No More Tears Today
This was not LoraLai’s first day on the job, but it may as well have been. She felt as coordinated as a rhino in a ballet, as cooperative as a puppy in a sausage factory, and in general, like crap. She delivered the cereal and toast to the bacon and eggs dude, she delivered the breakfast meat special to the vegetarian, and she delivered the carafe of coffee, to the elderly lady who loved coffee, but was prevented from drinking it, because of high blood pressure.
When the dapper old gentleman with the Irish bowler on his head, sat down at the counter, as opposed to one of the tables, there was nothing unusual in that. He was on the short leg of the “L,” in such a position, that he could see the entire restaurant from his vantage point. He noticed LoraLai immediately. He had an eye for pretty girls, and an even more focused eye, for beautiful women. Though he had close to sixty years of experience in these matters, he still was uncertain, into which category LoraLai belonged.
At a quick glance, he saw the girl, a slender form, a fragile quality about her, that led him to believe, that she was light and breezy, and innocent of the serious business of living life. There was nothing untoward about her working in this nondescript cafe, except for the fact that that she seemed a mite out of place, as though she were a princess, working in the scullery.
After observing her clandestinely for a few minutes, he adjusted his initial assessment, and placed her into the second category, that of a beautiful woman. As she swept around the end of the counter, to give him a menu and a glass of iced water, she gave him a tenuous smile, and said, “Hey there, I’m LoraLai, be back in a minute, but this will get you started.”
“Sure and that’s grand, lassie, I’ll just take a peek at the fare.” There was the slightest of lilts to his voice, though she did not think him a foreigner. It was more as though he were refined, an unusual personage to be found in this little hole in the wall.
So today, because LoraLai was feeling awfully klutzy, she put her best face on, and she told herself to slow down, that less was more, if she didn’t have any disasters, and that it would all be good. Alex watched her surreptitiously, over his Sporting Green, seemingly engrossed in the horse racing page, with its listings of completed races, pending races, and the odds of these individual contests. He used a short golfing pencil to make notations in the margin, and to any casual observer, Alex had no evident interest in anything more than that newspaper.
But he saw Loralai’s little miscues, and he saw the determination to overcome them, and the set expression on her face, pleasant and focused, and he became enamored. He began to root for her in the way he might have cheered for one of his racing ponies, beautiful lines apparent, despite the outcome of the race. When she returned to take his order, a trace of distress in her face, as she contemplated whether she had kept him waiting too long, he smiled benevolently at her, and said he was on Holiday, and was therefore in no hurry. She couldn’t help but notice the pale mark of a ring recently removed, and the slightly slumping shoulders, of a man in mourning.
Gratefully she took his order, the tomato juice, over-easy eggs, English muffin, with marmalade and the hot Barry’s Tea. He spread his paper napkin over his lap, elegantly, with just a trace of prissiness, as he returned to his Sporting Green.
He continued to monitor LoraLai, watching with irritation, as a grease monkey, complete with grease-infused, mechanic suit, kept hitting on her, every time she found it necessary to pass by his table.
He asked her as she brought him his breakfast, if louts like the grease monkey bothered her terribly, and she laughed at the question, and shook her long sandy-colored hair.
“It comes with the territory,” she said. “I’m good at blocking that stuff out.” Everything was starting to flow more naturally, as food had been delivered, the pace of entering patrons had finally slowed, and some of the idlers had moved on down the line. She paused a minute to chat with Alex.
“Are you from Ireland?” she inquired shyly.
“No, but I’ve just come back from an extended visit,” he mentioned. “And you? What else do you have going on in your life, besides this occupational hazard?”
She allowed her face to relax into a satisfied smile, and said, “I go to school at San Jose State, and am taking classes in music. I play.”
And she reached to his left side, to relocate the salt and pepper within easy reach of him, she knocked that iced water right over into his lap. There was one brief instant of disbelief, and then she reacted, doing everything you would expect under the dismal circumstances. He downplayed the whole thing, despite his soaked crotch, and assured her that there was no harm, but a single tear appeared for the length of time that it takes to blink, and she brushed it away, dismayed at her clumsiness.
LoraLai sought solace in the employee restroom, coming out five minutes later, to see that Alex seemed nonplussed, munching contentedly on his meal. Well, that was a relief, she thought, though she didn’t know what she would have done, if he had seemed unhappy. She busied herself with the table of nine, and the two toddlers in high-chairs, and all that accompanied a multi-generational visit, from prominent locals.
When she emerged from the kitchen, arms laden with glasses of water and juice, she noted that Alex had left. As she drifted over to clean up the remains of his breakfast, she wished she could have done something more to cheer him up.
There, with just the tip of one corner protruding from under the English muffin saucer, was a one hundred dollar bill. Contrary to what LoraLai thought, evidently, Alex felt she had done just fine. No more tears today.