This place is a dive. Part trailer, part screen-porch. Plastic blinds. Window-unit air conditioner.
My waitress has a hoarse laugh and smells like morning cigarettes. She is middle-aged, wiry, she she wears high-school colors.
She asks what I want for breakfast. I order three eggs, a chicken-fried steak, hashbrowns, grits, and the tallest glass of OJ allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
She asks how I want my eggs.
“Over medium,” I say.
“Yellow runny, white done?” she clarifies.
This lady’s good. Some waitresses think “over medium” means: “cooked until the yellow is hard as billiard-cue chalk.”
After my order, she walks toward the kitchen. I can see through the food-delivery window. She’s cooking.
Funny. I thought there would be a cook here. But it looks like Sister is on her own today.
It takes her three trips to bring all my food. My glass of orange juice is level with the brim. She carries it like she is balancing the Emily Post encyclopedia on her head.
She jots the order of the table beside me. Three white-haired men just made themselves at home.
She calls them “honey” and “sugar.” The man in suspenders gives her a kiss on the cheek. She kisses back.
She warms up coffees, makes small-talk, then back to the kitchen to rustle up several more breakfasts.
While she’s cooking, the bell on the door jingles. A group of men. They are tall, round, and they look like they are hungry enough to eat a 1976 Pontiac.
She hollers, “Have a seat wherever!”
The door jingles again. Two older couples. Women in pearls. Men in ironed blue jeans. They look like someone’s grandparents.
“Sit anywhere!” she yells.
More people arrive. So many, in fact, they begin to back up. They’re forming a line on the porch outside.
She’s jogging from table to kitchen. Cooking. Serving. Refilling. Bussing. Yes-sirring. Working up a sweat.
One man asks for more butter. Someone wants coffee. Someone wants to change his order.
It’s a wonder this waitress doesn’t have a nervous breakdown.
The old man in the suspenders stands from the group of white-hairs. He walks to the kitchen. I see him through the window. He’s tying on an apron.
Soon, he’s handling the stove while she mans the dining room. They are a well-oiled machine. The two of them feed the entire restaurant like it is easy work.
Later, she hands me my bill. I pay cash and leave a healthy tip. I have a soft spot for waitresses.
“It got busy, quick,” I remark.
“Yeah,” she says. “And our cook is home sick today.”
The man who was working behind the cooktop is still hard at work.
“Good thing he was here,” I say.
“Oh, him?” she says. “He saved my butt today. He ain’t never even worked here before, either. He just visits to check on me, to make sure I’m alright.”
“Sounds like a good friend.”
“Friend? That ain’t my friend, that’s my daddy,” she laughs. “I’m a daddy’s girl.”
A daddy’s girl.
I’ll just bet you are, darling.