The diner was the place to be.
Rose always thought so.
“Here’s your coffee and the cream,” the waitress said.
(Cindy, the computer of Rose’s brain ticked: had two kids and a husband in jail. But Cindy was convinced he hadn’t done the crime he was incarcerated for.).
She loved the way the waitresses all knew her. And she knew them. She loved the solid feel of the table. The clink of the metal spoon as it tapped the glass rim of her mug. The smells. The people.
“This is early morning perfection, Cindy,” she told her waitress.
Cindy leaned on her hip. Her lipstick was one shade too bright for her skin tone and Rose found it terribly distracting.
“This is not perfection,” Cindy said. “You’ve been a writer too long. It’s going to your head.”
“I’m serious! No friends bother me with endless text messages. No mother calls with redundant questions about how the new dishwasher works. Perfection.”
Cindy sighed and went back to the kitchen.
Cindy didn’t understand. Rose would snuggle with her fiancee until the last possible minute when he left for work. Then, she was left to her own devices which meant, in simple terms, that she was free to write and read and be.
Cindy came back with another regular waitress in tow.
(Pat, the brain computer clicked.)
“This is an intervention,” Pat said. The rest of the diner stared. It was only two old ladies and some construction workers but Rose felt herself blush. “This is it, Rose! You need to stop coming here!”
“What?” Rose choked on her toast. “What are you guys talking about?”
“You! You’re a writer,” Cindy said. “You can’t come to the same diner every day and expect to write good things. You’ll write about the diner and nothing else!”
“That’s not true!” Rose lowered her voice. “Please. It’s the one place I can get away from it all.”
“It’s not,” Pat said. “It’s for your own good. We will ban you for a week. “
Cindy folded her arms. “The boys won’t let you in, they already know.”
Pat stepped closer. “You are going to write something new. And then you can come back.”
“This is ridiculous!” Rose said.
“This is tough love,” said Cindy.
They stuck to it. 8 am the next morning, Rose approached the door. But one of the kitchen boys was there.
“Sorry, Miss Rose, but orders from the boss. You can’t come in.”
“Lee is in on this too?” Rose threw her arms up in the air. “You know you’re the only diner in this area, right?”
“Too bad!” His jacket creaked as he tightened his crossed arms. “Find somewhere else.”
Left with no choice, she went to the Starbucks next door out of spite and glared at him the whole way down the sidewalk.
The Starbucks was stuffy and crowded and she balked at the state of the floor. She crammed herself between a businessman and a gaggle of preteens she was shocked to see awake.
“Don’t you have school?” She asked them.
“Holiday,” one of them quipped before going back to gushing over Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift or whatever it was those teens did.
She wrote nothing worthwhile that day.
Wednesday she tried again.
“Really,” a different kitchen boy said, “you’ve got to get the hint. No diner!”
She got a Wawa coffee and a wrapped sausage biscuit and sat by the lakeside.
A goose came up to her in a completely un-wild fashion and nipped at her jacket until she gave it a piece of her biscuit.
Then, honking, they all came, and thus ended the lakeside adventure. An old man sitting on a bench across the lake laughed her to her car.
Thursday she avoided the diner and went to the lake again, this time armed with an umbrella. It wasn’t raining, but she opened and closed the umbrella at the geese until they left her alone.
The man across the lake laughed and laughed. He was back again.
She wrote for a while and looked up when her hands started cramping. The man was still there.
Rose walked around the lake’s edge until she reached the bench. “Hello,” she said.
“Hello.” He smiled at her. “You seem to have made quite an impression on our geese.”
“Yes,” Rose laughed. “Your geese?”
“Well, the lake’s.” The man waved a hand over his shoulder. “That’s my house in the woods over there.”
She peered between the trees. “You mean that’s your house?” She had passed the green mansion many times and had always wondered who lived there.
“That’s the one.”
“You always light it up for Christmas time! I drive past the lake just to see it.”
“Oh, my sons did that.” He laughed. “But I’m afraid those days are coming to an end.”
“My wife passed away a few months ago. I’m afraid my sons aren’t speaking to me at the moment. Matter of the will.”
“I’m sorry.” Rose hated to see families torn apart. “Have you spoken with them?”
He shuffled his feet in the dirt. “Children need time to process things. They’ll come around.”
“You seem sure.”
He chuckled. “I’ve seen quite a bit of life. Things happen for a reason, and people do change. But families are like elastic. They have a way of snapping back. Just some of the facts of life.”
These words resonated so with Rose they sat in silence by the lakeside for a long time.
When she returned to her car, she began to write.
A week later, she passed the diner on the way to the bank.
Cindy poked her head out of the front door. “Hey! Rose! You can come back now!”
Rose smiled at her. “Sorry. I have a date at the lake.”
“But don’t you have a fiancée?”
“Not that sort of a date. A writing date.” Rose waved, and walked away from the diner.
As writers, we get so stuck on places sometimes that it kills our creativity.
I wish I had people like Cindy and Pat looking out for me like that. The green mansion on the lake is real, although the man is fiction. I still wonder who lives there.
The diner in question is loosely based on the best diner in Bucks County PA: Mil-Lee’s. If you visit, you must go. Delicious food. Maybe you’ll even see the lake on the way.
Thanks for reading, as always.