Main Street Diner
Munford Crossing, Tennessee
Sophia announced as they loaded the last of the luggage that she didn’t fancy donuts and stale coffee again, so it was Sophia’s suggestion—the capital “S” implied by her tone—they should return to Max and Amanda’s local preference, the Main Street Diner, for breakfast. If anyone felt strongly opposed, there was no evidence in the silent response of the others.
Max settled in the back seat with Lily, helping her secure her seatbelt, before snapping his own. He really didn’t care whether they ate a big breakfast or not. The Main Street Diner compared poorly to his all time favorite eating establishment—the kitchen at home—and neither Betty’s service nor the food could hold a candle to Lily’s.
Of course, that was before she began to decline. Lily hadn’t cooked a meal since she tried boiling potatoes on a cold burner, while melting a Tupperware dish in the oven. Like Fred, he’d learned a bit about cooking since that incident. Food tasted ok—hard to ruin or improve canned stuff—but measured poorly against the meals Lily had prepared.
With care trying not to frighten her, Max put his arm around Lily and grinned inwardly. When he’d first started trying to fix meals for the two of them, his biggest learning curve was the electric can opener. During that earlier stage of her disease, Lily would wander into the kitchen and start lifting lids and sniffing. Invariably she’d turn to him before heading out of the kitchen and say something like, “I don’t remember starting supper, but I guess I did. What am I fixing?” Back then he’d still been able to see her wit.
Lily traced the checkerboard blocks on the plastic tablecloth with her finger, occasionally sweeping a tiny crumb off to the floor. She wasn’t looking at the tablecloth; she was looking at the folks sitting around her, trying to place them. She wasn’t scared. Sometimes she was, but right now she felt safe.
With effort, she remembered they were all here to eat—oh, what is it?—breakfast, that was it. The nice waitress wasn’t Betty, whoever Betty was, she was Elaine. Elaine was a nice name. Lily tried to remember if she knew Elaine. No, she didn’t think so, but Elaine had a nice laugh, not mean at all. Lily knew that because when she pointed to Liver and Onions on the menu, Elaine had laughed a good hearted laugh. Uncle Ben would like Elaine. The nice gentleman next to her had told her it was too early for liver, it was breakfast time. He had ordered for her. What was she having? Oh, my, what?
Pancakes, yes, she thought, he had ordered her pancakes or was it oatmeal?
The faces of her companions all looked vaguely familiar. The robust woman across from her looked something like Aunt Isadora’s housekeeper, Bertha Mae, but somehow that name was not right. The young lady next to her—Greta?—in disguise, of course, so that no one would know she was back home. The man—well, he looked the most familiar of all; she should know him, she knew she should. She tried retrieving his name, but try as she did, his name did not come. Lily mentally caught fleeting glimpses of his face, younger and now older, but the movement jerked like an old film and though he said his name repeatedly, it was garbled.
She watched the three of them talking, but there was no way she could keep her mind on conversation. She had things to remember, breakfast, Elaine, pancakes—or was it a poached egg? Down the aisle she saw the waitress, ELAINE—Lily noticed on her tag, yes—bringing platters of food—breakfast, yes. Lily looked up expectantly as Elaine began distributing the orders. She smiled at Lily when she put her plate before her.
“And, French Toast for the Liver and Onion girl.”
Of course, Lily thought, I was right—French Toast, breakfast and the waitress’s name, oh what was it—a mist obscured it, but yes,yes, “Thank you, Ellen.”
The waitress smiled again and winked at the others over Lily’s head.