The diner is all aglow—
the chrome gleams like a new nickel,
and the blue-green vinyl sparkles;
above the booths,
the glass cubes,
like ice in igloos,
shine like halos.
Red and blue neon light provide ambiance
to this retro tableau,
brightening in the burgeoning twilight—
like pink ripening into lavender,
and then violet with stars in her eyes.
The smell of Greek spices permeate the charged atmosphere,
along with plates of steaming shrimp and crawfish savannah,
the special tonight—
part of Cajun Americana.
On the deck outside,
a family of four chows down on Scenic burgers and fries,
washing them down with black-and-white shakes—
their own happy ending
after the one they’d just seen—
of Elsa and Anna dancing on the screen.
Miss Carrie and her husband come in and sit in their usual booth,
and upon sight,
I put on a pot of fresh coffee—
the last of the night.
They sit across from each other,
he with his book,
she with her Kindle,
while the aroma of regular brew filters through the air,
salted with heavy humidity,
peppered with lively conversation and dashed with a bit of Southern flair.
The pie case is lit up like a beacon—
coconut or chocolate cream,
and other confectionary dreams.
The whir of the milkshake machine blends and beats
with the hum of the orange juice machine.
Nalia, the manager, whose charm bracelet of
copper links of gold and silver coins from all over the world,
clink like chimes against the register as she unrolls the change.
Riffraff are rare—
like Italian dressing in a Greek restaurant.
Mr. Wilson comes in,
all smiles in Mom jeans and a well-worn tee—
something about a 5-K run in Tallahassee.
Sweet tea to start,
banana pudding to finish,
with a thirty-percent tip a fabulous finish.
He greets each of us by name,
and on the TV above the fountain station,
the Saints (or whoever) is winning the game.
As I smile and nod and talk about the weather or whatever,
I wonder if he has bodies buried under his bed.
It’s never the jerks with their odd quirks,
but always the bland-o-bill everyman.
Oh, but I’m letting my imagination run away again.
Coach is at the marble counter,
chatting it up with Barb,
while she works through her mounds of whipped cream—
something she likes on everything,
and we all wonder if this is one of their little trysts.
“Hello, Sarah #1,” he says as Barb raises her spoon in greeting,
and I smile,
for I’m the only Sarah now,
but I still like to hear it.
He asks me about my baby girl,
whom he saw in the store a day I was off.
I am charmed that he remembers.
The Olivers aren’t here tonight with their two boys,
Russ and Wright.
They know them all in this little enclave within the community.
Sometimes, I tend wonder at the lives of others.
A group of college kids take up a corner in the back,
and I remember them from my overnights at the drugstore.
God bless them, they’re easy to please,
and in an airplane made of a coloring mat,
they leave a pile of money inside this bit of oragami,
with a note, thanking me for the awesome floats.
I take a quick break,
and a bite of grilled catfish—
A squeeze of lemon
and a little bit of char,
and I’m back on the floor.
I go back out to check on the family—
the Mormons out for a good time.
A cool breeze blows in from the Bay,
and it’s a thrill to my scalp and skin.
I can still hear the echoes of laughter—
the kind that comes from deep within.
A napkin flips and folds in the wind,
ketchup has dried on the wood—
remnants of a fun-filled night
left in the dwindling light.
This is just a slice of those who come to the Shiny Diney,
known as Scenic 90 Café—
just past Nancy’s Haute Affairs,
the blue building across from Pensacola Bay.
Not the most important job, I know—
I’m not saving lives,
I’m probably not even changing them,
but I give them a Coke and a smile,
something to come back to,
something to look forward to for another while.