Written in response to: Set your story in a roadside diner.... view prompt



           My card is old, but I flashed it the way people flash a fake driver's license at a bar when they’re underage. The card said my dog, Fred, is an Assistant Dog.  So, they let me and Fred in. Thank God they let me in. See, Fred was a Certified Assistant Dog, but I didn’t renew his license and the state took away his credentials. But, I’m not leaving him in the car in 90 degree heat, he’d die, I don't have anyone I can leave him with, and if I leave him alone, then what if something happens and I need assistance. 

           So, I took out the old card in my wallet and flashed it. I also showed the manager my Veterans Administration card, so they let me in. Thank God. See, the job of a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder dog is the job of my fellow veterans. I was in the Afganastan War and during basic training, we learned to protect the person on our left and on our right, so everyone was protected. We learned how to wrap an arm or a leg tight with a tourniquet if someone was bleeding. We learned what to do if we were the person on the end of the line with a fellow soldier only on one side. We learned. And right now, Fred is my fellow soldier who’s on my right, left, front, and back of me. As long as the manager or policeman don’t bother me, we’ll be fine.

           A waitress in her mid-sixties and brown hair dyed blond (her roots are showing) comes to my table with a smile and says, “Hi, How y’all doing? Can I start you with something to drink. We got Coke, Diet Coke, Root Beer, Sprite, Mountain Dew, and beer.”

           Beer? At a diner? That’s weird.  I ask her what kind of beer they have and she tells me they serve Bud  and Bud Light. I decide on a Coke. The waitress starts to walk away and I pet, Fred. I feel him breathing hard. 

           “Waitress,” I yell. The woman turns her head back.

           “My name is Casandra,” she says, “not waitress”.

           “Ok, Cassandra, can I please get a water for Fred?” and I point at Fred.

           “Sure,” she says and walks back to the kitchen. 

           I pet Fred, he licks my hand, and pants. Fred’s meal is in the car, but I think I’ll have to wait until Fred and I go outside.

           Cassandra comes back to our table with a bowl of water and my Coke. Fred laps his water and sits. Good dog. 

           “Have you decided what you’d like to have for lunch, sir?” Casandra asks. 

           This is a typical American Diner (except for the beer), so I decide on a cheeseburger, French Fries, and ketchup.

           Cassandra asks, “How do you want your burger cooked?”

           Never knew a diner that cooked burgers to order.

           “Medium-Rare” I say. Then, Fred starts smelling Casandra’s apron. I pull back on his leash. 

           “Does he need anything to eat?” Casandra asks.

           “He’s always hungry, but I have some scraps in the car,” I say, “I'll feed him later.” 

           She smiles and says, “So do we,” and walks back to the kitchen.


           Then, it happened. A six-year old girl came in, wearing a pink tutu. Her Mom and Dad brought her and the Dad is carrying decorations like a “Happy Birthday” banner, a figurine wearing a tutu, and “Happy Birthday” balloons. Casandra came and asked how they were doing and got their drink orders. Then, the little girl saw Fred, who was wearing his service animal jacket. The jacket says, “I am a working service dog. Do not pet me”. But, of course, the birthday girl asked if she could pet him and I said, “Yes, but be gentle with him”. My dog enjoyed being pet and the girl enjoyed petting him, Then, it happened.  The father had bought eight birthday balloons for his little girl to show her he loved her. While picking up his menu, one of the balloons escaped and floated up. Then, the balloon hit the ceiling fan and made a loud popping noise. Everyone in the diner became quiet, except for my dog. 

           When the balloon popped, my arms and legs began to shake and I found myself hugging my knees on the stool and my dog, Fifo, went in front of me to protect me. That's his job. I started sweating, too. But the girl was still standing in front of Fred when he barked and growled to protect me and she walked towards Fred, since she thought he was cute and Fred sprang forward and growled, but he didn't bite her.

           The girl's father gave the birthday supplies to his wife and said, “Hold this, Honey” and the man's wife took the items and he picked up his daughter and took her back to the table and she said, “But, Daddy . . .”

           He said, “That dog is working right now, so you'll have to wait until he's done working.” The girl seemed to understand.

           My dog, even though his license had expired, was doing his job. Cassandra came by when I was beginning to come out of hugging my legsl and asked, “Are you okay? Do you want a refill?”

           I told her to give me a few minutes and that I'd be okay. I pet my dog and the shaking began to stop. Then, my meal came and Cassandra asked how it looked and it looked good. The burger was cooked medium-rare and the fries were seasoned. I shook a bit eating my food like a person suffering from Parkinson's or a diabetic with low sugar, but it got better while I ate. When Cassandra wasn't looking, I gave my dog a piece of my cheeseburger. He earned it. Cassandra was busy singing “Happy Birthday” to the girl, Sue. Then, after I enjoyed my meal, the bill came for $15.00. I gave her a $20 and told her to keep the change. 

           But as I left the father said, “It'll get better brother marine.” I stopped, picked up my dog, and him and I talked about our service to our country. It turned out he was a soldier in the Iraq War and had minor Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but with therapy and medication, he got better. The girl enjoyed her cake during our conversation. I still have this man's number and call him regularly, Sue still enjoys petting Fred, Fred's license is renewed, and I'm starting new medication. .   

September 07, 2021 15:21

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