The Diner

by Alix Erlij, age 13
The Diner Alix lives with her mom, dad, little sister, and dog in Los Angeles, California. Alix is on the swim team and water polo team. She enjoys reading, watching TV and movies, cooking, and spending time with her friends.

“The old diner’s lights flicker. The lopsided S has been broken for some time, so all that shines from the roof above is deedy’s Diner.”

Shining Lights

The old diner’s lights flicker. The lopsided S has been broken for some time, so all that shines from the roof above is deedy’s Diner. Her hair is pulled back, the furious curls of red angrily shoved into a reluctant ponytail, because Frank is insistent after a customer demanded a refund after finding an angry curl in his soup. She quietly washes the table, too exhausted to try and make conversation with the drunk who ordered pie at midnight. 

“Honey, grab me another slice, would you,” he says, handing the empty plate to her.

She looks down at her nametag where it plainly says Amy, and even though there is no Honey currently working at the diner, she shoves another slice into his greedy, grubby hands. No ‘thank you’ comes out of his mouth. Only pie is crammed in, but she is used to it and continues to scrub at the stain that will never come out.

The door swings open. The cheerful ding makes her eyes droop even more, and her tired body almost collapses into itself at the thought of more customers. Laughter comes from a throng of black T-shirted theatre kids who plop down into two different booths. She makes her way over to the booths, her feet dragging behind her. 

“What can I get y’all,” she drawls. 

“We’ll have five orders of french fries, six milkshakes — two vanilla, three chocolate, one mix of both, three burgers, two veggie burgers, three hot dogs, and one tuna melt,” says the obvious alpha of the theatre kids. Not so alpha out of all of high school, but this kid certainly thinks he’s the shit. 

“Jeremy, I wanted a veggie burger too,” giggles a pretty girl with an irritating voice. 

Jeremy turns back to Amy, “And we’ll have one more veggie burger for Mary Anne,” he says, as if she was stupid and she had not literally just heard Mary Anne order for herself.

Mary Anne giggles again. 

“Gotcha, okay I’ll be back in a little.”

She slides the order over the counter into the kitchen to Danny, who is either asleep or playing video games on his phone, either or, those kids wouldn’t be getting their orders for a while. She looks back at the drunk and sees him mumbling to himself. God, maybe he’s high, not drunk.

A boy sitting next to Jeremy starts to talk about the stage lights. That they were so bright he was half blind, half distracted during his performance. She remembers the feeling of the shining, blinding, too bright lights. They sat, and they laughed. And talked. And laughed some more. And they shared their dreams, so drunk off their sugar high and the old scotch that Jeremy probably stole from his dad. She knew too well that hangover after having too much fun and eating too much, and that immortality that you think you have — a shield covering your whole body, and anything that tries to get through is immediately blocked by the thought that nothing could ever take away from that night. She knows that feeling the second the lights go off and you bow and everyone claps and you stand there hand and hand with your friends that you think are your soulmates, but they go off to college and you never see them again. She wants the feeling of the hot lights on her skin again, the feeling of sweat along with pride pouring out of every fiber in her body again. She still longs to see the flickering lights of the sign Broadway, and she knows that the B would never be broken. She longed when she was young as well, with those lights, and had those shimmering dreams she can see in the souls laughing in the booth across from her.

Her shift is over, so she grabs her bag and leaves without saying a word. Outside, she stands in front of Speedy’s Diner, but the lights don’t tingle her skin the way those stage lights used to. She got her dream in a weird way — she is standing in front of the shining lights like she always hoped she would some day.

A Little Haven

Twenty minutes down the highway, an exit at 32b, you pull a right and you find yourself in the most heavenly place in the world. A place filled with midnight magic and away from the stretching hand of reality. A place filled with solitude and cheap beer to pour down the drain into your already dying liver. 

The waitress tonight looks like Carol. Carol had beautiful hair, scarlet waves cascading down her back, almost touching her waist. The waitress also looks like shes in a bitchy mood, so maybe that’s what I find so familiar.

“Honey, grab me another slice, would you,” I say, pointing down at my empty plate.

A bitter grimace forms on her face. Yeah, reminds me of Carol, her sour complaints, whining about my laziness. 

No, I am not lazy, I work day and night writing beautiful words and sentences, while you know what you do? You go to work and shove a needle in someone’s arm and do it over again. That requires no creativity, no imagination. A boring, monotonous life filled with absolutely nothing!

Oh, and then she grinned. A crazy grin formed on her face, and her wild waves bounced up and down as she almost started jumping with the mad energy that sentence filled her with.

“You think you’re a genius, don’t you? The next up-and-coming William Shakespeare, ladies and gentlemen. God, I hit the jackpot with this guy. He’s such a genius. Yeah, this guy right here, when he gets drunk, writes a few nonsense poems, and calls it a day. Oh so lucky, I am the luckiest girl in this god forsaken world as he provides for me writing shit while I go work an eight hour shift, come home, make dinner, clean the house. You know, just simple tasks while he does the real man job. A genius needs his time to work alone. All the great ones did, so I think you should leave. It will let you have your space to ‘work.’ Hope you remember how to cook, ‘cause I am sure not going to do it anymore.”

A piece of pie plops down in front of me, and I start to shove it in. I can’t seem to remember the last time I ate. I should go home and get dinner. Carol is probably there, already starting to cook something like pot roast. Yeah, she would want me to be home right about now. She will tell me to set the table, and I will do it on the one condition that she wears the apron that makes her look so sexy. I can already smell the pot roast in the oven.

I slip a few bills on the counter and head out. The waitress that looks like Carol is outside staring at the sign, paying no attention to me. I head into my car and get back on the highway, making my way to the motel, my boxes rattling in the back of the car. Two measly boxes can fit a whole life.


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