#38

Fred was thinking about throwing a chair through the front windows when he heard Jane say order up, as she slid the plate through the small cutout between the kitchen and the dining room.

Pancakes and bacon for the fella over in the booth with the two kids. He came in about once every few weeks. They kids like pancakes and after they ate he’d drop them off at school then go to bed. Shift worker at the refinery next town over.

The morning sun of spring sent orange light through the front of the cafe, cascading down Main Street.

One of the larger tables was the usual group of old farmers in various shades faded overalls and flannel shirts. All drinking coffee, black with sugar. Later in the morning they’d all leave in a group. Fred never knew where or what they farmed.

A few minutes after that he’d see Brad across the street wave as he unlocked the doors to the pharmacy. Fred would wave back, usually without a smile.

The cafe did fine business but Fred always wished it did more. More for him. More for his spirit. The monotony of the work was stifling.

Jane had convinced him to take it over from his parents, she’d be in the kitchen, he’d manage the front. That’s the way things had been now since they got married. But it wasn’t enough. It was the same people, the same specials, the same food, all the time.

Jane: tomorrow I’m doing chocolate pie.

She always did chocolate pie on a Wednesday. Her pies were famous in the area. Mostly because she still made each one by hand, with flaky crusts full of lard instead of butter. She only made a few and they sold out nearly every day. Coconut was the least popular, but it had its regulars.

Fred could smell the apple pies baking in the oven in the back. They’d by ready by lunchtime, which around here started at about 11. The blackboard behind the counter read: Tuesday’s Special - Goulash.

The fella with the kids came up to pay and he bought a couple of lottery scratch cards. The two kids, with what looked like overloaded backpacks scraped away the grey with coins. The older boy won $2 which the father let him keep.

Him: you should save it.

The bell over the door rang as they left and got into the pale blue Chevy out front. The sun light had shifted towards yellow. Fred turned around and started a fresh pot of coffee, wiped down the counter, cleared the plates from the booth, kept his head down, didn’t make a fuss.