The Writer's Cramp 6/23/21 W/C 423
Lunch Counter Memories
There is a brown lump sitting on my fence. The next door dog is barking at it.
“What’s that, Lillie?”
I couldn’t believe it was just a baby bird. A robin, red breast feathers just starting to come out. Its tail feathers were stubby, the wing feathers not fully grown. Little tufts of down stuck out everywhere making this little one look like a rumpled old man in an ill-fitting suit.
“Hi there. What are you doing here?” No sign of a mother bird. No nest on the ground.
Little bird sat quietly on the fence. Black bead eyes opened and shut. It hunkered down on the wood.
“You won’t be here tomorrow. There are cats around. Be well, little one,” I whispered to it as I went in the house and went to bed.
I thought of this for a time. I remembered my first job. It was in a diner. A real old-fashioned eatery across from the county courthouse. I was all dressed up in a tissue-thin white dress and white shoes.
The boss was a woman named Gladys. She wore a hairnet, bright red lipstick, a stained white dress, and rundown white shoes.
“So, when they come over for the coffee break, then you just hurry your butt and wait on them.”
I had no clue what to do. But when twenty attorneys come en masse, you figure it out and fast.
When it was getting time for lunch, I had the job of separating the cheese. You took a big brick of American cheese and separate each slice. Paper between each slice to make it easier to grab when you had a cheeseburger on the grill.
“Alright,” yelled Gladys, “here comes the lunch bunch. You’re on the counter. You have those people that sit at that counter. You take the orders, you fix the food, you write the tickets. And don’t throw any of those tickets away. I keep them all. If you do, I’ll think you are cheating me. And then you’ll be out the door.” She stomped away. Those were my orders on how to wait on the customers that sat at the lunch counter.
I got paid 50 cents an hour, plus tips.
When I woke the next morning, I found the little bird still on its perch. It sat waiting for something, perhaps mother bird to feed it. Just like a little old man sitting in a booth at the diner, with a suit that didn’t fit and mussed up hair.