Something Better: Part 2
Without any Muss
Millie saw the man enter the restaurant and felt her heart lurch, and she had all she could do to keep the service tray parallel to the table, so as not to upend the two large bowls of vegetable soup, the two large salads, slathered in bleu cheese dressing, and oh, the four tall iced waters. She’d worked at this job in the tavern so long, she could do that kind of balancing act, with her eyes closed. However, if she did that, she would not have seen Larry.
She did not know him by name, but she remembered him coming in when her son Ricky was just starting little league. She’d thought to herself, maybe he was the type of guy who liked to play baseball, maybe toss a ball back and forth to a ten-year-old kid, whose own dad was too wrapped up in his own world, to notice much of anything. Richard didn’t seem to notice that there was a little boy, not to mention a wife, who deserved more than to be placed on the back burner, while he pursued his lifestyle with his bar-hopping buddies, and hinted of “changes to come.”
The man entering the restaurant was fit in appearance, about 40, and wore his hair fashionably long, over his collar, and had a neatly trimmed mustache. His slacks and polo shirt were casual, and it seemed as though he might have been coming from his gym, because his hair had a sheen to it, as though it were still drying after a shower. He did not wear a ring.
As he settled himself at the same counter where he had eaten that first time, he spread out his Sporting Green over the top of the rest of the Chronicle, and immersed himself in the account of last night’s Giants game. She had noticed him perusing his Sporting Green last time also, and had started pondering the presence of a male in the house, to interact positively with her son. And then, as ridiculous as it sounds, with all of the diners, and all of the dinners, she recalled that he had ordered his turkey sandwich without looking at a menu, and had not ordered beer. But who was keeping track?
Now I remember. He had that lopsided smile, and I liked it. Richard used to smile, but that’s finished. At least, he’s in his own place, pretending to be “getting his act together,” when I know his circus act is no solo performance.
Larry had been on quite a merry-go-round himself, in the past ten weeks, with Sydney, his wife, taking an overseas job with her magazine, explaining to Larry that she could not pass up the opportunity, for the exposure of Paris, and all that accompanied it. Fashion is what accompanied it, a language and a lifestyle that defied interpretation, and Larry was relieved that she had jumped off the sinking ship, that was their marriage. This way he would not have to be the bad guy, only the guy left answering the door, when the divorce papers were presented to him by the server.
I knew she’d be here, though in all reality, I also know how good waitresses are always in demand, and that they move from job to job, depending on how it all worked out with their life schedules. I’m glad to see she’s still here. I think her name-tag says Millie.
Now as Millie approached, giving him her best of welcoming smiles, she had an inspiration. She dumped the menu she had been carrying at her station, walked up to him, pad of paper in hand, and asked, “Will it be the usual? Turkey sandwich, with everything, and French fries? Was that an iced tea?”
He returned her smile with what he hoped was an extra amount of pleasure in seeing her, and in acknowledging that she was good.
“You remembered! I’m impressed. How do you do that? I guess it comes with the territory. Oh, and that was a Diet Coke, but pretty close.”
“I think it’s because you didn’t look at the menu, and sometimes it takes guys a while to figure out what they like on a menu.
“Well, I know what I like,” he began...
Oh no, I hope he’s not going to lay that old line on me...
“I like turkey sandwiches, and it just seems to be something that all restaurants can handle, without-”
What am I saying here? I can’t stick my foot in my mouth. I have to think before I step on my-
“...any muss. I mean, what’s the fuss with a simple turkey sandwich? Besides, I like it, and I can’t eat beef.
More information than she needs. Next I’ll be telling her that I floss twice a day.
They were both surprised to hear a voice from the rear bellow out, “Millie-for you-it’s your kid.” The tavern had a strict rule about employees yakking on cell phones.
Ricky? What the dickens was up? Was he sick? No way, he was all excited about his upcoming game. He had been working on the rawhide strings of his mitt, retying each of the knots, so that, as he explained it, “The ball can’t escape.”
“Oh, what now? I’ll be right back.” She hurried to the back where the office was, to take the call. She returned less than sixty seconds later, a stricken look on her face, as she explained that Ricky had left his mitt in her car, when she had taken him to the sitter’s, and now he was on his way to the ball park, without his glove.
“Can’t you just take it?” Larry knew she couldn’t; otherwise she would be doing just that.
This is a no-brainer, Dude. This woman is a damsel in distress, and I can help her out of this mess.
“No, it’s too busy now; I put a call in to my brother, if he’s around, but I won’t know, and by then, oh shit,” and she started back.
“Hey, Millie, you’re working too hard at this; keep my sandwich on hold, and I’ll run the mitt to the little guy.”
She whirled around. “Would You? I mean, no, I can’t let you do that. What am I thinking?”
For once, let someone do something for you. This guy is too good to be true. If you would just shut your mouth and let him go...
“You’re thinking of your son. Where is the mitt and where is it going?” He smiled that crooked smile at Millie, and she relented.
Millie kept the turkey sandwich on hold.