A Short Cut to the Dining Room

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The man stood by the glass door with a bag over his hand and he nodded his head back. Danny looked at him through the water gurgling up from the water fountain. He swallowed another mouthful and considered opening the door.

The man wore a beanie cap, a blue work short, jeans, and he held a green bag with his left hand in front of his right. Behind the bag he appeared to hold something in his right hand. Danny thought about the bag as he returned to his seat.

Mary, his mom, sat on his right holding baby Jeff. His dad, Jeff Senior, sat across from him. Danny shared the same bench with his sister Ann. At every other table in the dining room families talked in pleasant harmony.

A man wearing a green beret teased a woman wearing a flowered muumuu with a french fry. She giggled and grabbed at the fry when she missed. A woman poked into her chili, while a man rested his cheeseburger to steady her bowl. The sun reflected off the glass and the beaded crystal curtain. Behind it a sign invited guests to visit the American Freedom Train at the Naval Air Station.

Danny slurped a gurgle of remaining soda out of his empty cup. Two drops rose up the straw with a slurp, slurp sound. He dropped the cup behind his sister’s and reached for her grape soda.

“Danny is trying to drink my drink,” Ann said.

“You know better,” his mom scolded.

He fingered his empty cup. More soda would be nice, although refills cost money, and his mom already made it clear this was a treat. He still wished for another. He looked back at the water fountain and the door. The man still stood there. Danny went to get another drink of water.

A sign above the door warned customers it locked when they walked through. The man gestured for Danny to open it; the only one close enough to the door. Danny dipped down to the flowing water bubbling up from the fountain and took another drink.

The man scowled and Danny flinched. There was something that didn’t seem right.

Danny went back to his seat and sat next to his sister eyeing her cup. It would sure be nice to sneak a drink. He dangled his feet back and forth bouncing them off the bench.

“Danny, would you like another soda?” his dad asked.

Danny glanced at his mom. He sensed her reply and shook his head no. He didn’t want the perfect day to end in an argument.

“I think I want one too,” Jeff Senior said.

He picked up Danny’s cup with his own and went to the end of the line. Danny’s mother indicated with her eyes he should follow. He scrambled to follow his dad.

Danny stood just tall enough to see over the divider between the dinning room and the line of customers. The man still stood at the door. His eyes begged Danny to let him in. Danny glanced away. After a few seconds, he peeked at the door and the man was gone.

“Two more Coke’s please,” Jeff Senior said. Danny grabbed the end of his dad’s Hawaiian shirt.

“I think I want grape this time.”

A teen wearing a blue-striped Gatsby cap filled each cup with ice and set one under the soda fountain. He turned to place Danny’s cup under a square container full of grape drink. He reached to fill it when a girl screamed at the drive though.

“He’s got a gun!”

The young man crouched backward onto the floor before a splash of grape drink fell into Danny’s cup.

Jeff Senior put his arms over his son and ducked behind the divider. A lady wearing a polyester dress fell down on the floor next to Danny. She held onto his legs as Danny spied at the soda fountain.

He held his breath and heard a male voice.

“All right. I’m getting it.

A sound of shuffling then silence. Jeff Senior covered Danny’s head. All he could hear was his own breathing. The robbery ended in less than a minute.

“It’s all right folks,” said the manager. “He’s gone.”

The mood changed in the dining room as hushed whispers replaced the friendly chatter.

A police car jumped the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and stopped near the glass door. A red light circled across from a blue light above the roof. Both officers jumped out running toward the drive through. A manager led another officer into the dining room.

The woman in the muumuu found her purse. The older couple left their chili to rush out the front. Mary and Jeff Senior gathered their family around them.

“Did anyone see anything?” asked the officer.

Danny turned his head to look at his parents who stared straight ahead. He turned back to the officer.

“I did.”

Jeff Senior pulled Danny back as the officer came forward.

“He was by the door,” Danny said.

“What did he look like?”

“He had on a beanie and I think he was holding a gun.”

Danny provided a description of the man who stood outside the drinking fountain. He explained he just had a feeling to not let him in.

The officer left Danny and his family standing in the empty dining room. As they turned to leave, a hand placed a cup in Danny’s hand.

“Things got a little crazy,” said the teen in the Gatsby hat. “I figured I’d get your drink at least.”

Danny, who had forgotten his thirst, drew on the straw bringing up a swallow of the grape soda to his mouth. He looked up to his dad. Jeff Senior tossed Danny’s hair and laughed.

 
Michael S. Sommermeyer

Michael S. Sommermeyer writes fast fiction, observations, poetry, mysteries, fantasies, and science fiction. He focuses on oddities, unbelievable facts, strange phenomenon, discoveries, and the people who wander uneven worlds. He ponders the dreams of mythmakers and explores what the every person dreams about. He writes fiction for http://wordsmithholler.com and has written scientific and technical writing for a number of magazines.

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