A Short Story by
Mona strode through the café with the coffee pot, an eye out for half-full mugs. As she topped off the cup of a construction worker-looking guy on table eight, she felt a tap on her hip, from the fingertips of a thirtyish blonde lady at table nine, by the entrance. The lady wanted to know if the French toast that Mona’s co-waitress, Johanna, had delivered ten minutes before, could possibly be any colder.
Yes, it could be, Mona thought. I could stick it in the freezer for five minutes. Then it would be colder. But she said, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I’ll have the cook heat it up for you.”
She plucked up the offensive meal and beelined for the service window, where she clunked the plate next to the order wheel and said to Ellis, the cook, “Hey, numb nuts, you wanna heat this up a little? Lady says she doesn’t like cold French toast.”
“Oh yeah? Well I don’t like mouthy waitresses, but I put up with ’em.”
Mona gave him a look that would have wilted a lesser man.
Ellis was undeterred. “Did you tell her it was cold because she sat there yakking on her cell phone for fifteen minutes after Johanna delivered it?”
“Just make me a fresh order, jack ass,” Mona hissed.
“Yeah. Right,” Ellis said to her back as she stepped out into the dining room to tell the French-toast lady that the cook would have her order—piping hot this time—right out.
The lady, who had resumed her cell phone use, gave Mona a quick nod and dismissive little wave of her fingers.
Ellis should have made a fresh order. The French toast that Mona had brought back was soaked in syrup that had dissolved the snow flake effect of the powdered sugar. But Ellis, gazing out at the offending woman whose mouth was now running in high gear again, sending communications of the highest importance bouncing off an orbiting satellite, decided he’d just put the tepid breakfast in the microwave and nuke the living shit out of it.
Mona returned, looked at the plate and protested. “This is the same French toast.” She wrinkled her nose at the steaming dish on the service window. “You didn’t make a fresh order.”
“So,” said Ellis.
The syrup, under the influence of three minutes in the microwave, had lost it viscosity. It was now a watery brown fluid bubbling virulently atop the French toast and on the plate beside it, tinting to a rich coffee color the flesh on the decorative slice of orange that Ellis added to the dish.
”There’s a bite out of it,” Mona said, her face crinkling into a grimace of disgust.
“It’s her bite,” Ellis said, nodding at the cell phone lady. “It won’t hurt her.”
“What a class act you are, what a five star chef.” Mona huffed. She picked up the plate and then dropped it immediately. It had soaked up the heat of the microwaved food and treated her to a painful burn. She mumbled “mother-something” at Ellis around the stinging finger she had stuck in her mouth, then folded a napkin to use as a hot pad, and carried the scalding meal out toward table nine.
A folded napkin is not a very effective hot pad. The heat, as Mona strode from the service window, bled through the paper. This increased her pace. She had achieved a screaming, full-on sprint by the time she approached table nine.
The cell phone lady, catching movement in her peripheral vision, turned to see the banshee-wailing waitress barreling at her. It looked like an imminent assault. She screamed, and Mona dropped the plate on her table. The cell phone lady took the scream into another dimension as the syrup—having regained a 30-weight, oil-like consistency on its brisk journey across the café—splattered dew-sized droplets of the sticky goop onto the lady’s face, and sloshed the caramelizing orange slice flip-flopping into the air and hitting the frightened woman in the cleft of the v-neck of her powder blue blouse as she rose from her chair, sticking between her breasts.
She dropped her cell phone and let out a whoop that shattered her empty water glass, as Mona reached out and peeled that burning half-moon of orange—along with a layer of skin—off the woman’s blistering sternum, leaving a scar the would not pale, and eventually found itself incorporated into a stylish, provocative tattoo.
About Dan McClenaghan
I began with my Ruth and Ellis/Clete and Juanita stories in the early 1980s. At the beginning of the new millennium I started writing reviews of jazz CDs, first at American Reporter, and then (and now) at All About Jazz. I’ve tried my hand at novels, without success.
I’ve been published in a bunch of small presses, most notably the now defunct Wormwood Review. This was in the pre-computer age, when we whomped up our stories on typewriters, then rolled down to Kinkos to make copies, which we stuck in manila envelopes, along with a return envelope with return postage attached. Times have changed.
Aside from the writing, I am married to the lovely Denise. We have three wonderful children and five beautiful grandchildren; and I am a two-time winner—1970 and 1971—of the Oceanside Bodysurfing Contest. Kowabunga!