Ol’ Bill Dubois sits with a huff and a groan. Without missing a heartbeat, Sandy bounces over to him with a pot of black coffee. He sits hunched, the sports page pinned under his elbow, and exhales into his clasped hands. “How are ya, bubba,” Sandy asks in her usual way, but among the after-mass chatter in the diner, Bill allows for a moment of heavy silence. When Sandy comes back to ask if he and his wife—Diane, his high school sweetheart—would like their usual, Bill responds by meticulously stirring his coffee. He is bound by quiet. Sandy leaves, but later, without lifting his head, Bill cuts into his bleeding yoke, glances at the empty seat beside him, and offers to no one in particular: “There ain’t a thing usual about today.”
Two college kids—Daniela and Amanda—sit by windows, eating western omelets. Daniela has been going on about semiotics for about an hour. “I’m just saying,” she says, pushing her too-large glasses up, “love is an idea, a product of language, therefore it is nonexistent.” In response, Amanda forks a pepper and eats it, shaking her head at her roommate’s cynicism and defiance. She feels there must be a counter argument, but she hasn’t found the words. Then the waitress Sandy—who Daniela calls “Plain Jane”—swings by to ask if they need anything. The two shake their heads, but when Daniela goes back to pontificating, Amanda finds herself briefly mesmerized by Sandy as she bounces table to table, beaming at patrons: angelic in her grace.
A family sits around a table. Four kids: Carl, Ray, Susie, and Elaine. Two parents: Becky and Estelle. Carl and Susie ball up bits of napkin and, with spoons, catapult them at each other across the table. One hits Estelle in the eye and she pretends that it hurt. All the kids laugh at their mother feigning pain, briefly forgetting that the real pain is inside her. They can’t pronounce it—Lipfnoma? Lympnomia?—but they hate it. They understand what it means. Then Susie pipes up and suggests they say a prayer. “Lovely idea,” Becky says, winking—and they all bow heads and hold hands while Sandy, hovering over them with a fresh pot of coffee, closes her eyes.
Louis Raymond is the author of the story collection Vacationland. His poems and stories are published or forthcoming in Umbrella Factory Magazine, Poydras Review, Bartleby Snopes, Extract(s), Dum Dum Zine, and elsewhere.