by LOUIS J. FAGEN
Waitress by Thunderchild7 | Flickr
She talks about him like he is the end all, be all. Oh, honey, I say to her, he isn’t all that. Hunting season brings in all kinds to this diner, always has, always will. You can never be too careful, honey, I tell her. Locals and out-of-towners come crawling out of the woodwork, but they’re all the same under that camouflage and their bright orange caps and whiskers.
She doesn’t listen. She coos his name like a pigeon tossed shreds of bread. Bill Bridges, she coos, he told me his first and last name on opening day. (Imagine that!) Was that before or after I saw him set his hand on your hip? Doesn’t matter, she says. What good is a hip like mine if a man doesn’t set his hand on it every once in a while? Oh, honey, I say, there’s a time and a place for hip hugging and it ain’t in a diner filled with hunters and you hustling around waiting tables.
Bill Bridges is from upstate. He’s her ticket from here to there, she says, out of this godforsaken town and waiting tables and using the laundromat.
Oh, honey, I say as I load two Hungry Man Platters and a Pancake Supreme up my arm, I hope you’re right, but I know you ain’t.
What do you know, Donna? she says as she looks at a ticket, hollers to Charlie that he forgot the strawberry jam on the Waffle Jamboree order. She glances over her shoulder to Bill Bridges, who can’t even wait to stick that unlit smoke in his mouth until he gets outdoors. He winks at her, lifts up his check and a twenty, drops them both on the table, and slides out of his booth.
She watches him leave, watches him through the window as he struts to his pickup. He reaches over the side of the box, lifts the deer head up by its antlers, and smiles to her.
She gives him a thumbs-up, watches him pull away. He got a nine-pointer this morning, she tells me. She sniffles. He’ll be back around for turkey season in the spring.
Turkey season, honey, I say, well, isn’t that about right.
Donna, sometimes I just want to smack you good, she says and touches her fingertips to her quivering bottom lip.
We all got to be our own Bill Bridges, I tell her. I pull a napkin from a dispenser on the counter and dab her eyes where the tears are welling up and threatening to get her mascara running. Be your own woman, I say. Get yourself from here to wherever it is you want to go and do it on your own. Get out of here with your own two legs and two hands and that pretty head you’ve got on your shoulders.
You first, Donna, she says. You first.
Oh, honey, that’s a good point, I say, but did you ever wonder why I want so bad for you to be your own Bill Bridges?
Louis J. Fagan is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Upstate New York. He is currently at work on a novel based loosely on his short story, "Slit," which was published in Weber--The Contemporary West. Further publications can be found in typehouse, Five on the Fifth, and Red Eft Review.