Hartman’s Diner is a busy place due to their a la carte breakfast. People fill the joint to fill their plates with as much of whatever they want in any combination they want. It keeps the servers on their toes and the cooks run ragged on normal days. Today is not a normal day. It is the first day of the county fair. Families are here to fill their bellies before a day filled with entertainment. There could not have been a worse day possible for Becky to have called in with a family emergency. Usually, Becky handles the counter while Maria and Jodi take the floor. Now Maria and Jodi rush to split the coverage of the counter while covering their tables. Over the hum of the customer’s conversations, Maria hears an angry customer yell for his bill. She turns to address the customer’s needs, despite having her arms full of plates. Jodi hears a customer ask for a refill with a tone signifying his displeasure with the service. She turns to address the customer’s needs and bumps into Maria so hard food and beverage go flying everywhere.


Cory Pike leaves the house early so he can stop by Hartman’s for a hearty breakfast before his presentation this morning. He worked on it all night and if all goes well, he will be in line for a big promotion. He orders himself three eggs, four slices of bacon, four sausage patties, two pieces of toast, orange juice, and coffee. He is enjoying his breakfast when the sound of plates crashing makes him look up just in time to see a coffee pot hurdling his way. Instinctively, he throws his hands up and scoots as far back in his seat as he can, being in a booth. The scalding hot coffee splashes down the front of him and the pot lands in his lap. He jumps up with his napkin and tries to wipe it off, the coffee burning his stomach and lap as the coffee pot falls to the ground and shatters. He hurries to the bathroom where he splashes cold water on himself, bringing some relief to the searing pain. Drenched, Cory makes his way to the hand drier, sticks out his lower abdomen, and turns on the hot air to dry himself off. That is when Tucker Holms walks in with his four-year-old son, Jordan.


Tucker and Selma Holms have been getting young Jordan worked up over the state’s fair for over a week now by telling him he will get to see all sorts of farm animals, listen to live country music, see a tractor pull, ride exciting rides, and get to eat a lot of junk food like cotton candy and hot dogs. The day finally comes, and they tell Jordan they will take him to his favorite breakfast restaurant before going to the fair. Jordan loves Hartman’s because their chocolate chip pancakes are better than the plain ones mom makes, and Miss Jodi always makes a smiley face out of whipped cream for him. When they get there, Miss Jodie says hi, and tells him how big he has gotten since the last time she has seen him. He loves hearing that. She gives him one of those placemats with the games and a picture to color with a few crayons. He starts working his way through a maze, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth, deep in thought, when he hears a crash. A bowl of oatmeal falls on his head and a glass of orange juice bounces off his shoulder, spilling all over him. Frightened, Jordan screams. Then he begins to cry as Selma makes a fuss, removing the bowl from her son’s head. She tries to clean him up with the napkins they have, but it is too big of a mess. Tucker takes his boy to the bathroom to clean him up where they see a man drying his crotch under the hand drier.


Cory is a couple minutes late for his presentation, so he is off to a bad start. His white shirt is stained brown, and he looks like he couldn’t hold it when nature called. He tries to walk normally, but the pain in his lap area is too great. He inserts his flash drive, pulls up his PowerPoint presentation, and proceeds to explain what happened to him on the way to work. He can tell by the fidgeting and the shifting in their seats that his superiors are not interested in excuses and that he is wasting their time. Moving right along, he begins his presentation on how he believes the company can cut costs in the long run with a simple investment. He tries to stay focused as his audience checks their watches and scribble in their planners, giving him looks of disinterest. When he ends his presentation, everyone walks out except his immediate supervisor who tells him that his idea is good but that there is a lot to be said for presentation, saying that showing up late to his own meeting looking like a mess and making excuses reflects poorly on both of them. His supervisor fires him on the spot.


Tucker gets Jordan somewhat cleaned up; his clothes are still a mess. He and Selma are not happy about the incident and decide that since they have to take Jordan home to change him anyway, they can just save a few dollars and eat at home. Jordan, who is already in a bad mood, does not like the idea, and pitches a fit all the way home. Selma serves Jordan a bowl of cereal, and he knocks it in the floor. When Jordan sees the angry look on his dad’s face, he knows what is coming and runs. That makes Tucker angrier. He catches the boy before he can get to his room and spanks him before sending him to the corner to think about what he has done. Jordan stands there in the corner crying, rubbing his sore bottom for five minutes. Selma lets him out of the corner to change clothes. Jordan, still cranky, gives his mom a hard time as she tries to help him get dressed. He refuses to take off his clothes. Then he refuses to wear what she picks out, so she let him pick something out himself. Selma finally gets him dressed and in the car. Since no one got around to eating breakfast, and lunch is now being served, Tucker and Selma agree to getting lunch at McDonald’s. They go through the drive thru and eat in the car on their way to the fair. Selma turns in her seat to let Jordan know they have arrived, but he is sound asleep. Selma and Tucker decide that it has already been a rough day for the little guy and turn around to go home, saying they will take him tomorrow.


Cory arrives at the ER to have his skin looked at just as Jodi is coming out. She took a nasty spill and hit her head on the corner of a table, requiring stitches. With Maria being the only server, the diner closed its doors for the morning. Jodi and Cory make eye contact while he is waiting in line to check in. The ER is already full, and the wait time is a couple hours. Cory’s eyelids flutter in anger as he looks away. Jodi sighs as she thinks about walking away, but realizes she owes the man an apology. She goes back and introduces herself, saying she is terribly sorry for the incident that occurred earlier that morning. As Cory goes on to explain the events that unfolded since that moment, Jodi starts to feel sick with guilt.

“Is there anything I can do to make it up to you,” Jodi asks with big brown doe eyes that are starting to tear.

Cory’s demeanor softens. He recognizes Jodi as a lovely young lady and understands what she was dealing with that morning. In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t her fault, no more than it was his fault with the presentation.

“Look, don’t worry about it. Accidents happen. It really wasn’t your fault. But, if it would make you feel better to do something for me, you would let me take you out for coffee some time.”

Jodi looks at him surprised and then smiles. “We can do that. When?”

“How about now. There’s a coffee machine over there and I have quite the wait ahead of me.”


That night, Tucker gets called into his supervisor’s office. He can’t imagine why. His numbers are always good, and his attendance is perfect. Every time they need someone to work overtime, he’s the first to volunteer. They shouldn’t have any complaints with him unless a coworker is stirring up drama, which happens frequently on the second shift.

Knocking lightly on the door, Tucker cracks it open and says, “You wanted to see me, boss.”

“Yes, Tucker, come in, have a seat.”

Tucker sits on the edge of his chair with his hands folded in his lap.

“How long have you been with us Tuck?”

“Uh, almost ten years now sir.”

“Ten years and you haven’t missed a day. That’s loyalty. That’s dedication. Most places would call that just doing your job, but you’re the only employee we have who’s that responsible.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’ve been going over your numbers and it looks like you meet or exceed your numbers daily unless there is a major maintenance issue with your machine. You have a good work ethic. I’m not authorized to give you a raise or a bonus at this time. I have, however, made the request,” his supervisor says as he opens his drawer and pulls out four lanyards. “Human Resources did give me these all-access passes to the fair. You can get in for free all week and do whatever you want without spending a dime. They had to fire one of their associates today for unprofessionalism. They were supposed to be his. Now they’re yours.”

“Wow, Mr. Klien, thank you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this. My wife and son are going to be so excited,” Tucker says with a smile.

Mr. Klien stands up with an outstretched hand and says, “Just keep up the good work.”


Maria bumps into Jodi and is knocked into an elderly man’s lap. Scared that she might have hurt the gentleman, she springs to her feet apologizing.

“Are you okay. I’m so sorry. We are short staffed and we’re losing control with all the business and all.”

“It’s okay, sweetie. Take a moment and catch your breath. These people can wait five seconds,” the man says, gesturing with his hands for Maria to calm down.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly. Not only do I have to get this cleaned up, I have to do well on my tips. My daughter got accepted to the state university. I have been pulling doubles to save up all the money I can so she can go,” Maria frantically explains.

“Bless your heart, aren’t you a good mother. Well today is your lucky day. I’m Grant Winthrop as in the Winthrop Scholarship. As long as the student is a child of a single parent making less than fifty thousand a year, with a B average or better, they qualify for a scholarship of five thousand a semester. I can put your child’s name at the top of the list. I only award two scholarships per semester, but seeing how hard you work in person, it will definitely influence my decision.”

“You would do that?”

“That’s why the scholarship exists. Why don’t you two meet me here at closing and we will go over the paperwork.”


Hartman’s reopens when the night crew arrives. Maria works her double, excitedly telling everyone about her day. Jodi and Cory spent the afternoon together and show up for dinner. She and Maria laugh about their accident and marvel at how their days turned out. Maria’s daughter Sophia came in to meet with Mr. Winthrop. Mr. Winthrop is very impressed with her, just as impressed as he is with her mother. He tells both of them that the scholarship is in the bag and that they can rest at ease knowing that. The next morning, Jordan finally gets his chocolate chip pancakes with the whipped cream smiley face before heading off to the fair for the first time that week.

May 07, 2024 06:24

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Ken Cartisano
18:38 May 13, 2024

Wow. That was a lot of fun, Ty. I was going to wittily ask if you used a flow chart to synchronize the plot, but, that would detract from such an excellent and complex story. At no point in time was I confused about who was who, or what they were doing. Some of the sight gags were a hoot. And who could be anything but amazed at how neatly and wonderfully you tied up all those different endings into one neat closing. The beginning could have been tighter, several repetitive words, a few redundancies had me feeling annoyed. Then in the secon...


Ty Warmbrodt
20:09 May 13, 2024

Probably evil because I'm no engineer. There's one spot where I also used proceeds when it should have been precedes. I think if I would have taken some time to proof read, this would have turned out better. I appreciate your critique, especially the stuff about the opening paragraph. I'll watch out for that in future stories. Thank you for reading.


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Trudy Jas
01:15 May 10, 2024

Everybody bumps into everybody else. A mini sit-com. Well crafted.


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Jim LaFleur
22:22 May 09, 2024

Ty, your story masterfully weaves together the chaos of a single moment into a tapestry of events with a mix of misfortune and serendipity. It’s a delightful reminder of how interconnected our lives are. Brilliantly done! 😊


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Hannah Lynn
02:40 May 09, 2024

First of all your story made me so hungry for diner food especially those chocolate chip pancakes! I enjoyed your story with the domino effect of bumps!


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Michelle Oliver
11:08 May 08, 2024

I love the different interactions here. All these things that occurred due to one bump. I loved the story. If you have time for any revisions, may I suggest looking at the tenses? You skip in and out of present and past tense. Other than that, a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable read.


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Jeremy Stevens
00:29 May 08, 2024

Fun! I like different plot lines that somehow converge. Good take on the prompt!


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Alexis Araneta
18:07 May 07, 2024

All's well that ends well ! I love the framing of this story: how one incident affects everyone both badly and well. Great use of detail, as usual. Splendid work !


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Mary Bendickson
15:41 May 07, 2024

What's not to like? Disastrous situation turns out well for all involved.


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