The Diner (Part 1 of 2)
Two men sat on opposite sides of booth twelve in the small diner situated just off the interstate. One man was in his early twenties. The other looked to be in his mid-forties. Both had brown hair with matching brown eyes. They were very similar looking and could be guessed to be father and son. In fact, they were.
They chatted on and off, obviously well acquainted, though there was an air of nervousness between the two of them, like that of two people who were meeting for the first time in a while. It was true, between college and work, the two men hadn’t met in person for some time. However, they caught up on this lost time with conversations held between sips of their sodas.
The older man periodically glanced towards the door as though he were waiting for someone else to show up. The younger man didn’t seem to notice, or he didn’t care. He held the conversation up, talking about his college studies, his girlfriend, his interest or lack of interest in joining a fraternity. His dad nodded at all the right times, spoke a few words when it was obvious he should do so, and continued glancing at the door.
“Dad, he’ll be here when he gets here.”
“I know, I’m just… nervous.”
“Don’t be. He’s probably on his way now.”
The older man tapped his fingers on the table and looked around the diner for the first time since arriving, taking in the scenery the small building had to offer. The walls were filled with old photos—many of the diner’s first owner, some of the famous musicians who had stopped there to eat on their way across the country to entertain the masses, and even a few photos of previous presidents, like Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. He hadn’t been in this particular diner before, and neither had his son, so this was all new to the two of them.
As the older man looked around, the younger man scrolled through his cell phone—he checked his messages and tried to keep busy. The conversation between the father and son had lulled and dropped off for the moment.
“May I refill your drinks?” the waitress asked as she made her rounds by their table. The men both nodded, and she whisked their glasses away to be refilled with Coca-Cola.
The door jingled, and the older man looked over, but it wasn’t who he was waiting for. He sighed, and the younger man smiled sympathetically.
“Any time now, Dad,” he said. He put his phone away, and then he too studied the photos on the wall.
The waitress brought back their full drinks moments later. She asked them for the second time that afternoon, “Would you like to go ahead and order or wait for your other companion?”
The father sighed again and motioned towards the menu. “Yeah, give us a moment to look over the menu, and we’ll go ahead and order.”
Both men picked up the menus as the waitress nodded and walked away, and flipped to the first page. They scanned their eyes down the list of breakfast options, then onto lunch and dinner specials. The father decided on a steak and eggs meal, while the son decided to order a burger and fries with the special jalapeno ranch sauce the diner offered. ‘One of a kind,’ the menu claimed.
The waitress came back by for their orders moments later and then headed back to the kitchen. The older man sighed and glanced towards the door again for the third time. But, again, no one came in or out.
“You think he got lost?” the son asked, trying to be helpful.
“No, he’s local to this area. He’s been to this diner many times before.”
“Try calling him again?” the boy suggested.
The older man nodded and pulled out his cell phone. He hit a name in his contact list and held the phone up to his ear as it rang. One, two, three, four times it rang, and then the voicemail message picked up. The older man shook his head and hung up before the beep could sound, not wanting to leave another message.
“No answer. He’s either asleep still or on his way; he never answers his phone while driving.”
“Well, hopefully, it’s the latter.”
The older man shoved his phone back in his pocket and tapped his fingers against the table again. The diner itself was rather empty because it was near eleven in the morning, just after the breakfast rush but before the lunch one. They had been there for nearly an hour already and had seen many people coming and going, but none of them were familiar faces. Both men were from out of town, only meeting at this particular diner because it was a central location to the both of them and closer yet to the man they were there to meet.
The food arrived not too much later, and both men unwrapped their silverware from the napkin holders and began eating. They spoke a few times about the quality and taste of the food, complimenting it and the cook as well, but kept their mouths full.
“We should eat here more often,” the son said, trying to take his dad’s mind off the fact that the third man was still not there, and their plates were halfway empty already.
“You think so?”
“Definitely. I’ve had a great time catching up with you, and this food is delicious. So, it’s been a good day.”
To be continued…