“Patronage”

by G.T.

        I submitted this piece last December, on my twenty-first birthday. I was out of work, had absolutely no money to my name, smoking a pack of cigarettes that a friend had given me as a birthday gift, and didn’t have internet at my place. With nothing else better to do, I walked to the library that cold, muggy afternoon, logged onto a computer, and submitted this story. Several months later (April, I think), the publication sent me an email, informing me that they couldn’t open the file, because it was in Rich Text Format, and they don’t read files in RTF.

        Well, I came across the story and it’s no good. In fact, describing my twenty-first birthday in the previous paragraph is more entertaining than this story. However, I may as well publish it myself. It’s flash fiction. It’s only 350 words.

It won’t take so long to read. Maybe I’ll write a story about my twenty-first birthday and publish that later. Here’s “Patronage”.

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        Same ol’ same ol’. And yourself? Good, good. You know me too well, but I’m going to change it up tonight, or should I say this morning, and have some cream this time, with my coffee. So if you could bring some…thanks. And you know what, I’ll have something to eat tonight, for a change, too. I’ll take a bowl of the baked French onion soup. Now do you cook it with the layer of cheese on top? Okay, okay. Yeah, I’ll have it with the cheese. Thank you.

        Ah, thank you so much. You know, I come here a lot around this time of night. Of course you know. You’re always my waitress. I don’t mean to point out the obvious. Tell me, how long’ve you been working here? Damn. I’ve never held a job for that long. The longest job I think I ever had was…oh, you have an order up? No problem.

        The soup is fine, thanks. You don’t have any more orders coming up, do you? No, then why don’t you sit down. I don’t mind drinking coffee by myself, but I don’t like eating alone. Your name is Stella, right? Because you write your name on every check, that’s how I know. I like your handwriting. I know that’s weird to say, but I do. The way you write the ‘e’ and it swoops up to make the two ’el’s’. Your handwriting has this lively, bubbly look to it. I would expect to read your name when it’s sunny outside, not at a quarter past two in the morning. And definitely not in a place like this.

         No, no. I don’t want another coffee. I wanna ask you, Stella, if you would like to have coffee with me sometime soon. Would you like to? Maybe when you get off of work in the morning, or if you have a day off this week. What do you think of that?

        Really, it’s no big deal. I just thought I’d ask. No, no, you don’t have to give me the check. Here’s a ten. Keep the change.

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       There’s this seedy diner in Joliet that used to be open twenty-four hours everyday (only on the weekends now), and they had baked French onion soup that was pretty good when it wasn’t too salty. And it was salty often. And there was this waitress who worked the midnight shifts. She intrigued me. It was worth a few paragraphs.