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.
Bobbie - June 19, 2017 1:03 pm
Well, didn’t you just start my Monday off right.
Thanks again, Sean….love it!
Sharon - June 19, 2017 1:09 pm
That’s what Daddy’s do.
Harriet - June 19, 2017 1:12 pm
This is one of my favorites. Just something a Southern daddy would do for his “baby doll.”
Mike - June 19, 2017 1:18 pm
Love your work.
In the matter regarding “over easy,” I went for years and years with “over easy” and then all of a sudden, maybe the last couple of years, I was getting runny whites. I almost always ask for a definition of the term before I order now because I cannot feature runny whites. Are you suggesting that there are people out there who do? That someone would order his eggs with a runny yoke and runny whites? Really?
Bill Turner - June 19, 2017 1:40 pm
Your accounts of lives-gone-right are wonderful reminders of the best in people. Bright spots in humanity.
PS – The next time you’re in Graceville early enough for breakfast, stop by the Piggly Wiggly deli to meet Sarah M. She can serve breakfast and brighten your day in as long as it takes to foil-wrap a biscuit.
Roxanne - June 19, 2017 2:18 pm
My very own Daddy spent a large portion of my childhood trying to get me to eat over easy eggs. Alas, when he figured I would never learn to eat eggs the right way, he taught me the fine art of cracking and nursing and turning at just the right moment so the yolk stays nice and whole and runny, “‘Cause someday you gonna marry a man who likes his yolks runny.” I did not. My man likes his eggs over hard. The most satisfying day of my life was when I was pregnant with my first child, and Momma and Daddy had come for the shower. He leaned over my shoulder as I carefully cracked my husband’s three eggs in the skillet of popping bacon grease. Perfect. He stood by my stove and watched as I let the edges get crisp and at JUST the right moment reached in with my spatula to turn them over, but first I went WHAP, WHAP, WHAP with the corner of the spatula to break the yolks–like my husband likes ’em. For once, Daddy was speechless and sputtering. I said, “That’s the way he likes ’em, Daddy.” Then I proceeded to make Daddy three, beautiful over easy eggs…runny yolks and all.
Jill Shaver - June 19, 2017 2:40 pm
What a happy way to start my day! Love this story, and want to visit all of the places you go. God Bless.
Gail Stewart - June 19, 2017 2:45 pm
Oh my that hit home! From a daddy’s girl and your friend the jowl kisser!
Teresa terry - June 19, 2017 3:14 pm
Great post! I too have a soft spot for waitresses. They work so hard and some people forget that!
Bobby Reeder - June 19, 2017 5:33 pm
Always Dad’s little girl…… always!
Brenda McCue - June 19, 2017 7:16 pm
Loved the surprise ending. I never skip any of your little southern epics! Makes me wish I was born further south than Versailles, Kentucky!
Jeannie - June 19, 2017 8:05 pm
A sweet , surprise ending!! I love stories about those that work so hard because they love and care about those they work for!
Gail - June 19, 2017 9:28 pm
Gail - June 19, 2017 9:30 pm
Such a wonderful story!!!!
Jack Quanstrum - June 20, 2017 7:19 am
Ha!Ha! Great balls of fire! What a story. It was a cliffhanger, I didnt know where it was headed next. And you wrapped it up in a pretty red bow. Your descriptions are out of this world. Thank you Sean for another great story.
Kelli - June 20, 2017 11:23 am
Ahhhh but you brought a tear to this Daddy’s Girl’s eye. Sweet memories of my Daddy and the kind of love shared only by a father and his little girl (no matter how old she may be) will do that every single time. Thank you for that warm and fuzzy feeling first thing this morning.
A dear friend introduced me to your work recently and I’m now a fan for life. Your love and understanding of the human race make your work impossible to ignore. Always attracted to the slow and easy ways of the south, I like to consider myself a southern girl but some don’t believe that West Virginia is ‘south enough’ for me to qualify. I disagree. I believe southern is more a way of life than a geographic designation. (If you disagree, please engage your southern charm and don’t say so. Simply let me continue to enjoy my delusions. 😉 )
Kathy Lane - June 22, 2017 11:51 am
It doesn’t matter how old you are, your Pop always loves you and wants to help you. Precious story
Deanna J - August 5, 2017 12:55 pm
You are the best
Steve - August 6, 2017 2:36 pm
I’m a daddy. I have a grown little girl. She still calls me, “the first man she ever loved.”
Brenda Gruenewald - August 6, 2017 6:31 pm
Oh, I loved this one, too. Awesome job, Sean.