had this child-like, glossy, daydream gaze about him, and he just loved to stare at those birds through his window. Bacon and scrambled eggs — order up!
He looks a little…paler? I don’t know. He keeps staring into his coffee…not chatting up Mae like he usually does. Here she comes. Maybe she knows something.
“Two orders of short stacks and a side of corned beef hash.”
It’s so funny every time she stands on her tip-toes to clip the order check above the counter. “For Mr. O’Brien?”
“No, for table fifteen. It feels like he’s just going to stare into his coffee for a while.”
“Weird. What’s up with him?”
There he is, just holding that mug and not drinking it…what’s he getting out of his pocket? “Is that a…”
“He’s totally spiking his coffee right now.”
“What should we do?”
“Let him? He looks like he having a hard time with something. I’m going to try to convince him to get some food in his stomach.”
I hope she can. Crap, I need more eggs. “Hey, Greg! Watch these pancakes for a second. I got to get more eggs out of the fridge.”
“You got it. Hey, while you’re in there, get some more sausage. I’m all out over here.”
“Sure.” Lazy bastard. I wonder why we refrigerate eggs here and they don’t in Europe. And what’s our fascination with white eggs anyway? They all taste the same. Brr…super cold in here. These eggs might be frozen. The sausages sure are. Can’t forget the sausages. Why do we call this a refrigerator when it freezes stuff. Gotta talk to someone about that.
“Thanks, Greg, Here.” Take your stupid sausages.
“Appreciate it. Trying not to walk around too much, ya know?”
“Yeah, how’s that knee doing anyway?”
“Oh, alright. My doctor says it could be a mild form of artistic, or maybe a swollen knee cap, or something is inflamed. I forget what he said, but what I usually do…”
Why does she have her arm around Mr. O’Brien? Damn, I wish I could read lips.
“…so then my wife said, it’s only a foot away. The Doctor said to move it as much as possible…”
What’s wrong with Mae? Is he gonna eat? I don’t see an order check. The pancakes!
“…but I just take the pain killers and only walk when I feel like it. Well, got to get back to cooking. Those pancakes look a little too brown on that side.”
“They’re fine.” Mae, walk over here faster! Move those short legs! Go, go, go! Don’t look too anxious. “You take his order?”
“On the house. Make him something good. Anything. He said he wasn’t that hungry, but I think he’ll eat anyway. Old guys like food.”
“He just said that his wife was sick. If you’re going to finish my corned beef hash you should probably put it on the grill.”
I am not bringing my A-game today. “I got it, I got it. So, that’s all he said, that’s she’s sick? What kind of sick?”
“He wouldn’t say, but I’ve never seen him like that before. Maybe she’s dying.”
Cook faster, corned beef. “That’s not nice.”
“Well, what else would have him looking so grim?”
“Have you checked the newspapers?”
Seriously?! “She’s not dead.”
“Well, she could be. How often do I get the whole story out of Mr. O’Brien?”
“Good point.” Seriously though…the obituaries?
“I’ll get a paper.”
“Wait…” No, don’t walk away. Don’t make it look to obvious. Crap, he’s facing the newspaper stand. She can’t get one from there. Corned beef and pancakes. What a meal. Order up! She passed the news stand…wh…oh, slick; she’s going for the one left behind on the table. Come get the food before it gets cold, Mae.
“Here, you look it up.”
“Me, why me?”
“Because I have to take table fifteen their breakfast.”
Sure, leave the paper on the counter and walk away. Better make this quick. Where are the obituaries anyway? Next to the comics? No, that would bring people’s moods down. Before. No, that just seems offensive and kind of blasphemous. Here it is: Marcia O’Brien…beloved mother, wife, blah blah blah…died September 14, 2007. What?!
“What does it say?”
Ah! Didn’t see you there. “Mae, she died two weeks ago.”
“Why just get this printed now?”
“I have no idea.” Hey, where did Mr. O’Brien go?
“Oh my god, did you just see that? A taxi hit someone across the street!”