May I Take Your Order?
Time for another Writing Challenge. Here were my prompts:
Jen- Birthday Taco Cake
Wendy- When Oompa Loompas play Candyland.
Cameron- New England clam chowder with a side of whipped cream (but hold the potatoes)
Erika- A lonely place next to the sky
I spent many childhood summers in Cape Cod. I had to pick Cameron’s!
Casey sighed as she tied her apron around her waist and pinned her nametag to the brown waitress uniform. Larry’s Famous Diner must be the only establishment in Massachusetts that required waitresses to wear uniforms that looked like they were from the fifties. She should be grateful, she told herself. Her aunt helped her land this job after only a week in Mashpee, and Lord knows, she needed the money before she started Boston College in the fall. Casey looked in the small mirror on the locker room wall and tucked a frizzy strand of brown hair into her ponytail. She missed California’s non-humid summer days and wondered what her friends were doing.
The swinging door that separated the lockers from the diners flew open and Sylvia grabbed Casey by the elbow. “Come on. Have you already punched in? Fletcher’s got his tightie-whities in a wad this morning. He is barking at everyone in the kitchen, and the regulars are coming in early. It’s more than I can handle.”
“Okay, okay. I’m not late,” Casey said, following the much older waitress through the door. Sylvia just waved a hand at her and trotted over to her half of the restaurant, which was already filling with the old men of the town who wanted their coffee and their toast. They came every morning, bringing their chess boards, newspapers and local sports expertise.
Casey’s section wasn’t as full, but there was a family of six crammed into one of the booths, holding menus in front of their faces. Larry, Boss-Owner-Host, made eye contact with Casey and pointed at the table in exasperation. Casey hustled to the table and smiled. “Good morning, I’m Casey and I’ll be your waitress today. Can I get you some coffee or juice to start?”
The menus lowered and Casey stifled a laugh. They were all wearing identical Red Sox t-shirts and shared the same shade of blonde hair and sunburned skin.
“Hi Casey! My name is John, and this is my family. First, I’d like you to meet my lovely wife Martha.” A middle-aged woman looked at her through thick glasses and waved. “Our oldest is Timmy; he’s about your age I’d say.” Timmy, engrossed in his cell phone, was clearly a couple years younger and more immature than Casey. “Those beautiful girls there are fourteen year-old Mary, and twelve year-old Nancy. The family runt is Nicholas. He’s six.” Nicholas banged his menu against the table.
There was an awkward silent moment. “Awesome,” said Casey trying to wipe the look of surprise off her face. “Welcome. What can I get you?”
“We’ll take a round of waters and orange juices.”
Casey hurried over to the drink station behind the counter and wondered what information she would be given when she asked them what they wanted to eat. Sylvia was pouring coffee into cups that were lined up, assembly-style on a tray. “Sylvia, has anyone ever introduced themselves back to you and given you their ages?”
Sylvia gave her a quick glance and went back to pouring. “Honey, stuff like that ceased to surprise me ten years ago. People will tell you their life stories and still give a crappy tip.”
The morning rush continued, with a few familiar truck drivers sitting at the counter and two tables overflowing with the Presbyterian women’s Bible Study. The loud chatter of women’s high-pitched voices, the clank of cups on the tabletops, the din of clanking pans from the kitchen mingled with the ‘50s soundtrack that Larry insisted on playing from opening to closing.
A handsome man in dark sunglasses with salt and pepper hair and a strong masculine jaw line walked into the diner. Impeccably dressed in a navy blazer, white t-shirt, and designer jeans, he had an aura, and it breathed wealth and confidence. The man had either just stepped off a yacht or a movie set, thought Casey. Trailing him, on the end of a brown leather leash, was a small Chihuahua. As the crowd noticed him, the volume of the place dropped several decibels, to the point that Casey could hear the dog’s toenails clicking across the linoleum and Frank Sinatra singing about the sunny side of the street.
Casey looked at Larry, who was frozen in his spot, and apparently forgot to tell the gentleman that dogs weren’t allowed. The man walked up to the counter, put one hand on the edge, pulled down his sunglasses with the other, and looked directly at Casey, drowning her in the darkest, sultriest eyes she’d ever seen. In a deep, voice of velvet he said, “I’d like New England Clam Chowder, hold the potatoes, with a side of whipped cream. To go, please.” Casey, fidgeted with her apron, and stammered, “Of course, coming right up.”
She ducked into the kitchen and delivered the order directly to Fletcher. Fletcher’s volleyball shaped, bald head ignited. “What? Who dares to mess with my clam chowder? No potatoes? Am I supposed to frickin’ pick them out with chopsticks? Who is this idiot?”
Sylvia appeared behind Casey. “Shhh, Fletcher. He’ll hear you. Eunice swears it’s George Clooney. Now, please, be nice and get his order ready.”
Fletcher looked through the small plexi-glass window that separated the kitchen from the dining area. “George Clooney, you say. Clooney my ass. If so, he’s a long way from Hollywood.”
The two local boys who helped Fletcher wash and fry were looking over his shoulder. “They do make movies on location, you know,” said the lankier one. “It’s not unheard of. Angelina Jolie was in Chatham last April.”
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had a star at Larry’s,” said Sylvia.
Fletcher scratched his head. “I wonder how he knows about my clam chowder. Whipped cream? Really? The stuff already has heavy cream in it.” He looked at the boys. “Why are you standing here? Shut up and fill the order, pronto. Put the whipped cream in a separate container.”
Within ten minutes, Casey brought out the order. The diners had resumed their chatter but it was definitely more subdued. Nicholas had left his family booth and was petting the dog. The mystery man was standing at the counter, talking to one of the truck drivers, his hand casually in one pocket, a graying chest hair poking out from his V-necked shirt. Casey handed him the order, blushing against her better judgment. “Here you go, I hope you enjoy it.”
“I’m sure I will. Thank you.” He paused and read her nametag. “Have a nice day, Casey.” He unfolded a wad of bills, paid, and left her a generous tip. As he strode out of the diner, the little Chihuahua following close behind, he winked and smiled at Eunice who immediately started fanning herself with the paper napkin.
After a moment of silence, the place started buzzing.
“He said he’s here for at least a month,” said the driver, Harold from Sureway Trucking. “He’s definitely a movie star, but he said he wasn’t allowed to tell me where the set was. They need to keep the riff-raff out, you know.”
“His dog’s name is Chester,” said Nicholas proudly.
Chester Clooney and his owner came the next morning and the next and ordered the exact same thing. By the fourth day, Fletcher had a separate pot with potato-less clam chowder. He had tasted it with the whipped cream and declared it added a richer, fuller taste. However, he would only add a dollop of whipped cream upon serving so the cream would gently slide its way into the hot soup. Soon, others were ordering the clam chowder the same way.
By the tenth day, Casey was certain that everyone in Mashpee, Massachusetts had tried the clam chowder with whipped cream and no potatoes. At the end of the second week, Larry printed up new menus, with a line that read, Larry’s Famous, Famous Clam Chowder, an improved recipe from Larry’s Famous Clam Chowder, acclaimed by the stars, and served with a dollop of cream.
The other waitresses begged Casey for her early shift, but she wouldn’t give it up. She’d lived in California her entire life and had never met a star. Now she was in Mashpee, Massachusetts and had daily contact with one. Casey couldn’t wait to get to work each morning, for those thirty seconds when he pulled down his sunglasses, revealing his sultry dark eyes and placed his order. Not to mention his generous tips. Although she found it odd that he always ordered the same thing, paid in cash, and never stayed in the diner for long, she wasn’t going to argue. Truth was, she had gained a bit of fame for being the waitress who took his order.
Then, one bleak disappointing day, the visits stopped. No final goodbye, no last order. By the third day, the regulars were telling stories about how he had to rush back to Hollywood for an important meeting with Spielberg. They scolded themselves that they hadn’t asked for autographs. After a week or so, the diner settled back into its usual routine of chess playing old men, Bible touting Presbyterians, and chowder-ordering tourists.
One day, when Larry was going through the mail, he let out a holler and held up a white envelope. “Hey listen up guys, we got a letter from Hollywood.” The place hushed and Fletcher emerged from the kitchen. Larry tore open the envelope and unfolded the paper inside. Anticipation hung in the air like thick maple syrup. He cleared his throat and read,
Dear Larry and all the folks at the diner,
Thank you so much for your kindness to me during my stay in Mashpee. I appreciate how you accommodated our needs as I’ve had a lifelong potato allergy and Chester will only eat his kibble if it has whipped cream on top. I can’t get true New England clam chowder in California, though the San Franciscans think they can fake it by putting it in bread bowls. If you want to see the fruits of my time in Mashpee, keep an eye out for “Mister Rong” this summer. It’s a new movie starring George Clooney. I play his double in the stunt scenes. I know many of you thought I was the real George and I appreciate that you allowed me to stay in character while I was there.
“We’ve been had,” screamed Fletcher, dropping a pot onto the floor. “He ruined my clam chowder! The cream was for that blasted dog!” Larry dropped the letter, his face white with shock. Casey pursed her lips and reached into her apron, clutching the few dollars of tip she had earned so far that day.
The only one who seemed unperturbed was Eunice. “I thought he was a little too stocky to be the real George,” she said.
Amy is a proud member of the BBB’s and is seeking representation of her middle grade novel Tunnels & Traitors. She’s currently working on another middle grade, The Renaming of Hubert Humphrey Lee. Check out her blog Sunny Spells at amymoellering.wordpress.com.