[read this first, if you’ve not already done so]
The waitress was plucky and young, in her early twenties, with blond hair tied back in a ponytail. She possessed an easy manner that wasn’t the byproduct of working a job that was only worth working because of tips. She waited patiently and happily as Brian tried to order pie.
The old man’s eyes weren’t fixed on any one location. Red and wet rimmed, his eyes darted from the waitress to the menu and then briefly to Terry before returning to either the young girl or the list of desserts. He licked his thin lips in between each eye movement. His jaw moved up and down in little jiggles as he worked hard to make sense of the questions asked and the options presented.
“What kind of pie would you like, Brian?” asked Terry. His voice was calm. He kept his own eyes fixed on the old man seated across from him, hoping to catch Brian’s gaze and hold it tight. He was quietly willing Brian to focus.
“Hmmmm…,” hummed Brian, eyes dancing along the words and searching the pictures, none of which depicted pie. His head came up and he looked past Terry’s shoulder to the far side of the little restaurant. There were few patrons and none seated near the two men. There was a low din created by casual conversation at the other tables and the general rattle clatter that escaped from the kitchen.
“Yes, Brian,” said Terry. “We usually sit over there, near the glass showcase and you look at the pie.” The waitress made to offer an apology, but Terry quickly let her know it wasn’t necessary with a gesture of his hand and an easy smile even as he continued to guide Brian toward a decision. “Would you like apple pie?”
“We have blueberry and lemon meringue, too,” stated the waitress pleasantly. The badge attached to her shirt claimed her name was “Joelle”. Her smile never faltered, but Terry was beginning to sense increasing discomfort in her tone and posture.
“No,” said Brian, shaking his head a little.
“Do you like lemon meringue, Brian?” asked Terry. He was certain the old man didn’t.
Brian shook his head and consulted the menu. One hand started to shake.
“Shall I surprise you?” offered Joelle. The words came out in a half-laugh that was meant to ease the increasing awkwardness of the situation.
“Apple pie. You like apple pie, Brian.” Terry was terser than he had wanted. It had an effect though. Brian looked up. The shaking hand stilled. The wet eyes focused.
“Yes,” he said. “Apple pie.”
Terry ordered the same, and a coffee, black. He took Brian’s menu, added it to his own and passed both to Joelle with a thank you.
[more to come]