Less than Quaint
He stepped up, pushed open the door, heard the familiar sound of the bell chime, and walked into the diner. In front of him, Henry fried eggs on the flat grill and stacked bacon in a meat pile near the grease tray. On the broiler, fish fillets whitened, char lines emerging as Henry flipped one, then another, his forehead beaded with heat induced sweat.
Larry smiled at the sight, took two steps forward and sat himself at the counter. Jeannie was working the tables while Wendy ran the counter and the three small two tops by the door. She dropped a mug of coffee and cream dispenser near him as she hurried by, a plate of scrambled eggs and toast in the other hand. After so many years, even the newer staff knew his routine. While that was comforting, Larry disliked being seen as too predicable. Of course he wanted coffee, wasn’t going to not drink it just because Wendy had assumed anything, but he would not allow her to just drop off “the usual” Bacon with over-easy eggs, side of toast (no butter) and fresh fruit.
“Ham steak,” he said half aloud. “With hash-browns covered in butter and salt. Eggs over medium and a tall glass of grapefruit juice.” That would show them all. He could even order his food in German. He smiled imagining Wendy’s face as he asked for his eggs auf Deutsch.
Jeannie walked by and patted him on the shoulder. So much always the same, it was like watching a boring movie where every scene was him eating the same breakfast. Until it wasn’t. Like most things, the more he did them, the more they stayed the same, until they weren’t. Things never changed, until they did, then they were always supposed to change, the change becoming the normal, the constant. Over medium eggs, ham steak. It was unavoidable. He had loved running until bad knees made that impossible. Change. He moved to cycling. Rode everywhere, all the time. A twisted spine made riding too painful. Ch-ch-ch- Changes. He loved Margaret until cancer ate her from the inside out. Changes.
No, that hadn’t changed.
He loved her regardless of her being present, sharing breakfast with him, or curled up on the sofa, her head on his lap (every night before they wandered up to the bedroom), or as he couldn’t help remembering her, dead and buried. Though the latter had become the normal. She wouldn’t be rising anytime soon, at least not today. Changes.
Henry started singing Black Keys songs off key and with the wrong words. “I’d wager most people coming in here don’t know what the hell your singing, Henry.” Larry said. “You gotta learn some modern tracks. Kids don’t like guitars. Big banging sounds, that’s what they want.”
“Screw em.” Henry snuffed back, flipping some more eggs. “Since Wendy seems useless today, what can I make for you?” At least Henry gave him the benefit of the doubt. Then again, he just cooked. Every day, the same food, the same smells, the same people. It was entirely possible he was clueless as to who got what once it left his line.
“Bacon, over-easy eggs and Rye toast.”
The bell above the door rang, someone else had come in for breakfast. He resisted the urge to look over his shoulder.
Why not? Tiny steps.