The Next Night at the Diner

The next night, the rain gave way to “a northerly,” as it’s called around here, pushing in below-freezing temperatures and high winds. Pablo’s first task when he arrived for his shift was to shovel snow off the sidewalk.

Adele, Spooky and Angel were huddled together in a back-corner booth. Business for them would be slow tonight. Their regulars would know to find them here, anyway. As long as they paid for a decent hotel room and let the girls run the room heater on high, the girls would happily comp their regulars a full night for the price of an hour. Pablo hoped one of Spooky’s guys would show up. She deserved a night in a clean hotel.

“Hey, Pablo, yo!” Becker called from the kitchen. “ ‘Bout time, dude. Maureen’s called in sick.”

Pablo cursed. “You stayin’?” he asked, hopefully.

“Nnnnnope.”

Pablo looked around the diner again, taking another appraisal of the place, now that he had to both cook and serve. Mrs. Gregor was in the front booth with her book, a cup of coffee and a half-finished slice of pie. Dwyane and James Jr., identical twin brothers who managed the shipping warehouse outside of town, were in another booth finishing up their meal. A group of teenagers made their way out the door, oblivious to the freezing cold. It made Pablo shiver just to watch them go. He grabbed a bussing tray and cleared their table. Little shits only left a couple dollars’ tip.

Becker was pulling on his coat and hat as Pablo walked into the kitchen. “I called Alejandro and Bixby, see if either of them could come in and help,” Becker said.

Pablo held out the dollar bills from the teen’s table to Becker.

“Nah. Keep it. Or put it in the relief drive. Fuckin’ brats. Ordered up half the damn menu .”

“Either a’them said they come in?”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah. Bixby. But, it’ll be a bit ‘fore he makes it.”

“Better’n nothing. Refill the coffees before you go, ya?”

Becker nodded. “Do you one better. I’ll set the machines on the counter. Tell folks to get their own refills.”

Officers Obie and Pat, and Officer Cheryl walked in.

As Pablo pulled the bill of his cap down low, he called out, “Shorthanded tonight. Help yourselves to the coffee. Cup’s under the counter. Creamer’s in the case.” The officers nodded. “Same as last night for you guys? And for you, ma’am? What’ll you have?”

Officer Cheryl smiled and shrugged. “Ahh….cheeseburger and fries?”

Officers Pat and Cheryl made their way with their coffees to the other front booth, while Obie sauntered over to the girls table with a carafe of coffee. “Ya’ll stayin’ warm inside?” he asked hopefully, as he filled their cups. They smiled, a bit sarcastically, except Adele, who kept her focus on her phone.

“Just stay safe, OK?”

“Aww, he cares,” Angel jeered. “See that?” she nudged Adele who stubbornly kept her face down and focused on her phone. “Tell you what, why don’t you get me a hot cup of cocoa, instead, make me feel all better, huh?”

“You didn’t do nothing to my coffee, right?” Spooky joked.

“No, no. Not me.” Obie replied. The girls laughed, including Adele, making Obie blush.

The twins bussed their own plates and came around the counter to pay Pablo in cash over the pass through. “Keep the change,” James Jr. said.

Obie quietly asked the twins to offer to see Mrs. Gregor home.

The old woman scoffed. “Been driving in snow deeper ‘n this since you two were still in your Buster Browns!”

The twins left and the diner fell quiet. Only the sound of the officers’ food sizzling on the fryer and the occasional electronic crackle and pop communication from their radios filled the empty space.

Mrs. Gregor left with a dismissive wave to Pablo. He smiled. Old bat taking advantage of no Maureen around to collect her tab.

A semi rolled up the middle of the boulevard and stopped at the intersection. Everyone in the diner watched as the driver got out, leaving his engine running, and walked in. Immediately seeing the officers, he stopped. “Don’t mind if I leave it there while a grab a bite?”

Conditioned to first assess a situation, the three officers looked out the window again at the truck and then up and down the boulevard before giving their consent.

“Best if you stay in town tonight,” Officer Cheryl said. “Motel Six is just a few blocks up. I’ll tell them you’re coming. Park in that side road on the westside. It goes all around the property, so you can drive straight out in the morning”

“If doesn’t keep snowing,” the driver quipped as he gave the girls a knowing chin-up nod. Angel and Snooky smiled back, gave the officers a quick glance and then stared each other down.

“Orders up!” Pablo called from the kitchen. The officers looked at one another and then got out of their booths and made their way around the counter to the pass through.

“Sorry ‘bout all this,” Pablo said. “ ‘Til one of the kids gets in, I’m a little shorthanded”

Officer Pat smiled. “So you said, Pablo.”

Pablo looked at Pat, a bit startled.

“I never forget a face,” Pat said. “ ‘Til my dyin’ day, I’ll never forget a face.”

Pablo pushed back the bill of his hat. “I did my time, sir.”

Pat nodded, “Yes, you did. Glad to see you landed on your feet. Always glad to see folks land on their feet.”


Inspired by the preamble and this week’s Un-OLWG prompts :

  1. What happened to my coffee?
  2. Buster Browns
  3. till my dying day

Until We Meet Again

Miriam was accustomed to being alone, but until the awful day her brother and parents drowned in the ferry accident, she never knew what it was like to be all alone. She chose the meadow about which her parents often spoke, and the long walk they took those many years ago; the one that concluded with a deciding kiss. Miriam made her way to a large oak, and as she began to slowly pour her brother and parents’ ashes among its roots, a breeze caught a bit and gently carried it toward the bright yellow, orange, purple and pink of the morning’s sunrise.


Prompts from The New, Unofficial, On-line Writers’ Guild are:
I’ve never been alone before/ Dipping my toe into the bright colours of the sunrise/ Miriam Ortiz Uribe 

I owe ya one

She watched him, silently, curled up on the couch at the back of the studio under her coat and his. He scrolled paint across the canvas with a kind of abandon. Colors, clashing. Brush strokes, crossing. A form taking shape that was pure emotion. She felt the innocent voyeur. His concentration was intense. His whole being seemed enthralled. Had he forgotten she was there? How long had she slept? She looked around for a clock, afraid if she reached for her purse and her phone, she would somehow disrupt something sacred.

Their date earlier that night had been a bust. He tried too hard to be gracious; too hard to seem like what they were doing was fun. She tried too hard to seem all sunlight and happiness. The place they finally settled on for dinner, after nearly 30 minutes of awkward negotiation, had a 45-minute wait for a table and a bar with standing room only. The place down the block was no better. Since they were (sort of) in the neighborhood, they agreed, I-mean-what-the-hell, to walk the 6 or 7 blocks to the jazz club, painfully insipid small talk for conversation along the way, only to find when they arrived that it was a reserve-in-advance venue with an act that had been sold out for months. He walked over to a scalper pacing in the shadows. She stopped him.

“Look,” she said, as reassuringly as she could with out sounding disappointed, “The evening’s shot. Right?”

He laughed with a look of defeat and embarrassment. Her heart sank.

“No, no! Seriously! OK. You said you have a studio? Nearby? Right?”

He hesitated. “No. I mean, yes, but not around here…I mean …”

“Let’s grab something at the bodega over there,” she said pointing across the street, “head over to your studio.”

He laughed the same embarrassed laugh.

“C’mon! How many girls actually ask you to show them ‘some of my paintings,’ or however that old line goes?”

“Really?”

“Really.”


Prompts are: sacred ground; talk deep into the night; the evening’s shot
I owe ya one, so…

Tit for Tat

I have 25 followers, but… TNKerr, this is aimed at YOU, in particular!

It’s writing prompt time! Never mind my long dry spells. You, TNKerr, write up! This week! V.E.R.B.A.T.I.M!…. (snicker-giggle-snickerhorkhorkspitspat… ). Scroll to the end. Therein lies your challenge fate.

The rest of you? YOU write up, too! Ping/Link your story back to this post. I want to know who you are, as writer, that is. Enjoy!

(For those of you who are wondering…the image? I used to have a writing-prompt blog called The Blog Propellant. Therefore, the following writing prompts…)

  1. stale Cheetos
  2. re-arranging house plants from “needs a lot of sun” to, wait, wha…what the hell…?
  3. She is something I …
  4. …and then…

Breakdown

After all was said and done—as all the broken dishes, broken Christmas decorations, and all the broken hearts lay in shards in the middle of the kitchen floor—it seemed Johanna herself was finally broken. Her outburst of ruthless accusations and hysterical excuses were at an end. She sat exhausted in the corner of the living room staring out the picture window.

The shock of what had transpired was unmistakable. Johanna’s mother, brother and sister-in-law silently cleaned up, avoiding making eye contact. Johanna’s father made his way out into the backyard where Johanna’s eldest brother had escaped at the onset of her explosion, ostensibly to supervise the children. The children, by contrast, happily romped, chasing after each other and laughing, still wound up with the excitement of Christmas, completely unaware of most of the histrionics that transpired inside.

Johanna watched her brother finish setting up the circus play set the Baby Jesus and Reindeer Vixen gave all the grandchildren; “For when you visit Grammy and Grumpy,” the card read in a contrived child’s hand. All children in Johanna’s family, young or old, received Christmas gifts from either the Baby Jesus or Santa’s Reindeer Vixen. Big gifts came from both. Baby Jesus’ handwriting hasn’t improved in all these years, a grown son kidded his mother. Well, honey, he’s just a baby. Wonder he can write at all, she kidded back. Johanna loathed the absurdity of it all.

One of the younger children ran into the house holding a small, brightly colored box with a handle on one side. Look! the child screeched, shattering the charged silence. He hugged the box to his chest and turned the handle with all the brute force of a four year-old. A nursery rhyme haltingly played on an out-of-tune metal harp until the lid of the box popped open and a large plush bird with bugged-out eyes sprung up. The child laughed, shoving the toy back into the box. I’ll do it again! The child’s mother stepped out from the kitchen to escort the child back outside.

Johanna abruptly stood. Her family froze, bracing themselves for whatever might come next. She gathered up her purse and coat, walked over to her mother and gave her a rough kiss on her cheek. Then she walked out the door.

As she reached her car, her father called after her. She turned to shoot him a look of warning.

“Dad, just leave me…”

“Shut up,” her father snapped. Usually the diplomat, her father’s harsh scold caught Johanna by surprise. He walked up to her and leaned into her face.

“What you did today really cut deep,” he said in an angry whisper, “and I am not going to put up with your bullshit anymore, little girl. That’s it. I mean it. I really have had it with you.”

“Whatever.” Johanna opened her car door, but her father yanked her aside and slammed it shut.

“Get this and get it loud and clear: You’re done.” His face was flushed. His eyes were as furious as Johanna had ever seen them. “You drive away, and you don’t come back, ever,” he said pointing down the driveway. “You don’t call with one of your hysterical pleas to bail you out of whatever goddamned mess you’re in. That goes for your brothers as well. I do not want you dumping your shit on them, ever again. I’m telling them to cut you out. From here on out, you wallow in your own stinking shit, and when you need help, because you always need help, always complaining, always making a mess of your life, then get it together and fucking figure it out, baby girl. Just like everyone else in the world who ever had to get themselves out of a jam. This is really it.”

He yanked open her car door and shoved her toward it. “Get in and get gone!”

Shaking, Johanna watched as her father walked back to the house. Her eldest brother stood at the front door also watching his father. He did not acknowledge her. He gave his father a pat on the shoulder and followed him into the house.

Tears fell down Johanna’s cheeks as she turned over the engine. She put the car in reverse and backed out the driveway. As she returned her focus forward, she saw one of her nieces standing in the driveway, waving goodbye, a large smile across her face.


Going back several weeks, the prompts (however loosely associated to the actual prompts) are highlighted in bold. https://aooga.wordpress.com/2020/01/12/olwg-137-fields/

Not the most cheerful piece, but dedicated nevertheless to my constant companion of 18 years, Iona Cat Named Skipper. But I just called her Kitty. Hope your heaven is full of tall ficus trees you can climb to your heart’s content and strip bare of every leaf. May giant buckets of rotisserie chicken just be sitting there, waiting for you, whenever you please. Hope you have yourself many a happy, thoroughly destructive, clawings on the biggest couches you ever saw, and long naps on a plush window sill lounge under a hot summer sun. I hope you find a friend with whom you can snuggle. Miss you forever, kiddo.

A Meandering Road Through Prompts

  1. A member of the Penny Whistle Band in the 70s, Joseph wonders how life would have turned out if he left the band and followed Alice to Selma. Love of music. Love of a woman. The same word, but such different meanings.
  2. He’s racing the moon through the night, trying to make it to dawn, tapping out the minutes like a blind man with his cane. His focus is locked in tight. Only one more chance to get it right.
  3. The weekly meeting of the Beach City Camp counselors was called to order. The group was dog-tired. The campers this year were a real handful. “The whole girls cabin going ballistic because one of them saw a spider in the tub completely undid me,” one counselor admitted.
  4. Dave wondered the significance of a weathered trombone attached to the sign marking the entrance to the Tahoe Mud Baths. As he drove down the long dirt lane to the lodge, he kept rolling possible reasons around in his mind, when a young woman dressed in just a blue lamé bikini and hiking boots stepped out onto the lane. She smiled and shrugged an apology as she continued across the lane and into the wood. Dave wondered what a woman in a fancy bikini and hiking boots was doing wandering around out here. It was still some distance to the lodge. It struck him as weird as the trombone on the entrance sign.

Four weeks of prompts! I felt like I needed to get caught up, but couldn’t thread them through a single story. Had fun composing the little snippets, though!
https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/11/24/olwg-130-a-dizygotic-pair/

I’m just saying.

So, this guy named Harv…

uh-huh

This guy named Harv, he works in sales, right?

uh-huh

And we’re in the elevator and I’m on my way to El Mar to meet Jenn all those guys for lunch, right? and he says, hey, don’t you work for Deborah Wheaton, and I say yes and he says, she’s got quite a rep, right? I was like, I don’t know, I guess.

uh-huh

And then we get to the lobby and I start leave and he is right next to me, right? and I’m like so confused. And he says, I’m just curious because I want to work in your department. He says, next time there’s an opening, I’m going to apply.

uh-huh

Anyway, he keeps walking with me and talking about how much fun he thinks marketing is and, like, it’s really weird, ’cause he just keeps walking with me, and I’m, like, not wanting to be mean or anything, but, it was just so weird, ya know?

uh-huh

And he keeps asking me all these questions, like what I do at work, and if I have my own projects or do I just, like, do stuff Deborah gives me.

uh-huh

So, finally, I had to just stop and I say, I’m sorry, but, what are you doing? And he looks all surprised and says something like, I’m just asking questions because I want to know, and I’m, like, I’m going to lunch!

uh-huh

Anyway. I’m just sayin. People are just so weird.

Um


The prompts this week are: A guy named Harv; uh-huh; el mar

Benny’s Honeysuckle Rose

Benny, as the locals call him, is a bonafide gentleman: Sir Bedford Corvallis, an ex-pat Scotsman, and a regular of the Argyll Seafood Grill. Nobody remembers when he landed in our Gulf Coast town. He’s just always seemed to be part of the landscape. I enjoy chatting with Benny when he sits in my section. But this night was busier than usual. There was no time to stop and gossip.

As service started to slow and we had a chance to take catch our breaths, I was surprised to see Benny bent over his horse head cane, clearly crying.  I signaled the host I was taking a break and ordered a couple of Johnny Walker Golds from the bar. I invited myself to sit, offered Benny one of the shots and raised my glass.

“Who are we toasting?” I asked.

Benny took his glass and raised it. “To another long-lost friend. My dearest, my darling. Honeysuckle!”

We tossed back our drinks. I signaled the bar for another round. Benny wiped his eyes with his ever-present pocket kerchief and stared off into the distance. The shots arrived, and I offered, “To friends. Past and present.”

“Cheers,” Benny said, and we tossed back our second. I stood to leave and Benny stopped me.

“She was the love of my life. I know that now, of course. Oh, my. Well, as the saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. I couldn’t know then the difference between a fun flirtation and meaningful pursuit.”

He pointed to my seat and I sat back down, giving my irritated host a shrug of apology.

“We were still children, really. Still laughing, still silly and playful. She was smart and bubbling. And, oh, she was a very pretty thing. Prettiest lass in the village, by my reckoning. And, to see her in her bathing suit,” Benny shook his head and let out a small whistle. “We used to go scuba diving, you see. Her father was the proprietor of a charter fishing and diving outfit. Most popular with the tourists.”

Benny drifted off in private thought.

“I would’ve never taken you for a diver,” I said.

“Oh, yes! Indeed, I was quite enthusiastic at the time. My favorite time of day was in early summer, at midday. The sun would be high in a blue cloudless sky, and the waters of my home village are so very clear, that the high sun could illuminate everything below. The world beneath the water’s surface is such a captivating place to explore. If it were possible, I would have stayed under all day! I fancied becoming a marine biologist at one time, you know.”

I stood and gave Benny a pat on the shoulder. “Benny, I have to get back to it, or Jeff’ll blow a gasket. You want another? On me.”

Benny rose from his seat. “No, sweet lady, I do not, but I do thank you. Best I go on home now.”

I handed him his bill and we walked through the restaurant together, and as I broke off for the kitchen, Benny took my hand and kissed the back of it.

“As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed,” he said with a generous smile.

I smiled in return and waved good-bye.

As I ploughed through the rest of a hard night’s work, I couldn’t stop thinking of how truly grieved Benny seemed, and how sad his parting smile. It made me think of David. That last time we got together, I was so excited about going off to school, his grumpiness and hound-dog scowl pissed me off.

I wonder—that is, if David thinks of me—what he thinks of the memory of us. I don’t think I was cruel. I was just a kid looking forward to a big adventure. But I know I broke his heart. Seeing how sad Benny was at the news of the death of his teenage sweetheart, I wondered if maybe I should look up David. Before it is too late to say I am sorry.

As service wound down, and the group of us sat around the bar having our late meals and one for the road, I raised my beer, “Ya know, there’s no time like the present. I just want to say how grateful I am for you guys and I want to thank all of you for being my friends. Cheers to you.”


Two sets of OLWG prompts: roadhouse whisky; a horse head cane; he was crying; round ‘em up; am I smart enough to know the difference?; burying my friends
https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/olwg-122-purple-ish-prose-2/

and one from Go Dog Go Café’s Tuesday Prompt: beneath the waters       https://godoggocafe.com/2019/10/08/tuesday-writing-prompt-challenge-october-8-2019/

Creative Writing 101, Fourth Period, Room 107, and PopPop’s Front Yard

“No shit, there I was, just sittin’ there. Like, seriously, for the whole frickin’ period. And like, the teacher is doin’ nothin’. Seriously! Like, fuckin’ around with his pen and just staring at us. Fuckin’ freak. I mean, I seen teachers like him. Power players. Thinkin’ he will make us, I dunno, bow down, or something. Like, if he keeps up the silent treatment, we’re all going to, like, think he’s all powerful and tough, and like, get all scared. Whatev’s.

“So, then, get this! Like, he goes, he goes, like outta nowhere, right? Like, right before the bell, he says, he says…we have homework! First fuck-ing thing outta his mouth the whole period. Homework! Know what it is? You’ll love this, right? Homework is, we have to write what we learned in class today! Seriously? Is he fuckin’ kidding me?! What we learned?! What sort of ass-hat …?”

Jared shook his head and tossed back the last of his soda pop. His grandfather smiled and tilted his head in a lilting nod of amusement as he continued to weed the flowerbed in front his porch. Jared got up from the stoop stairs and walked over to him.

“Seriously, PopPop, I’m askin’, who da frickin’ fuck does that?”

“So. What did you learn in your writing class today?” his grandfather replied.

“Wha…are you listenin‘? Nothing! We just sat there!”

Jared’s grandfather sat back on his haunches and looked at his grandson. “All of you?”

“What’ya mean, all of us. Of course! I mean, some was getting bored and shit, messin’ around, but…yeah! We just sat there.”

The old man went back to weeding. “Sounds like a great writing lesson to me.”

“ARRRGH!!” Jared yelled. He stormed over to the corner of the house, lifted the lid of the garbage can high in the air, and threw down his pop can with all the force he could. He slammed the lid back down.

“I swear! School is so STUPID!”

Jared stomped back over to his grandfather and squatted down next to him. “PopPop, listen to me, listen to me: We, we… just… sat there. He didn’t say a damn thing about writing. Not teach, not nothin’. Just played with his pens and stared at us, like he was, I dunno, sizing us up, or somethin’. Figuring out who’s a douchebag and who’s a fuckin’ twit. Probably checkin’ out Abbey Jensen’s boobs, like every other horndog.”

He paused for a moment, a bit lost in thought. The old man smiled again; a knowing grin.

Jared snapped back to it. “Oh, wait. I’m wrong. No, you’re right, you’re right. He did do something. He wrote his damn name on the board. I learned…the damn fool can write his own damn name.”

Jared’s grandfather let out a sigh and stood. He tossed his weeding tool into the bed and pulled off his work gloves.

“Stand up.”

Jared complied. The old man wiped his hands on his jeans and placed them on his grandson’s shoulders.

“Jared, now, listen here. You got to learn that not all there is to teach comes out of a text book, or what your teachers talk about in class.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I’m saying, my boy, what did you learn in writing class today?”

Jared spun out from under his grandfather’s grasp, pretending to tear the hair out of his head. “Oh. My. God!!! NOT A DAMN THING!”

“OK! So…?”

“So?! So, WHAT?”

“Write about it, ya damn hard head! Write about learning nothing in class today.”

Jared stared at his grandfather in wide-eyed disbelief, but from behind his bewildered look the old man could see a tiny spark. Small, but discernible.

“Oh my God, that’s it!!” Jared blurted. “Oh, man! I get it! Whoa!”

“OK?”

“Yeah! Oh my God! Um…I’m just going to…” Jared motioned toward the house. His grandfather waved him on and returned to weeding his flower bed.

As Jared darted inside, his grandmother came out on the porch.

“Hey Grams…” Jared said.

Jared’s grandmother attempted to kiss her grandson’s cheek, but was met with an awkward and furious rush of teenage energy as he rushed indoors.

“You stayin’ for dinner, hon?” she called to him as he ran to the back the house, but Jared did not reply.

She turned to her husband. “What the hell was that about?”

“School. So, hey. It sounds like Bruce is still teaching. “

“Bruce?! ” Jared’s grandmother shook her head.

“I mean, let’s check it out first, OK? Don’t go telling Jenny before we know for sure, OK? Agreed?”


Miss me? I know I said a few weeks back “I’m back,” but sometimes life has its way with me… ANYWAY… I read your prompt preamble and immediately knew what I wanted to write. Looks like you inspired several others, as well! That was my absolute joy when I was running Blog Propellant. Oh, and BTW…I turned in 750 words, Teach!

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/09/22/olwg-121-dalrymple/