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Fiction

“A-ha!” Pa said, pushing up his reading glasses that were hanging onto the bridge of his nose. He pulled the newspaper closer to his face, brushed through the intro and soon began reading out loud. 


“....to say this restaurant can use some work would be putting it lightly–speaking of lights does this place have any? I understand a dimly lit ambiance but whatever happened to a well-lighted place?” Pa was breezing through the review.


“Blah blah blah” he said, skimming through the page. “...the cheese was decadent….the décor? dated….” My father was mumbling under his breath now. He cleared his throat, let out a snort and read, “My final thoughts? Phil’s did not fill me with joy.” Pa broke out into laughter. “We made it into the News!” He exclaimed, rising to his feet. 


I slumped into the stool I was sitting on, perched my head into the palm of my hand, which was leaning on the countertop. A part of me couldn’t wait to take over this place. Any suggestions I’d give Pa was met with groans and grunts on how “the kids don’t value….”


I adjusted my posture. My shoulders straightened out. My voice was clear. Pa knew what was coming. “Pa, are you sure you don’t want to make minor adjustments?” I started patting the countertop that was accompanied by four stools. They were parallel to the front window and met with a wall that held a bright red sign that read ‘Open’. “We can keep…some of it…” I said reluctantly, looking around the restaurant. It wasn’t spacious, quite the opposite. Quaint. And quiet. Quiet. Again


“I still hate the name–” 


“Here we go.” Pa said. 


“Phil isn’t From Philly But He Makes Cheesesteaks?!” 


“That name is ridiculous.” We said in unison. Pa was mocking me. 


“It’s just called ‘Phil’s’ now.” I said in annoyance. “That’s not even a family name.” 


“Ask your grandparents.” He said, chuckling. 


“Yeah, let me grab the Ouija board.” I said, dryly. 


Pa ran over to the wall perpendicular to me to lift Turquoise’s painting. Turquoise was a good friend of his. They created a good deal of art for Pa. I suppose this one was his favorite as I’d often catch him staring at it. Only for him to detect my gaze, laugh it off and veer into yester-years as he cleans the dishes. 


Pa raised the painting and pointed to the fracture that hid behind it. I knew the story was coming. “My papa purchased this property with this crack in it.” He began. “This crack? This crack provided a discount for my papa. If it wasn’t for this crack he wouldn’t be able to afford this place.” 


“I’m guessing he wasn’t able to afford to fill it.” I said sarcastically, scrolling through a web page on my phone seeking information on contractors. 


“This is a lucky crack!” 


“Oh yeah? And what about the one on the ceiling above me.” I looked up to Pa shaking his head. 


“That’s from the ceiling fan. I can patch that up with ease. Just have to grab the ladder from the basement.” He said, almost splendidly.


“Pa. When will enough be enough?” I exhaled. “It’s time to renovate. Change—can be good…” I said hesitantly. 


“This place will always be enough.” He said in a gloom yet glimmer of hope. And shuffled towards the basement.


As he walked, his shoulders collapsed past his knees, his lower back must be hurting him. I sighed, shut my phone and followed him. We carried the ladder upstairs. Pa was modest and I wasn’t the strongest so he carried most of the weight on his shoulder. He grunted a relief when he was able to place the ladder against the counter. A ding from the entrance bell caught our attention. Pa’s friend, Stan the Carpenter, came in. Pa’s buddies really referred to him as such. ‘Stan the carpenter’. He greeted us and took his usual spot at the countertop, despite a large ladder only a few feet away. 


“Stan!” Pa hollered bright and bubbly. “Let me fix you a sandwich.” Pa walked over to the stove and I went back to scrolling for contractors. 


That night Pa picked up several supplies from the hardware store for the crack in the ceiling. Our bright red ‘open’ sign was off and I was sweeping the floor. 


“Pa–I think I found someone who can help.” Pa was climbing the ladder. 


“Who? Stanley?! Ha! Stan’s a busy man. I mean I could–” He started mumbling to himself. 


“No, Pa. A professional.” 


“Oh Stan’s a pro!”


“Pa. Let me hire someone to fix this place up. We can use the—” I was staring at a pile of crumbs when a creak interrupted me. Pa had slipped down the ladder and was clutching his back. I ran over to him and phoned for an ambulance.


In between Wheel of Fortune and cherry flavored jello, Pa and I would discuss the fate of Phil’s. 


He was hospitalized two weeks before allowing me to renovate. I knew we could optimize this time to replenish and revive the restaurant. I went through the itinerary with Pa and spent the next few weeks fixated on fixing Phil’s.  


I had it all planned in my head too–a grand re-opening! I could see our review, ‘Phil's–you won’t just be cheesing for the steak.’  


Well that’s rather long….I mused, as a contractor’s cough caught me out of my thoughts. They were relocating Turquoise’s painting. 


“Be careful with that.” I shouted. I marched over to seize Turquoise’s painting. “It’s going back on the wall after the new coat of paint.” I informed them. 


From the corner of my eye I could see another crew member caulking the lucky crack. A wave of worry awoke in my stomach. I inhaled to hold back tears. I was taken aback by my sudden sensitivity to a small crack. It was nearly covered now. I was gripping Turquoise’s art.


“Change is good.” I exhaled. 


April 16, 2022 02:33

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