The waitress gave him a look that told him he should just shut up

on

“Well, you’ve been in here a half-hour.”

His eyes narrowed but he nodded. “A half-hour.”

She gave him a look that told him he should just shut up. “You’re sitting
out in the dark and not paying attention. You drink coffee and eat pancakes
and then you order hashbrowns. So, you’re going to keep ordering that until
this guy gets done eating.”

“But I already ate.”

“Then you’ve got to get up and start eating.”

He sighed and sat down his coffee. “So where is everyone else? And what
happened to my wife?”

“She went to the doctor,” she said. “She was fine.”

“Then why the hell is she out of commission? She’s a real good cook.”

“A doctor is only a specialist, like a dentist or an optometrist,” she said.
“And a real good cook doesn’t need a specialist.”

“Why can’t I eat a real good dish if I want to?”

The waitress gave him a look. “If you want a real good dish, then you’ll have
to talk to the people who make them.”

He groaned. “Fine. I will.”

“You’ll just make excuses when things don’t go your way. That’s a waste of
the people’s time and money.”

“How is that a waste?” he replied.

“Oh, come on, man. It’s not like we’re giving people bad dishes. We’re providing
a product that people want.”

“People don’t want fucking potato chips.”

The waitress huffed. “I didn’t say we were. I said people want something that
works for them.” She sighed. “You just need to try again.”

He just looked at her. She sighed and left him to think about how much
worse it would have got if he really took her advice and asked for a real good
dish.

Life was just going on. The waitress sat on the second stool in the corner
of the diner; the cook in the first. The place was small and they didn’t need
a lot of tables. The counter where they sat was large and filled with
paperbacks and mugs. The diner was a little under half-full.

The door was open and a cool breeze hit his face. He took a pull from his
tweaker. His mind was in a fog from the hashbrowns and the coffee.

When the door closed, he could still hear music coming from the car speakers
and he looked outside. He could see the trees of a small forest. It looked
like the one at the end of the road that he used to live on. And it looked
like it was a little over a mile from his home.

A man walked into the diner and handed the waitress a check. He took a seat
at the counter and ordered a shake-and-bacon sandwich. “What’s going on here?”
he demanded.

Life’s eyes widened when he realized that the other man was an asshole and he
couldn’t tell how old he was, or how good a cook he was, or what he looked
like, or how little he had on, or what a jerk he was. Life just looked at him
and waited.

“You know that I don’t deal with people like you,” he said, getting right
up in his face. “You’re lucky I don’t call the law.”

The other man stood up, his hand at his side. “Are you telling me that this
is my place, huh? I have a right to walk in here and start ordering things
that I don’t want and then throw your business is my place, huh?”

Life just looked at him. He waited for the man to go away until the waitress
came out and cleaned up the mess. He got up and went to the door. “You can
call the law tomorrow if you want, but you still have to pay for my
dinner.”

The man came back to the counter and grabbed his shirt and punched him. Life
jumped from the counter, his shirt was torn and his jeans were a mess, but he
still started on a run down the sidewalk. That asshole wasn’t going to stand
up for some stranger whose place was a mess. He was just getting out the door
when someone threw a brick his way. It hit him in the head and he fell to the
ground in front of the diner.

That asshole tried to pry his hand off his shirt, but Life kicked him in the
head. When Life turned his head, he saw the man who threw the brick. He was
sitting at the counter, his eyes wide as he stared at Life.

“You know what,” Life said, his head bleeding. “You were right. You were right.
You should just go away. I’m not the way to make friends here.”

“I don’t think you know what’s going on here,” the other man said.

Life glanced up at him. “I’m not going to just leave,” he said.

“Fine. Just don’t do anything or say anything that you’ll regret afterwards.”

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