Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Corner Diner: Part 1 in a series

Some people have told me that I am a good writer. 
I have lots of stories to tell. 
Here is one of them:

Once upon a time, about 7 million years ago, a girl named Althea moved down to Carbondale, Illinois to be with a boy. This boy had some connections in his college town and helped Althea get a job at a diner on the 'strip'. 
The Corner Diner. 
Althea had never waited tables before. 
The Corner Diner was close to a halfway house for those not all mentally 'there'. More not there than you or me. Most of the people that lived in this house had gotten themselves banned from the rest of the restaurants on the strip.So,the Corner Diner was popular with these characters. 
And characters they were. Not Disney characters, mind you; or even Pixar!!!
But we waitstaff were trained to be patient with them. Even on a busy Sunday morning when film students were trying to interview us about all the interesting people we would serve. 

There's your set-up. 
Here's your story. 

It is close to 6am, earlier than I am used to getting up, but it is my first day on the job and I don't want to be late. I have been awake for an hour already, preparing myself for the day. I left the bear of the boy and our fluffy white cat in our shared wooden room. 
I walk the quiet streets of Carbondale to the diner that is indeed on the corner. I knock on the window as I go around-as instructed. Doris, the short-order cook is already there waiting for me. I don't see her until she opens the door. She is in her early 40s with the lined face of someone who has smoked a lot of cigarettes, and the rough hands of one who has worked for a living. I find her beautiful.  She leads me back behind the counter and asks me if I want a hit. I say no thanks and keep an eye out as she crouches down and has one herself. 

I will discover later that perhaps I should have taken her up on her offer. 

We set up the restaurant for the day: filling ketchup bottles and salt shakers, wiping tables, cooking bacon, making coffee. The doors open and the first customers of the day enter. 
The Old-Timers. A group of old, but not elderly men and one woman. They come in almost daily. They are current and former farmers with mesh-backed hats and overalls. They do not look me in the eye or return my smile. They ask me who I am and where Jessica is. Jessica is the gorgeous charming waitress whom I will come to know later. She's the Old-Timers' favorite. I, as the newbie, am most decidedly NOT. I pour their coffee incorrectly and do not have their orders committed to memory. I frantically try to scribble everything down legibly, as the Diner does NOT have a fancy touchscreen system. You put your ticket on the roundy thing and spin it towards the cook. 
Doris gets their order right, because she has been doing this for years, and I am 19 and frightened by these people. They are old, they are loud and they don't give a shit about me. 

To be continued...and you better believe that there's more. 

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