Forgiveness

Myrna, Doris, and Mary are shown to the table. It's along the side wall, far from the bussing station, where the clinking of glass and scraping of plates would hinder them from hearing one another. At 6:00pm, in most places, there would be tables open, but they offer dining starting at 5:00 here. The room is almost full. There is a low din of chatter, some are halfway through their meals, and others already have large slices of blueberry pie, piled high with a rippled edge tower of can-sprayed whipped cream.

The hostess pulls three menus from under the hostess stand and escorts the ladies to the table. A waitress is waiting for them. She's holding a water glass away from the table, tipping the pitcher to add extra ice from the side. Several cubes cascade on the dribbles that miss the glass, landing on the rug, dotting it like small icebergs. An amber-colored kerosene lantern casts a chisled shadow on the crisp white tablecloth. The waitress pulls out the chair for Myrna, so she does not have to risk stepping on one of the ice cubes. They are now hidden by the chair. During supper, the ice will melt into rounded wet spots on the patterned rug.

Myrna’s brown tunic, caught in the fold of her hip, hikes up revealing the dimples hidden under the brown polyester pants. It takes several minutes for the three to arrange themselves. They shift from side-to-side, hopping the chairs into place. Myrna lifts the ornately folded napkin from the table and gives it a stiff shake between her and Mary. She smooths it down with her palm under the table. The tablecloth moves a bit and the dishes wobble as she catches a corner with her napkin smoothing.

The ladies look over the menu. It is always the same, other than one or two specials, and those are most often a sauce change on the chicken, halibut, or scallops. They always order a cup of chowder, as the place is known for its award-winning one. But they are all avid cooks, and they understand the intricacies of New England Clam Chowder. It is a common topic of discussion when they go out for supper. It appears on almost every menu. Each lady has their own version and boasts how their unique method or ingredient is the best. The discussion never resolves, and the conversation repeats.

“He had no idea how to make the chowder,” states Myrna referring to one of her Summer Folk neighbors. “First, he wanted to know if he should add milk.” Tisk-tisk-tisk she whispers, and shakes her head.

“I use corncobs on top of the potatoes because it helps with the thickening,” states Doris. Her Downeast accent so thick that it sounds like she has said kawnkawbs. “I used to use half-and-half, but now I use canned milk,” she continues, “it’s sweet-ah.”

“I prefer all cream. I like the taste and I figure it will kill him off faster,” says Mary, him being her husband of forty-two years. She winks and gives a wide grin. School-girlish giggles follow.

Myrna moves the table lamp to the side of her plate, lowers the corner of the menu, slides her half glasses down her nose, and looks over the specials. The other two fumble through their purses, searching for their reading glasses. Doris and Mary have ones with miniature headlights and Myrna knows they will not need the table lamp. Myrna pulls it even closer to her menu.

Doris, upon finding her glasses, gives a little ah-ha. Myrna looks over the top of her readers and watches Doris blow a piece of purse-lint off of them and bang them on her hand three times. A faint beam of light appears. The glow is dim.

"Doris, may I borrow those when you're done, please?" Mary's hand is still being swallowed by her purse that hangs from the side of the chair. With her other hand she holds the menu out as far as her extended arm will allow.

Myrna decides on the steak, well-done, and the other two order the scallop special which is written in large type on a paper that is clipped to the front of the menu. Myrna says nothing about their choices. They all know the scallops are out of season in September, and Doris never removed her readers for Mary to read the menu.


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