Alice twirled the pencil in her hand expertly, jotting down the orders with relative ease. Five years working as a waitress would do that. She had mastered short hand writing, taking orders using simple symbols of her own design.
It wasn't the most glamorous job in the world, but she was content. The customers were mostly kind, she hardly made mistakes with their meals, and there's always that one person who would leave a twenty for a tip.
She had her regulars, her passerby-ers, the traveling families, the occasional drunk, the weirdos, the tourists, the perverts, and a few she could only categorize as miscellaneous. Today seemed no different than any other as she made her way towards a newly-occupied there on one side was a young man who looked to be no older than thirty. His hair was cut short, almost marine style-like, his eyes dark green and his clothes very casual.
He was also smirking.
Sitting across from him, Alice saw, was perhaps his son. The boy looked no older than five; his hair was a bit long for a boy, though his large chestnut eyes made him adorably cute. Alice could see the boy was clearly upset, for his arms were crossed and his face was scowled.
Pulling on a gentle smile, Alice made her way towards them. "Hello, I'm Alice," she greeted warmly. She passed out the menus from her apron. "Would you like something to drink while you wait?"
"Hello Alice," the man smiled dazzling at her. "I would like a cup of coffee please. Black."
"Alright," she jotted down on her pad. She turned to the boy. He was still glaring at his father. "And you sweetie? What would you like to drink?"
The father coughed loudly, though it sounded like he was covering a laugh as Alice jerked slightly at the request. The boy sounded serious. "Now, Sammy," his father grinned at him. "No beer till you twenty-one."
Alice's mouth dropped. The father laughed wholeheartedly, shaking his head. "Kids," he said, offering up as an explanation. "Just get him an orange juice, would you sweetheart?"
The waitress gaped for a moment, then silently wrote the order. "I'll be back in five minutes," she said quietly, turning away.
"Sammy, don't make take you outside and spank you," she heard him say as she walked back to the kitchen.
"You're enjoying this too much."
For a few moments, Alice toyed with the idea of letting Betty take the table. She decided against it, knowing Betty already had her hands filled with a particular irate customer who wanted his waffles brown instead of golden-brown.
A pot of coffee in one hand and a cup of fresh orange juice in the other, she made her way back to her miscellaneous table. The father and son looked to be arguing. The boy, Sammy, was speaking fast and making gesture with his hands. The father simply looked amused and this, apparently, was making Sammy madder.
As soon as she approached, Sammy backed off. He leaned back into the booth's red padding, glaring at his father. "Have you decided what you wanted?" Alice asked softly, pouring the father a drink before setting the pot down on the table. She placed the orange juice in front of the boy, who murmured a soft thanks.
"Yes, I'll have the house special," the father grinned at her, giving back the menu.
Alice nearly blushed. It was nice to be smiled at from such a handsome guy. She turned to Sammy, who would be really cute if he too was smiling. He gave her back the menu and said, "The same."
"Are you sure?" Alice asked. "That's a lot of food for a little kid yourself. Are you sure don't want something from the children's menu?"
She didn't know what she said, but apparently it was the wrong thing as Sammy turned his glare from his father to her.
That was then the father threw his head back and laughed. "Don't be scared Alice," he said chuckling. "Get him what he wants. He's a big boy now, aren't cha, Sammy?"
Alice gasped when the boy gave him a rude gesture.
Waggling his finger at him, the father merely cooed, "No dessert for you," he turned to Alice. "Two specials, please."
Alice had dealt with irritable children before and Sammy was certainly in his I'm-a-big-boy phase. Though his attitude was something radically different than what Alice had experience with, she was confident she could win the kid over.
Fifteen minutes later she came back with their meal. Two large plates filled with Salisbury steak, mash potatoes already covered in gravy, peas mixed with carrots and two buttermilk biscuits. She placed the first plate down in front of Sammy, who looked tired but still irritable. When she placed the plate down in front of his father, she expertly passed him a set of children's utensils, since the once already available were too big for a child.
The father was a bit confused when she had done this. Everything made sense a moment later, when Sammy tried to spear one of the steaks with his fork. The fork was too large for his hand, and the steak, too heavy. The moment he tried to pick it up, his hand lost grip and it clattered back down with a wet splat.
Gravy went everywhere. On Sammy's face, his hair, his clothes, the surrounding area, while his fork had bounced off the table and fell on the floor.
Sammy lowered his arm, his lips thin. Without a word, Alice passed him a packet of moist toilette while she bent down to clean the floor and retrieve the fork.
When she straightened up, she saw the father was dangling the children's utensils in front of the boy's face. Alice nearly gaped. The boy was frustrated enough, the father didn't have to mock the kid like this.
Smiling, the father said, "Take it. Unless you want me to cut your meat for you."
Glare renewed with much heated force, Sammy reached over and snatched the child fork and knife out of his father's hand.
Leaving them to their meals, Alice focused her attention on her other patrons. She kept one eye on her miscellaneous booth, admitting that the interaction between the father and son was a bit amusing. The boy, despite the permanent scowl on his face, was too adorable to describe. At some point, Sammy left the table to go use the bathroom. Moments later he came back sulking and admitted to his father, "I can't reach the sink."
Alice felt a wave of warmth as she watched the man get up from the booth to follow his son into the bathroom. He was chuckling the whole time.
As expected, when Alice came back to the table twenty minutes later, Sammy could only finish less than a third of his meal. "Would you like a doggy bag?"
The boy nodded mutely, tired.
Even the father's laughter had died down at this point. He chose to only look warmly at his young son, the grin still plastered on my face. "You're so cute," He giggled.
Sammy scowled at him. His father only responded by leaning forward and ruffling his hair. The boy pushed his hand away indignantly.
Despite the strangeness of it all, Alice almost hated seeing them go. They had made for an interesting experience.
Alice began clearing their table of dishes as they went to the register to pay. She noted, amused, that the father left a bigger mess behind than his son did. Heck, even the child utensils were properly tucked away, sitting on top of the folded used napkin.
"You shut your trap!"
The sudden raised voice made Alice to turn around. The whole diner went eerily quiet, all eyes on Stanley.
Stanley was a regular. Occasionally he came in drunk, but most of the time he was a sweet old man who tipped well. Judging from his red nose, this was not one of those days.
"You take that back!" He was yelling at his fishing buddy, Adam. "You take that back, you bastard!"
Alice's boss came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on his apron. It wasn't the first time they had to stop one of Stanley's drunken rages. "Now Stanley-"
This time, it seemed, Stanley wasn't going to be content with just yelling. He reached over, grabbed his coffee mug and threw it.
The throw was poor and the mug sailed over Adam's head by a good three inches.
Sammy was fast. He threw himself to the side before the mug made contact with his head and it shattered innocently on the ground.
There was still a hiss of pain.
Apparently that mug was not completely devoid of coffee when thrown.
"Sam!" The father cried out suddenly, going down on one knee. "Are you okay?"
Sammy was rubbing at his face. His father didn't bother to wait for a response before scooping the boy up in his arms. Angrily, he turned to Stanley who was still ranting and raving. "Get that sonnaabitch out of here before I kill him!"
Stanley was half-pushed, half-pulled out of the front door. The father quickly sat Sammy down on the countertop, assessing the damage. The boy's head was down, his hands swiping at his face. "Sam? Sammy? You okay?"
The father began to use his own shirt to wipe off the coffee. "M'fine," Sammy muttered, pushing away his hands. "Just startled me is all."
Alice could see the tension leaving the father's shoulders, relieved. He still looked quite uneasy, even as he said with a grin, "You need to stop placing yourself in the path of flying objects."
Anybody within hearing distance flinched slightly. Except for Alice. She is a bit annoyed that the boy is still using such language, but she now knows it's just the way the two talked to each other. There was no true malice there.
The chef, wanting forgiveness (and avoiding a possible lawsuit) offered the small family a free meal. The father happily accepted.
It took perhaps another ten minutes for the chef to whip up another lunch special for the family. In the meantime, traveling seemed to take its toll on young Sam. The boy's head kept bobbing up and down in obvious weariness, his fists rubbing at his eyes.
It was a losing battle. Before the chef even had the chance to place the free meal in a container, Sam had fallen asleep against his father's chest.
"He is so cute," Alice cooed out loud as she packaged the food. "You must be proud."
The father gave off a rather embarrassed grin. He shifted Sam gently in his arms so he could accommodate the bags of food. "Thanks," he whispered. "And by the way, do you know where I could find a Diana Kirkman?"
This gave Alice pause. Diana Kirkman was an old widow who lived by herself on the edge of town. Kids loved to repeat the rumors that she was a witch or some kind of voodoo priestess. Of course, Alice didn't believe in any of those rumors, but she had to admit the woman was pretty strange for normal standards. "Uh, yeah, she lives on the other side of town. Near where the maple trees grow. May I ask why?"
"She's my grandmother."
Alice was taken back. "She's Black."
The father's eyes grew slightly wide, looked off ways before saying, "Yeah. So?"
"Nothing," Alice muttered. After all, the world was changing. Who was she to judge?
She had other tables to serve and didn't get a chance to see the family off. She did however catch glimpses of the father gently positioning his son into a black car. With a loud roar of the engine, the miscellaneous family drove off, in the direction of Diana Kirkman's house.
Alice was left with one more surprise as she finished clearing their table. The father had left her a three dollar tip. Sam had left five.