"Are you ready to order sir?"
On this afternoon, Melvin's luck wasn't getting any better. Instead of the sublime and comforting waitress Anastasia, the dark-haired beauty from Albania, waking him from his numbers-crunching despair, Melvin was suddenly jostled out of his work-mare by a ruddy-faced older woman with frizzy red hair and a plump, sweaty face eager to get this transaction over with already.
"Can I have a turkey burger please?"
"Do you want that with fries?"
"Yes, please, that's a great idea."
"Coming right up."
She was gone before Melvin could ask for a refill.
I guess that's the price of efficiency Melvin thought to himself.
"Here you go."
The turkey burger had arrived. That was quick!
It was all alone.
"No fries?," Melvin asked.
"You didn't ask for a Deluxe," the waitress replied impatiently.
"I know , but when you asked me if I wanted fries--I said yes."
"I never asked you that."
Melvin looked into her eyes. He was not sure what he saw there but he knew what he had to do.
"Yes, yes you did," Melvin persisted.
"Would you like fries with that?" the waitress asked, acting still as if the French fries were a new topic of conversation.
"Yes, that's why I had already ordered them," Melvin replied resolutely.
"Ok, I will bring some on the side, but they may take a little time."
"Thank you very much."
By now, the family seated at the nearby table was looking up from their meal to watch the exchange.
Before Melvin knew it a busboy had buzzed by his table and brought him a refill on his coffee.
He felt bad about having over-reacted. He didn't even want the fries anymore. he missed Anastasia--her delicate touches, black eyes and hair the color of licorice.
When the fries did come they were still delicious as always but he had to eat them without the burger.
There would be no combination of divine textures and juices. He would have to make do with his sugary red sauce and crispy yellow treats and lukewarm bean water and no Anastasia and it was all so inexplicably sad and the numbers on the napkin were bad, bad, bad and when she came back with the check she was ashamed. Melvin had caught her in a lie. She knew she had lied. She had, in fact, asked Melvin Mudlicker if he had wanted fries with the burger. She didn't know why she lied. Maybe she was just afraid. Maybe she really needed this job Melvin realized.
"I'm sorry, so sorry," her voice trembled.
Melvin got up from his chair and the two hugged briefly and then smiled at each other and laughed, for this world had made them both do and say things that they had regretted