I’m scribbling down an order from a rowdy family of five when my best tippers stroll into the main dining area and seat themselves at the corner table. Mr. Stevenson’s got on his faded Astros hat, as usual, and Mrs. Stevenson’s clutching her metallic purse as if it’s a shield. They show up here every Thursday for the Tex-Mex special: endless tacos for $9.99. He’s crazy for the hard shell; she prefers soft. Greeting me like a cherished friend, they ask how I’ve been and whether my son’s sleeping through the night yet. After a minute or two of chitchat, I take their drink orders—same as always—and promise to return right away. When they think I’m out of earshot, they start sniping at each other, and on my way back to deliver their Drafts of the Day, I overhear phrases like “never listen” and “don’t even care anymore.” Once they spot me heading toward them, the angry conversation halts and they paste on pretend smiles. Setting down their icy beverages, I consider telling them how marriage counseling saved my friend Trudy’s marriage, but then decide I’d better keep quiet. Can’t afford to lose that 25% tip.
Lori Cramer’s short fiction has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, FewerThan500.com, Ink In Thirds, Postcard Shorts, Pudding Magazine, A Quiet Courage, Rum Punch Press, Seven by Twenty, Unbroken Journal, and the 11th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection. Email: bulldog29[at]msn.com