His entrance at nine-thirty sharp—half an hour before closing—dashed my hopes of cutting short the miserable day.
There was only one other customer at Gustav’s Diner, a grandfatherly type on the last spoonfuls of his apple crisp. Another five minutes and he would have paid and left, the kitchen would be pronounced closed, and I would be free to go—escape— curl up in bed and pass the remaining hours in the oblivion of sleep.
But now the new arrival had ruined it all. I watched as he shook the rain off his umbrella and walked towards the corner table, dripping a trail of water in his wake that I would later have to mop up.
Suppressing a sigh, I trudged over and dropped a menu on his table, muttering a barely audible Welcome to Gustav’s underneath my breath. Even as I walked away I knew that my attitude was all wrong, that Gustav would surely be disappointed if he saw me. Gustav, who hadn’t fired me even though I broke three plates my first week on the job. Gustav, who apologized to customers and told them he was at fault whenever I messed up the bill. Gustav, whose generosity was nothing short of legendary. Gustav, who had saved countless souls from the concentration camps. Gustav, who used only olive oil in his deep fryer.
It took a full ten minutes, while I impatiently clattered pots and wiped down counters, for the newcomer to study the menu.
"What'll it be?" I asked him in a hurry-up voice.
"Coffee," he said. "A bowl of chowder. Two hamburgers. Pastrami on rye, sauerkraut on the side. BLT, no mayo. Two ball park dogs with Chili and one with relish. A meatball sub, extra cheese, easy on the sauce. A small green salad. And a slice of that apple crisp."
The old-timer in the corner cleared his throat. "Say... I know you... You're that Evil Editor, right?"
I recognized the name and couldn't hold back a grin. "Gustav! That guy you sent your novel to is here!"
A crash in the kitchen was accompanied by some Baltic swearing; we were going to close up early after all.
Opening: JP.....Continuation: anon.