Letting Life Lead
Note: I was kicked in the pants by the inspiring post from Oh She Smiles to write until my fingers fall off. Will five hundred words be sufficient?
Seats filled quickly for the second wave. Murmurs rose to the jumbled rumbles of a crowd, chairs scraped on the floor, silverware clinked on plates, the grill sizzled, the register paper rattled, and the order bell rang. Children laughed and parents shared their plates, a group of old men shuffled cards and drank coffee, couples leaned close across the table to hear, and many bodies packed shoulder to shoulder on blue leather stools at the counter. Four waitresses side stepped, shimmied, and lifted plates while two now bussed tables. People filed in for take-out orders packed crisply in paper bags The air grew thick with the odors of dozens of meals, the spent grounds of coffee, and densely warm despite the air conditioning. She ordered dessert and drink refill continuing to lean and read, unmoved by the activity.
It wasn’t until bodies filed out one by one and the loud cackles returned to the murmurs of the few, that she put the book down in her lap. Maeve chatted with the men playing cards while she replenished their mugs then produced a whole cherry pie and plates. Three men remained at the far position at the windows talking in excited gestures and laughing bursts. Four people at the counter exchanged sections of newspaper and divided their attention between headlines, the remains of their meals, or the TV. After brushing stray crumbs from her gray t-shirt and legs, she piled the empty plates, pulled folded packet of bills from her back pocket and left it under the stack–well enough to cover the bill and tip enough to make her long occupation of the booth more than worthwhile.
Her sneakers, green around the edges from moss and grass, squeaked on the tiles softly as she slid out of the booth. She smiled as she passed her waitress and lifted her hand to stop the words, “I know, but I won’t take it back.” Maeve laughed shaking her head and said only, “See you tomorrow then?”
She shrugged and made as if to leave the restaurant, but turned instead to the table by the windows where the men were laughing. Two had been playing on the basketball courts earlier and the other had met them here for lunch. The book hung at her side clutched in her fingers resting on her thigh, and her other hand she had palm pressed in her back pocket. And she waited, taking a slow deep breath as if reading scents in the air. The two looked at her first, and then the one with the curling dark hair. It was to him she spoke, though she glanced at his friends, too.
“Hi,” she began.
“Um, hi,” he replied sitting up straight to look up.
“I’m Ina. Inez, actually, but no one every calls me that.” She offered a firm handshake to each of them, even the tallest one with the sweaty palms.
“Troy.” He gestured to his companions, “Paul. Reuben. I’ve seen you a few times. Table 12.”
“Yes, quietest spot in the house.” The two friends were staring, “I’d like to buy you lunch tomorrow.”
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