The Waitress

November 24, 2012 at 9:29 pm (Guest Blogger) (, , )

A Short Story by E.B. Jones

My last table is finally getting up to leave. I swear, they sat there forever. I was starting to wonder if they were going to sprout roots. I hate how long it takes people to get up. All having to say their goodbyes to each and every person while they’re still standing around the damn table and I have to wait on them to go home to their families and their beds so I can clean up their mess. I want to go home and go to bed too you know, but people don’t consider the waitress. For the thirty minutes I’m in your life, or hour and a half if you consider these people. I’m just here to serve you, and if I don’t get your water that you didn’t pay for filled up in a timely manner then by god no tip for that lazy hussie.
Finally, they’re walking out the door and I can get this damn table clean. “People are such pigs,” I whisper under my breath. I swear if I were to collect all the damn mustard these folks left on their table or seat or wherever the hell it landed we’d have a whole extra bottle of French’s for tomorrow’s lunch.
Dammit, someone left their credit card. Mr. Spencer Dean Thurgood. Well isn’t that nice, left a measly three dollar tip and the guy has a platinum card. Spencer, who names their kid that anyway? That’s like someone naming their kid Floyd, it’s an old mans name. I mean how often do you ever see a kid running around these days named Floyd?
Spencer Dean Thurgood. With a name like that I bet he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and another one in his hand in case the one in his mouth ever fell out. Hopefully he won’t notice his card is missing until tomorrow so I can get all my work done and get home.
The table is finally clean now. What time is it? Ten fifteen, dammit, I need to call Rodney and tell him I’m going to be home late. He’s gonna be mad. I knew I shouldn’t have covered for Mary, but she worked a double today and her dad isn’t doing too well and she’s the only person that old man has.
Jane’s on the phone, dammit, Rodney is going to be pissed I’m coming home late. I tap Jane on the shoulder and she just gives me a hold on a minute finger. Guess I’ll go ahead and get some silverware cleaned.
A little bit later Jane pops her head around the corner, “Hey darlin’, you need to use the phone?”
I tell her yeah, and say thanks and I go to the phone. It rings twice and Rodney picks it up.
“The hell are you woman?” He asks.
“I took Mary’s closing shift cause she worked a double and her dad’s sick.” He ain’t gonna believe me.
“Bullshit!” he yells into the phone as if I couldn’t hear him if he’d just said it normal. “You’re fucking around on me aren’t you?”
“No.” I tell him, “I swear I’m still at work, I’m just gonna be here a little longer and then I’ll be home. I promise.”
“You know I’m getting sick of you lying to me all the time. You spend more time up there at that job than you spend with your own damn kid. If you’re even at that job as often as you say you are.”
He’s mad.
“I spend all this time here because you ain’t working you son of a bitch.” I’m not sure where that came from, but it feels good, kind of proud, copping an attitude right back at him. He never hit me before, but I imagine that’s the kind of remark that would push a man to the point of hitting a woman. Least it’s over the phone so even if he wanted too…
“Woman, you know I been looking for a job but since the brick factory laid me off it’s been hard to find anything.” his usual excuse, and then his usual rebuttal. “But that don’t matter none, and you need to get your ass home.”
“I told you I’ll be home once my shift is over.” I am getting so sick of his shit.
Good, his whatever usually means that he’s damn near done talking and I can get back to work.
“And grab some damn diapers at that new all night Wal-Mart over there on Elm on your way home. If you really are still at the diner.”
“I swear I’m at the diner.” I hate how he never believes me. He is a son of a bitch and it’s moments like this one I can’t stand him, “I’ll be home in a little bit.” Dammit, I’m starting to cry, I can’t let him hear it or he’ll win. “I’ll see you in a bit.”
I hang up the phone and can feel tears sliding down my cheeks. I really don’t want anyone to see me like this right now, I should probably go to the back.
Shit, I just noticed my reflection in the mirror just off the door. God I look like a mess, make up running down my cheeks and eyes, red as hell. Damn him for making me feel like this all the time, damn him. I swear, we used to be so good together, at one point we were, I swear we were.
“We were!” I hiss at my reflection. It’s no use, my make up is smeared, my face is flushed and my eyes are red. Now I have to deal with talking about what’s wrong with Jane and Vera. Oh well, maybe it will help to get all of this out.
I go around the corner, still flushed and weepy eyed and there’s Jane standing there polishing away at the silverware. She looks up, “Oh my lord, what’s wrong honey?”
“Nothing.” I tell her. It feels like snot is running down my upper lip so I wipe my sleeve across it but it doesn’t look like there’s actually anything there.
“Honey, you don’t look good.” Jane puts her hand on my shoulder. Poor girl, I know she means well but damn if she isn’t a naive little thing. She thinks she knows so much but she’s only seventeen and lord, she has no idea. She is a sweet girl though.
“It’s Rodney.” I say without thinking. Dammit, I didn’t want to talk about it.
“He mad you staying late again?” Jane asks. She is such a sweet cute little girl. If I had any sense I’d have been one of them lesbians and tried to get in the sack with Jane instead of Rodney. At least then I wouldn’t have ended up having a damn kid on top of everything else.
“Yeah,” I tell her, “He thinks I’m cheating on him cause I took Mary’s shift so she could go home and take care of her dad.”
“Honey, I know that I ain’t been working here long and I don’t really know much about you and your beau. But from all I hear, that Rodney is an ass.” I want to smack the bitch. Only because I know she’s absolutely right.
“We got a kid,” I tell her.
“I heard about that.” she pauses for a moment, “Still don’t mean he ain’t any less of an ass.”
“You think you’re so god damn smart.” My attitude is starting to get the best of me. She’s absolutely right and that’s what pisses me off, “How the hell would you know? I got a damn baby with that man and yeah, he’s a prick, but I do love him.”
I love him. I love him. I love him.
If I say it enough it’s true right? I think I can keep myself convinced if I say it enough.
“Sorry,” Jane hunkers down a bit and keeps polishing the silverware. We don’t say anything for awhile. She just keeps polishing the silverware and I keep rolling it up inside napkins for tomorrow.
“Sorry Jane,” I say, “I didn’t mean nothing.”
Poor girl, so young.

“You know, you should get the hell out of this town while you can.” I snap at her, and I mean it. This place is a damn cancer and the quicker someone can get out, the better. I had the chance whenever I first graduated high school but I thought I was in love. I had a full scholarship and was going to go to college but Rodney screwed all that up. He was going nowhere and was a nobody. But at the time he was everything to me. He knew that all he had to do was say them three words and I’d be like putty.
“I love you.” he told me, “Don’t leave me, you’re all I got.”
That son of a bitch kept me here. Now I’m working in a shit hole diner and I spent nine months of my life lugging his little bastard around in my belly.
“Jane,” I tell her, “If a man ever tells you that he loves you…” I stop for a minute. All motion ceases, we both stand there as time stands still.
“Yeah?” Jane asks. Her eyes are big and green. She’s still seventeen and beautiful and skinny. It isn’t fair that beauty is given to the young and stupid.
“Don’t let no man tell you they love you.” I tell her.
“Rodney tell you that?” she asks with a smirk.
“Shut your god damn mouth bitch.” I can barely say it and keep the laugh in. I like this side of her, but I can’t show it. Not when it comes to Rodney.
“Oh child, is that boy at you again?” Vera is just coming out of the kitchen. Vera owns the diner and the whole menu is based on her granny’s cooking, she says. She is such a sweet old lady and her cooking is amazing. About the only thing I really don’t care for about Vera is when she finds out it is someone’s birthday she makes us all go sing to them and give them a piece of her famous peach cobbler. She swears one bite of it and they’ll be back for more. “We give them one helping of my granny’s famous peach cobbler for free and they’ll be back sooner or later. I swear child, it’s just like them potato chips on the T. V., you can’t eat just one.”
The thing I loved most about Vera was that no matter what she was doing, whether it was taking care of the books or whipping up a batch of that famous peach cobbler she always made time for gossip. If there is one thing you can trust Vera for, it’s that she will always have time to gossip.
“Yeah, he thinks I’m cheating on him.” I tell Vera.
“Child, that ain’t no good.” she purses her lips. “Tell that boy he need to learn his place. You make the money now doncha?”
“Yeah.” I love the way Vera talks, it’s like something from a time forgotten. It always puts a smile on my face.
“Well baby girl, I was you I’d leave his ass. Huh. Jesus Christ tell us to treat each other right and some boy be treating you wrong like he does, then he don’t go with God and that ain’t no man for you sugar.” There was something about when Vera cursed, it always made me laugh a little.
“Oh but you got children with him huh?”
“Yeah, well, just the one.” I tell her.
“Oh child. You too young to be having babies. You just a baby youself. Babies having babies, my lord of wonders what gonna be happenin next?” Vera says shaking her head.
I smile. “Vera honey, I’m twenty five.”
“Oh honey child, I understand. I had my first little one when I was but sixteen.” Jane’s eyes widen as soon as she hears Vera say that. “That’s right dear child, and the the next one at nineteen. And lordy I don’t even know no more haha.” Vera just laughed. “I do love all my babies though, mothers love like no other, you know what I say doncha girl?”

I nod. From the look on Jane’s face I’m pretty sure that Vera and I have convinced Jane to never have children at all.
“How about you child? When are you going to make some babies?” Vera asks Jane. I know she was just messing with her but we are having fun now and I finally don’t feel as shitty as I did before.
“Uhm.” Jane was speechless.
Vera laughs louder than I’ve ever heard her laugh. “Oh child, I just be playing. You too young to be having babies. You need to get you an education and then you can have some babies.” Vera looks at me sternly. “Like you should have.”
Vera walks back into the kitchen and all I can think is “Thanks Vera, thanks a lot.”
I start feeling shitty again.
“I’m going to go have a cigarette.” I tell Jane and I turn around and head for the door.
“Can I join you?” Jane asks me. I can tell she was nervous about asking. Initially I want to say no but “Sure,” comes out of my mouth. I guess I could always use the company.
It’s cold outside and the heat from our breath on the cold air mixes with the cigarette smoke to make tiny clouds. We stand smoking and looking up at the stars, they’re bright out tonight.
“So why are you still with that guy?” Jane finally asks me.
“I guess cause we got a baby together,” I say.
“That don’t mean nothing. I know plenty kids with step parents. Hell I’m a step kid myself.”
I hate to admit it but she has a point.
“Well we at least gotta try right?” I ask her. I wonder if she might have a better concept on all of this since she’s never been thrown into the middle of it.
“I dunno. I mean you can try, but I dunno.” she pauses for a second, “I mean there are other avenues you can take.”
She’s looks up and smiles at me.
“I ain’t never seen none.” I say and I drop my cigarette on the ground. I stamp it out and go back inside. Jane puts out her cigarette and follows me right after. We finish up the last few silverware and then I turn towards her and sigh, “Well, I guess I’ll see you next time.”
“Yeah,” She’s still smiling at me, “See you.” she says and walks to the door.
Suddenly she turns around and puts her arms around me. “You’ll be ok.” she tells me. “You’re a beautiful strong woman. And I know there’s plenty of other people out there that would love to make you happy.”
She’s right. She pulls away and smiles at me again and then says good night and walks out the door towards her car.
I take my apron off and put it in the linen bag, yell goodnight to Vera, and then walk out to the door to my car. I look back up at the stars and wonder if Jane was right, if maybe there were some other avenues I could take. Maybe I could even end up going to college like I should have so long ago.
I guess I’ll worry about all that kind of stuff tomorrow though. Right now I just need to get home and get some sleep. I open tomorrow and it’s going to be a long day.
I turn the key in the ignition but the engine doesn’t turn over. I’ve been worried that something might be wrong with it. Rodney keeps on saying he’s going to get around to it but he hasn’t yet. The third time I turn the key it starts. I reverse out of the parking space behind the diner, shift the car into drive and start to head home. With any luck Rodney will be passed out drunk and I won’t have to deal with him tonight.

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