Nothing Ever Happens Here

Submitted into Contest #110 in response to: Set your story in a roadside diner.... view prompt

6 comments

Suspense Drama Crime

“Orders up!” yelled the big guy in the kitchen. He began ringing the tiny silver bell over and over.

“Alright, I got to go. Work is kicking my ass right now. Just make sure Lori gets to her appointment on time. Love you,” I said, carefully placing the phone down. I tiptoed out of my bosses office and made sure to leave the door cracked just as I’d found it. Swiftly making my way down the hall, letting the tips of my fingers feather the edges of old photos of the James family living their legacy. This was the family dream. To soothe the stomachs of the hard working folk in the community. To nourish the bodies and minds of everyone who steps foot here. Many, many people used to gather here in this diner to congregate and feast like no other. Everyone was welcome. 

The smell of apples and cinnamon swirled its way towards me. Breathing in and out deeply helps guide me to the main kitchen counter, where the hot plate sat. Gathering the silverware and condiments, I arranged everything precisely on my serving tray. Work, in fact, was not kicking me in the pelvis, it had been a slow morning. The midday stroll of a few regulars binging on croissants and coffee did nothing to jazz up my day. Everything had become so bleak and average around here. While the food here remains a staple, the crowd has dwindled into nothingness. Creeps and locals keep this place afloat. 

I deftly, yet gracefully strut my stuff over to an empty table 4. I caught a glimpse of a dull, brown bookbag, notepad, and pen in place of a customer. I didn’t want to start dressing the table while no one was there. It’s really against policy but who cares. No one who matters comes here anymore and whoever ordered this bowl of cheesy grits, sausage, and tea definitely didn’t either. Even still I show the best etiquette when setting up the table. Whoever eats here may not matter to me, but they still deserve decency, The courtesy of a fellow stranger. Ring, ring, ring, ring...along with another few taps of the silver bell means another face to greet.

I hadn’t met this customer yet, I figured he was in the restroom. Possibly pissing on the walls or staring at himself in the mirrors contemplating what he was even doing here. But he’s taking too long. I tilt my head down so that my eyes can see over my glasses to scan the room. Not that it helped me see better but because I wanted to make sure that I was in fact seeing. Panoramically, my eyes sought out each face in the diner. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 stragglers and 3 couples chose to excite themselves down here at the crossroads. The crossroads between going for it and settling down. Yeah, right there in between becoming one’s essence and being stagnant. People pass through life here. Life passes them on here. 

Grilled cheese and tomato soup. Heartwarming. This goes to booth 1, where a couple of guys were sitting in a booth along the opposite side of the diner. Both men looked as though everyone in life had failed them. Greasy grey head of hair, oil and dirt minaj in his pores with a snarky lip, this man to the left looked at me from top to bottom.and nodded in approval. A nasty grin and some more gazing ensued. They could be twins, I thought. Him and the guy to the right both the same in their own desperate attempt to be seen here. Both in denial about their purpose in the world, thinking they big shit in a room full of people suffering from their own depression. Both of them are clear examples of how uninteresting you can become and how low life can get for white men who don't understand their privilege.

“Anything else I can help you with?”, I asked the bastard on the right.

“Nothing other than your face in my crotch miss” was his sly retort. I looked down on him. Lord have mercy on him. He knows no better, this is all he’ll amount to. The other guy is chuckling and drooling, I’m disgusted. 

Where is my strange customer? The one whose food has begun to sizzle down. The one who obviously has enough sense to get out of this place. Maybe he could feel all that is wrong with us here, like our spirits leave a muggy thickness in the air and it would choke the life out of him if he stayed any longer. Or maybe he was drowning in his own acid sea of unworthiness. I just want to meet him. Or her. This diner does not segregate. Anyone is welcome, said the sign. 

Ring. Ring. “Another one hot and ready,” shouted the chef. I tread over back over to the main counter, pupils still searching for someone, anyone to walk over and take a seat at table 4. The intrigue is killing me. Suffice to say it doesn’t have to. I just wanted someone with an ounce of dignity to surface. I’d ask them where they’re going next. How far left do they have to travel? What made them nominate this diner? Why would you let your food here go to waste?

“Hey Mark, would you happen to know where the customer for table 4 went?” I questioned while placing the two bowls of soup and the bread bowl on the serving tray.

“I saw him follow a fine lady towards the restrooms a while ago,” he claimed while flipping over bacon spattering in its own grease. 

“Hmm, okay”. I let the thought of me going back there to inspect linger for far longer than I should have. Ultimately deciding to go check it out, I wanted to make sure I had all the intel I could gather from the isolate table 4. I didn’t want it to seem like I’m too invested in something as minuscule as a wandering customer. The potential for there to be a woman involved only peaked my interest. Maybe he followed her to the back to help fulfill her fantasy of sex in a random, distraught diner. Or maybe it’s to take her from a place where no one would care to look for her. 

A ripple of anticipation touched every part of my mind as I served the soup to the couple in front of me. The couple looked to be in their 30s but seem to lack conversational skills with one another. They each looked and spoke to me, not once looking or acknowledging their partner. There was nothing to see here but a failing relationship between people who were once passionately in love. A sign that love doesn't blossom or emerge here. They have been here too long and succumbed to the fate we all have which is to become invisible and wither off to the outskirts of humanity.

Quick gut thinking suggested I grab a nearby broom and pretend to sweep my way towards the back of the diner where the restrooms are. I started near the empty table 4, intending to decipher the handwritten message on the notepad. Failing to understand it all, I could only confidently read out “ follow me”. Who wrote this? The guy or the gal? I figured they must know each other but how deeply? The note was a secret direction. So I followed it.

Casually sweeping and scanning the room, I could see the men’s restroom entrance but not the women’s. I needed to get closer but a different ringing stopped me in my pursuit. It was the phone ringing from my boss's office. I knew it was my brother calling me back. Lori had a high fever and cold sweats for the past two days. Nothing at home was making a difference so I told him to take her to the clinic nearby. I needed to know if she was fine and that this too will pass. The fastest way to the office was past the restrooms. I could either miss that call and discover the end to my own curiosity or go hear disappointing news about how much Lori’s illness is going to cost us, mentally and financially. 

Peaking into the bathrooms is creepy on my part but honestly I just want to feed my imagination at this point. I want to know who these mysterious people are. I want to understand them because I’ve analyzed everyone else here. The messed up, predictable nature people of this town all have. This woman and man who I have yet to meet have my complete focus right now. I want to follow them. I want them to lead me out of here. This diner is nothing anymore and I became nothing by staying and working here. My life has turned to nothing, with my nothing brother, and a sick sister who will be nothing whether she lives or dies. 

So as soon as I open these restroom doors I’ll yell “take me with you!!!!” And hope they see me as just a little bit more than nothing. I want them to see me as someone who has walked in the darkness for long, long times to reach the light. Someone who at least can make it this far. I’ll beg them to save me. I’m standing right in front of both doors. I hear a faucet running water to the right and silence is coming from the left. I pushed open the women's restroom door where the water was coming from. It was empty, no one in sight. Just water flowing. I could feel my heartbeat through my face because that only meant that they were in the other restroom. This was a decoy.

After shutting off the running water I retreat back to the hall and stand in front of the mens restroom. What once was silence, is not anymore. I heard voices, more than two. Actually about four voices coming from within. And I wondered, what if it's just a bunch of men with their nuts out. I would look foolish bursting in. But what if something else is going on and that woman needs my help. It wasn’t much of a hassle deciding to push through the door after that. But what I saw was nothing like I’d expected. I felt like I no longer had the right to be there or to witness what was happening. One woman and four men were inside. One guy was on his knees while the woman had a pistol snug in his neck.The three other guys surrounded him making sure he didn’t dare move. 

But now all eyes are on me. The gun was now pointed at my face. The broom fell from my hands and I stood still. Making sure not to make a sound, the woman beckoned me over with her gun. I felt my eyes spill over with tears because I went looking for trouble and I found it. Hands in the air, I crept over to the group and was shoved to the ground. Both of us on our knees, we glance at each other because what in the hell is going on. 

September 06, 2021 19:03

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6 comments

Francesca Mohan
19:19 Sep 16, 2021

I found the author's voice filled with the tension they meant to build throughout the story. There were a few awkward grammatical flaws, but on the other hand, I found little gems scattered about of well-phrased movement in the story. If I am correct, this may be a less experienced or younger writer and I believe they have a budding talent.

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Cashmir F.
20:01 Sep 20, 2021

Thanks, I am new to short stories but this is my way of practicing to be better.

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Matt Slater
07:59 Sep 13, 2021

What a cliffhanger! Got me hooked. If you want to continue this story elsewhere, I'd be on board. Also, I like how you handled the plot and narration. Good work!

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Cashmir F.
12:50 Sep 13, 2021

Oh, thank you! I'm kind of curious myself to see where this story goes. I appreciate the feedback.

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S. Thomson
10:48 Sep 12, 2021

You have a great sense of narrative voice from your story here, great work. I am dying to know what happens next.

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Cashmir F.
12:49 Sep 13, 2021

I appreciate your comment! I can see this story evolving into something super deep and suspenseful.

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