DP Challenge: Points of View
HE LUMBERED IN TO THE CAFÉ and took his usual spot at the lunch counter. He knew what he wanted to order but he couldn’t formulate the request. Instead, he sat hunched over, staring at his calloused hands, fingers intertwined in a knot. The hustle and bustle of the diner was mere white noise. He couldn’t make out a word nor did he care to try. He was exhausted and weak. He had been wearing the same wrinkled short sleeve dress shirt for the past three days. His beige pants were dirty too but his brown leather shoes always looked new. They were his best pair.
He hated to leave his wife at the hospital but he needed desperately to clear his head. Four days of waiting for results and today… not the news either were hoping for. Her cancer had returned with a vengeance. At least she was sleeping when he left. That made him feel less guilty for walking out the door. But he just couldn’t bear to see her pale gray face and damp matted white hair strewn across the pillow, as she lay helpless in her faded blue dressing gown.
“What’ll it be today Earl?” greeted Lila his waitress. When he forced his head up to look at her, her own face crumbled. “Why don’t we start with a nice cup of coffee?” she smiled. He nodded then lowered his head again.
HER POLKA-DOTTED DRESS was not as vibrantly red as it was on her first day of work seven years ago but so far, no one at the diner had told her to replace it. She was fine with that. She hurried, late as usual, and scarfed down the donut she had purchased at the street-side kiosk like every morning. Washing it down with dark bitter coffee in paper cup, she entered the alley behind the diner. She tossed her garbage, straightened her dress and tied her stained apron around her waist. Then she opened the rusted door and entered through the kitchen. She nodded to Fred at the dishwasher, smiled to Ralph frying up the bacon for the popular clubhouse sandwiches they served and ran up to Violet, who looked like she already needed a smoke. “So? How was yer night?” she asked eager to hear the juicy details of her friend’s date with her ex. Instead, Violet shook her head and motioned to the window. “That’ll have to wait,” she said. “Looks like someone else needs ya more.”
There sat Earl, Lila’s favourite regular, looking so glum it broke her heart. “It’s bad. Oh damn it! It’s bad!” she said, then took a deep breath before pushing the swaying kitchen door open.
JACKIE WAS DISTRACTED. “Please Sweetie, please eat another bite of your pancake?” Lucy pleaded with her three-year-old son. But Jackie wouldn’t have anything of it. He just stared passed his mother at the large lump piled on the counter. He couldn’t figure out what it was. A person? A pile of clothes? And then it moved. Jackie jumped with a start. “It’s a man!” he declared.
“Pardon dear?” Lucy asked confused.“That’s not a pile of clothes Muma, it’s a man. The magic man! But why does he look like a pile of clothes?” Lucy didn’t know what he was talking about until she turned her head. There sat the usually friendly old man they knew well only today he looked to be a hundred years old. Jackie liked this man. He remembered him opening the door for he and his mom every Wednesday for their special breakfast. He always smiled at him. And the man was magical. He would pull coins or treats or even a paper airplane from behind Jackie’s ear. Why was he so sad today? Was he sick? Jackie needed to find out. He pushed his way out of the booth and, to his mother’s dismay, carried his bowl of strawberries and pineapples to the counter. He waited. The man didn’t look up. He waited some more. Nothing. Finally he tugged on the man’s sleeve. He slowly turned to look down on the cherub-faced boy holding up a delightful bowl of fruit.
“I hate pineapple!” Jackie declared. “But I know you don’t.” And for the first time in forever, Earl forced a smile on his face as tears filled his eyes. He graciously accepted the gift. “Thank you Sir. You are right I do,” he said.
Jackie, bursting with pride bounced all the way back to his seat and inhaled the rest of his pancakes proudly.
peekiequeen c. October 28, 2013