Decided to dip my toes into the waters of creativity here at WordPress by participating in this writing challenge.
The goal is to show the same scene from two points of view. I chose this prompt:
- A waitress welcomes an elderly regular as he takes his seat at the counter in the diner. The man just got word his wife is dying of cancer. The cook watches through the order window.
And here I go!
— — — — — —
He keeps one eye on the clock even as he turns the sausage.
The sound of sizzling fills the small, dingy kitchen of then diner. Luke knows that, just a minute from now, the cowbell hanging above the door is going to clang, signaling the arrival of one of the locals. There are a lot of locals that come to this dump, but there’s only one that matters.
He swings his spatula around, pointing it toward the walk-in fridge like a weapon, just to entertain himself while the sausage cooks into the hard little pucks that Mrs. Anderson likes. It turns his stomach every morning to watch all that fat bubbling and rolling and charring across the hot surface of the griddle. Later, he’s going to have to scrape it off and the smell will make him want to puke on his shoes.
The tinny sound of the cowbell dinging makes Luke forget the sausage and the work and how much he hates this crappy place. He slides across the slick floor and crosses his arms as he leans in to stare through the order window. At first, he doesn’t see anything but Captain Winston petering across the tiled floor toward the third stool at the counter. Nobody knows what he’s the captain of, or if he was ever even an actual captain of anything, and no one’s bothered to ever ask him. He watches the wince transform the old coot’s face as he sits down. Then the newspapers come out, one section at a time, stacked in opposite directions right next to the napkin dispenser. When he sets the pepper shaker in the middle of stack, it makes Luke think of a cherry on top of a sundae. He shakes his head with a short. He’s seen this ritual so many times that he no longer finds it odd.
The swishing of a curly, auburn ponytail perk’s Luke right up. Yes. Allison glides in front of Captain Winston’s seat on a set of long, curvy legs. Luke feels his heart somersault as his eyes take a slow, lazy path from her trim ankles up to the spot, mid-thigh, where all that golden skin meets the red fabric of her uniform. He can’t hear the conversation between Ally and the old codger, of course, but he knows, any second know, that he’s going to what he wants.
Ahh. Hell, yeah.
There it is. It punches Luke in the gut as hard as his old man’s fist used to. Every morning, he expects that this is the day when he’ll get used to it. But every single morning, his reaction still manages to catch him off-guard. He sucks in a breath as she walks away to get the geezer’s coffee, the smile still on her face.
He looks forward to it every damn morning, because, even after nine months of working here and trying his hardest, Captain Winston is the only guy that’s ever made her smile reach all the way up to her pretty green eyes. The rest of the time, her eyes are dark and guarded. Like they’ve seen a million things and every damn one of them was bad. But at least every Tuesday through Saturday, at 11:01 on the dot, her entire face transforms into nothing but radiance and happiness. Luke wants to figure out why Captain Winston makes her smile that way, and how he can get her to smile like that for him, too.
*** *** *** *** *** ***
Everything hurts. Body. Mind. Soul. Heart. It all hurts.
Captain Bob Winston, US Army – retired, walks into the diner just like he does every other day of the week, but he has no idea why he’s here. He should be at home with Carol. Of all the places in the world, the last place he needs to be is sitting on the cracked stool of a run-down diner. Carol needs him. She needs medicine, food, someone to make sure she’s warm. She needs support and love and dedication – all the things he’d been too damn selfish to give her until it was too late.
A shudder shakes his thin chest and tears burn behind his paper-thin eyelids. He tries to focus while he stacks the sections of his newspaper in the order that he’ll read them in, but he finds himself drifting. It’s been two days since Doc Anderson leveled with him. “She’s not going to get any better, Bob. It’s time to accept the fact that, from this point forward, all you can do is make her comfortable. She waited too long and we caught it too late to do anything at all.”
The touch of a warm hand atop his cool one brings him back to reality. He blinks a few times, clearing the fog from his eyes, and tries to smile back at Ally. She’s always a bright spot in his miserable days because she reminds him of Carol when she was young and vibrant and her heart hadn’t hardened toward him yet. Today, he can’t even muster half a smile toward Ally, let alone a flirty greeting to tell her how she’s the prettiest little gal east of the Mississippi. He sees her smile slip away and concern turn her sweet face serious, but even then, all he can do is shake his head and ask for coffee. She smiles at him again and squeezes his hand before heading off to get his coffee and bagel.
Bob stares down at his hands. They’re shaking like they always do. The tremble started three years ago, but Doc said it doesn’t mean anything. Still, he sees his hands and struggles to fathom that they’re even his. He still pictures himself a strong and virile, but his hands, weathered, spotted, and wrinkled, tell a different story. They’ve pulled triggers that ended lives, thrown baseballs to grinning sons, stroked along the smooth, dewy skin of women who weren’t Carol.
Carol. Shit. Carol.