It was a bright early Monday morning. The diners were quietly enjoying their morning repast, or perhaps it was the first coffee of the day. Either way everyone was jolted out of their personal reverie by the door been thrown violently open.
“Yo, Coraline where are you hiding the bodies? I know you are poisoning people here every day!” The loud words spoken were at odds with the scholarly looking older gentleman. The grin on his face was hard to miss and quite confusing.
Some people looked up in horror, some people shook their heads and went back to their breakfast, and some people chuckled and waited for the response.
“Well Adam, the day is young and I’m looking for my first victim. Please have a seat. Coffee?” As the well seasoned waitress approached the newcomer, she too had a smile on her face and her coffee pot was already pouring his first cup. Adam took his usual seat at the counter.
It seems that these two were well matched with their witticisms and they had been good friends for many years. The diner where they met almost every morning had been a going concern for more than seven decades. In the late 30s it had been a speakeasy and there were stories that could be told about that time but never were. It had been passed down over the years from father to son to grandson until it was the well attended diner of today. People came for their morning cup of coffee and a tasty breakfast. They also came for the entertainment. Coraline had been working at the diner for at least three decades that people could be sure of. Adam had been coming to the diner for almost the same length of time. The two fit together like oil and water, ham and eggs, gasoline and a lit match. They did honestly respect one another and everyone enjoyed their arguments immensely.
“How is your grandson doing Adam? It was just an infection wasn’t it? The concern in Coraline’s voice was apparent.
“Yep, it was just a dang’d bug in his ear. He’s a tough kid. He is already out playing with his baseball.” Adam shook his head and smiled. He was obviously proud of the young boy.
Coraline grinned as she wiped down the counter. “Must take after his late grandmother.”
“Excuse me miss? Can I get a refill?” A young college student had watched the discourse between the two and waited for a lull in the conversation. But the need for coffee outweighed the need for civility. Coraline was starting to pour his coffee almost before he finished speaking. She was efficient.
“Miss . . .” once again Coraline was there before the sentence was finished.
“Would you like anything else dear or just the bill?”
“The bill please.” The young woman speaking was new to the diner and she was one of the ones who had looked up in horror when Adam and Coraline had first spoken. She looked sad. She was sitting at a table alone and it looked suspiciously like she had been waiting for someone. She was near tears.
Coraline ripped off the bill and handed it to the young woman. “Never you mind dear, no man is worth any tears.” The young woman in question looked surprised. “Honey just you remember, if it’s a ‘man’s’ world, then they get the blame for screwing it up! They are really only good for opening tight jars. You go on and have a good day.”
Coraline moved on to the next table and the young woman started to chuckle. She was feeling better and she would enjoy this day.
The other diners were not in need of her so Coraline returned to the front counter and to Adam.
“You have been studying that menu for ten minutes why do you bother? You are going to have the same thing that you had yesterday and the day before that and the day before that.”
“Well I might try something new if this menu ever changed.” Adam settled back in his chair, he was waiting for her reply.
“If we changed any of the words on the menu you wouldn’t be able to read them.” Coraline never missed a beat.
“You know your coffee should be on a banned substance list. Tastes like cheap drugs.”
“And yet you keep coming back for it. I guess you’re addicted. Does that make you a drug user? I knew you were a criminal at heart!”
Adam opened his mouth to respond but was cut off when Coraline raised her hand. “Sorry Adam I would love to continue this conversation but real people require my attention.”
As she moved off to deal with the other diners Adam shook his head and smiled, “she got me with that one!”
With her usual efficiency Coraline dealt with the few customers that were left. Some needed bills, some needed refills and one just wanted information about the way the eggs were cooked. But no one was dissatisfied with the food or with the service. That made it a good day. Eventually there was just Adam nursing his coffee at the counter and a beautiful young woman in the corner drinking an ice tea. She had exotic features and was certainly one that people would notice.
“Adam have you made a decision? Are you going to have the Eggs Benedict’s like you usually do?”
Coraline chuckled, “Coming right up. Harold should have it done by now. I already ordered it.”
Harold was the grandson of the original owner of the diner. One day the diner would belong to him outright. But for now, he had to pay his dues and that meant cooking to a standard that was acceptable to his parents, to his customers and to Coraline. So far, he was doing just fine.
“So, what’s her story?” Adam was curious about the one patron left. Plus, he was always looking to trip Coraline up. She thought she knew everything.
“According to my information,” Coraline was loving this! “She is the registered nurse out at the old Wilkinson house. Old man Wilkinson is 104 years old and he is still trying to pinch the bottoms of the aid workers. They are really just young girls with no experience. So, the family decided to bring in a professional. Her name is Nirmal and she was born in . . .”
“Stop it! Just stop it! She has only been at the Wilkinson’s place for two days how do you get this information? I know because the cook there is a cousin.” Adam was flabbergasted that she had one upped him again.
“Well now, I can’t reveal my sources. But you know Adam I know lots of things. I know that you have a new lady friend, it’s about time by the way. And that she likes pink roses and white hyacinths.”
“What the! How the? You! Where!”
“Here you go Adam. Enjoy your breakfast.” As the Eggs Benedict were placed in front of him Coraline turned to go.
With a noticeable spring in her step she knew that she had stunned him once again and was quite proud of herself.
In time Adam left, grumbling good-naturedly. Nirmal also left but first she smiled and thanked the waitress. Finally, thought Coraline, someone with manners in this joint. When the diner was finally empty, she began to prepare the tables for the luncheon crowd.
Several minutes later the door chimes sounded. When she turned around Coraline was speechless, but only for a moment. What she saw was not what she was expecting but rather a young man with dirty hair, dirty jeans and a gun.
Without thinking she responded in the only way she knew how.
“So young man, what can I get you? Coffee?”
The individual in question was nervous.
“Give me all your money, I want your money, and I want it now!”
“Don’t be silly,” answered Coraline, “that isn’t on the menu. And stop waving that gun you might hurt someone. Now sit down and I’ll see if we have any muffins left.” She kept chattering away mostly to keep her courage up. She placed utensils and a coffee cup in front of the young man motioning for him to sit.
The poor man didn’t know what to do, so he sat. Coraline put a muffin in front of him and poured the coffee.
“Oh, we have some lovely preserves that would go well on your muffin, let me get them.” Caroline moved to get the preserves and the strange kid stood up.
“Lady I’m robbing you! Pay attention!”
“Well kid you blew it!” She returned with the preserves and placed the jar beside his plate. Her hands firmly on her hips, she responded, “Harold left this morning with the receipts and all I’ve got is a couple of bucks for the bus and you can’t have that. Now sit down and eat. You look awful. Do you do this for a living? You don’t look very successful.”
The kid licked his lips and sat. He was confused and hungry. He put the gun down and picked up the muffin. Coraline scooped up the gun and stepped back.
“So, is this a police special or a 45, maybe a 9 mm? Do you have names for guns? Like the Buster Special? Silly things.” She put the gun under the counter and looked at the kid. He was totally frozen.
“Lady are you nuts?”
“So, you want eggs over easy or maybe eggs Benedict? Harold makes a great eggs Benedict.”
“I thought you said he left?”
“I lied. Do you want more coffee? Oh, and we have great pecan pie left.”
“Lady you are crazy!”
“Perhaps, but I’ve got the gun.”