Having four people converse, making them all interact in the conversation in a meaningful way, NOT letting them get up and run away or otherwise move much… that happens all the time in life! But we rarely see it done in stories, and even more rare, see it done well. Here’s your chance.
Dan Alatorre has challenged us to a 1,000 word Flash Fiction Challenge that involves a conversation among four people, each of whom has to speak at least twice (no 500-word monologues allowed).
Title: The Most Important Meal of the Day
Word Count: 1,087
T he hostess met Tom, Harry and Donnie in the small waiting area between the front door and the dining room. She cradled a stack of menus in the crook of her left arm. “How’re y’all doing this fine day? My name is Noreen, welcome to the Quick & Tasty Diner. Will it be just the three of you joining us this morning?”
Tom smiled, “Yes, Sweetheart, it’s just the three of us.”
“Very well. Walk this way, please.”
Harry fell in line behind Noreen as she led them to their table. Her tight white uniform dress accented her shapely hips as they moved from side to side in a wavelike motion. Harry turned to Tom and in a low voice said, “If I could walk that way I wouldn’t need talcum powder.”
She stopped beside a table next to the outer glass wall of the diner. A beam of golden light outlined the edge of her body, her white uniform now vibrant, reflecting the sunlight, scattering it in all directions. Harry looked at her face, her green eyes dancing, her smile a challenge. She has done this before. This ain’t her first rodeo.
“Here you go, fellas. I hope you enjoy the view.”
Tom and Harry waited for the new apprentice, Donnie, to be seated. Each of them wanted an aisle seat. Donnie slid into the booth and Tom sat next to him, Harry sat directly across from Tom.
Noreen placed a menu in front of each of them. “Your waitress will be here shortly. Can I get y’all something to drink while you wait?”
“Three coffees?” Tom looked at Harry and Donnie for answers. They both nodded yes.
“Three coffees coming right up.” Noreen smiled, turned and sashayed to the coffee station. Harry followed her every move.
Tom said, “You’re spellbound there, pard.”
Harry continued to stare across the room at Noreen.
“Yo, Harry, it’s Planet earth calling. Will ‘ya accept the charges?”
Harry shook his head and let out a big sigh. “I love my wife. But oh you, kid.”
“She’s something else, I’ll give you that. Quite a swing to her walk.”
“If I had a swing like that when I was a kid I would have never left the backyard.”
“Here you go, guys.” Noreen distributed three cups of coffee, three glasses of water and a small pitcher of cream. “Your waitress today is Doris. She will be here in a few minutes. Can I get you anything else?” She was looking at Harry.
“A cold shower, honey?”
Her face began to turn red and she put on her best smile, “Enjoy your meal.”
Tom picked up his menu. “It’s been awhile, but I have always had good chow here. Yessiree, buddy-boy.”
A short woman wearing a white apron over a black dress limped toward their table. She carried a half-full carafe of coffee in her left hand and rocked from side to side like a penguin as she walked. The dark liquid inside sloshed around and almost spilled over the top. Seventy years ago a birth defect left her with one leg shorter than the other. An orthopedic shoe with a three inch heel lift compensated for, but did not completely correct, the difference. She stepped aside as Noreen hurried by in the opposite direction.
“Good morning, gents.” Doris began to refill each of their cups with more coffee. “Have you decided what you want from our menu this morning?” She raised an eyebrow and looked at Harry to see if her not so subtle question registered with him.
Tom came to Harry’s aid. “He’s married.”
“I like to window shop, but I go home to get dressed. Ok?”
“Whatever you say.” Doris turned to Tom, “What can I get for you, sir?”
Tom pointed to an item on the menu, “I’ll take the Number Three special. Scrambled eggs, sausage, grits and toast.”
“Wheat, White, Rye or Pumpernickel toast?”
“Got it.” Doris scribbled on the order pad.
“And I get the check when we’re done. Don’t listen to any of these guys, especially him.” Tom pointed at Harry.
Doris looked at Harry. “Ohhh, looks like you’ll have some extra spending money of your own. For your next window shopping trip.”
“Don’t bust my balls. So far it’s been one of those days.”
“As they say back in the kitchen, ‘If you’re going to make an omelette, you’re going to have to break a few eggs’.”
“Cute, real cute.”
“I thought so. Now what’ll it be this morning, Romeo?”
Harry took a short breath in and out. “I’ll have the Two-fer, with sausage. Wheat toast and grits. Sunny side up on the eggs.”
“Two eggs, two sausage, two toast, with grits. Got it.” Doris finished writing and looked at Donnie . “How about you, honey. What can I get for you this morning?”
“I think that I will just have some toast. Rye toast, please.”
“Get something to eat, buddy-boy. C’mon.”
“T-t-this will be fine. We kinda have to get a move on. I don’t want to hold us up.”
Doris looked at Harry and then at Tom and finally at Donnie.
Harry spoke first. “Listen up, kid. We’re gonna sit here and eat our breakfast in this nice clean comfortable diner and we are going to enjoy every minute of it.”
“Harry’s right, buddy-boy. The next meal we get is going to be out of a lunchbox while sitting on a stack of lumber or in the bed of the truck on the jobsite. If we’re lucky we’ll be in the shade, away from the porta-potty.”
Keehrist this kid is thick headed. A regular Dudley Do-Right. Harry took command of the situation, “Do you like eggs?”
“Scrambled, fried, over easy, sunny side up?”
“Yer killing me here, kid. How about bacon or sausage? Patties or links? You got a preference?”
“Fried eggs, link sausage.”
“Grits or potatoes?”
Harry looked at Doris, “He’ll have the Number Five, with Rye toast.”
“Got it. I’ll be back with more coffee.”
“We will mourn your departure and celebrate your return.”
Doris bent down and put her face close to Harry’s left ear. “Fuck you, Harry.”
They locked eyes as Doris straightened up.
“And people wonder why we call this the Quick & Nasty.” Harry grinned, “It’s good to see you again, Doris.”
Doris chuckled, “It’s been too long, Harry. You’ve got to come by more often. Bring your wife, Emily, next time.”