1 :: she’d man the diner daily. from the stroke of dawn. for a group of irregular regulars. her strokes predictable. navy button-down. black trousers. our steps varied. stewed & stirred from overnight shifts & morning meters. clothed in cranberry wools, brown plaid overcoats, & cotton tees.
2 :: her charges came from all directions. the no. 1 most popular – two eggs (any style), two strips (any meat). the no. 5 most vain (eggs benedict & virginia ham). counter requests. booth bets. booster seats. high-back chairs. all stocked & stacked.
3 :: her movements were as regular as our orders. check cutlery. secure caps. brew (regular & decaf). baste (turkey & time). refill (syrup, mugs, stalls). her tasks as complex as the menu. bold font. laminated. wiped clean daily.
4 :: the chalkboard home to the day’s soup. a rotation. tomato. beef. chowder. chili. i wondered if any came from a can. tables never pry, she’d say.
5 :: a warhol original behind the register. campbells. stacked and stocked. an eight by four grid. her map. all tables sorted. clam chowder & chicken noodle. cream of mushroom & vegetable bean. tomato rice & green pea. thirty-two tables. souls to serve. to the power of four. sometimes more.
6 :: “mind your noodles,” she’d quip. “chill like the chili.” then click. clack. snap. crackle. rice krispies to the left. frosted flakes to the right. two percent or whole milk. wholesome & home baked.
7 :: we’d flock to the diner like the rain. seeking jam. craving shelter. a bunch of grapes. some sour. over-ripe & always hungry. for stock. stuff. seasonings. soup. everyone eats.
8 :: until the day the diner failed to open. not debt. destiny. she was called to other duties. of a higher degree. & in a place where the lights were always on & the doors always open, none of us got to say goodbye. to the woman who spooned, served, & savored our daily special.