The bell at the front entrance chimed. I looked up from the grill to see old Mr. Harris come in. Great. Just what I needed. That old codger never liked my cooking. Always complaining about something. Deep breath, Miguel, I say to myself. It’s only painful for about an hour.
I looked up again when Shirley, placed the order on the wheel. I didn’t have to look at the ticket because it was always the same. What I did spot was Mr. Harris looking at a yellow piece of paper. I recognized that paper. It was the same as the one Pops brought home when he was diagnosed. Oh, man. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, even that old sourpuss.
I did my best work, eggs exactly over medium, toast evenly golden brown, extra bacon. Would he notice?
Other orders came in and I couldn’t watch to see his expression when Shirley brought him the plate. I didn’t get to see him eat it. I lost track of time until I heard Mr. Harris call my name.
“Hey, Miguel,” he croaked from the counter, the barest hint of a smile on his face. “Great breakfast.”
“Thanks, Mr. H.” I called back. “Glad you liked it.”
“Reminded me of how Ruth use to make breakfast.”
Mr. Harris got off his stool, paid his bill and shuffled out the door. When Shirley turned I noticed her eyes were wet with tears.
_ _ _ _
“Hey Mr, Harris,” Shirley crooned from the counter when her favorite customer came in. “Haven’t seen you in a couple days.”
Mr. Harris slowly stepped to his regular counter stool and sat down. “Been at the hospital with Ruth. Things ain’t so good.”
Shirley placed her hand on top of his. She knew not to ask any questions. He would say what he needed to say when he was ready. With the diner being across the street from the hospital, she had learned to read her customers; the good, the bad, and the tragic.
“It’s Ruth, Shirl,” The old man finally whispered. “Doc says she’s got cancer, stage four.”
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Harris,” Shirley replied as she patted the old man’s hand. “Anything I can do?”
“Just the usual,” he replied. “Just the usual.”
Shirley put in the order. She tried to look meaningfully at Miguel, to impart the importance of this order, but he was looking off in the distance and didn’t notice her. When she came back for Mr. Harris’s order she saw how perfectly done everything was. And the extra bacon. How did he know?
Mr. Harris ate in silence. His normal grouchy countenance replaced by that of quiet sorrow. After he finished, he spoke to Miguel, but Shirley couldn’t understand what was said since she was at the other end of the counter. She rung him up and asked if everything was okay even though she knew what the normal answer would be.
“Yep,” Mr. Harris answered. “Got a good cook there, Shirl.”
He turned and left. She looked back to Miguel, and saw by his expression he knew too.
_ _ _ _
Goldenrod. That’s the color. Why were these damn sorts of things always on goldenrod colored paper. What does all this gibberish mean. I don’t understand. Ruth seemed fine a week ago. Now they say she’s dying. Gotta get out of here. My sweet Ruth is asleep. Gotta get away from this place of death. Get a cup of coffee. Yeah, that sounds good. Maybe a breakfast. But that no account hoodlum never fixes breakfast right. Where did he learn how to cook? How can Ruth be dying? They must be wrong. I think ol’ Shirl just said something to me. What was it? Oh yeah, how was I doing. I answer, I think. How can Ruth be dying? We were planning our 50th anniversary. Going to go to New York. Ruth always wanted to go to New York. Shirl places a plate of food in front of me. I eat. Hmm. Not bad. That no account finally got something right. The docs, they must be wrong. Ruth can’t be dying. Plate is empty. Hey Miguel, great breakfast. I need to talk to the docs some more. They must be wrong. How can Ruth be dying? Pay the bill. Say something again to ol’ Shirl. She sure is a swell broad. Ruth always liked her too. Ruth even liked that Miguel. Always said I was too hard on him. Maybe she’s right. Back in her room she’s still sleeping. Her hand is so cold and tiny in my rough old paws. Ruth, sweetheart, can you hear me. I love you.
This story is in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge – The Difference Point of View Makes. Click here to follow other entries.