Perspective Is Everything

This weeks’ Daily Post Weekly Writing challenge is to take one of their idea prompts and write from three people’s perspectives on the situation.  Mine is below.  Grab some tissues.

Cindy looked up from the counter she was wiping down and grimaced internally.  Mr. Jones had arrived like clockwork on a Saturday morning, to have his billion cups of coffee and a stack of blueberry pancakes.  She squeezed the rag absentmindedly, letting the bleach water seep out across the table before swiftly wiping it back up.  She tossed the rag into the bucket of graying water and approached him, not bothering to pull out her notepad.

Mr. Jones was old.  She didn’t care to find out how old, but his slow shuffle, shaking hands, and wrinkled face told her he was pretty ancient.  He always came in on Saturdays right after their morning rush when she needed to clean, always brought his old wife, and always wasted her time ordering so much coffee and leaving her a crappy tip.  She hated the fact that they only charged for one cup no matter how many refills you asked for.  Sometimes he went through almost a whole pot by himself.

He set down his cane, and pulled himself up into a bar seat at the counter at such a snails pace that Cindy resisted the urge to shove him up there herself.  She noticed that his wife wasn’t with him, which was odd, but oh well.

“Cup of coffee and a blueberry stack Mr. Jones?” Cindy asked in her most chipper voice.  Mr. Jones stared at the counter and did not answer.  It was as if he’d lost himself in the shining surface the instant he’d reached the seat.

“Mr. Jones?” Cindy chimed, and he startled, looking up at her.  She refrained from rolling her eyes.  God he was old.  Shouldn’t he be in a retirement home or something?  Were people that old permitted to roam the streets on their own?  Didn’t they need an old person’s sitter or something?  He stared at her with such a lost expression that she wondered if he was stroking out on her.  What was wrong with him today?

“You okay Mr. Jones?” she asked, and he narrowed his eyes as if he’d remembered something.

“Coffee will be fine…” he finally sighed, and returned his gaze to the countertop.  Cindy smiled as best she could and waited.

“Do you want pancakes too?” she asked.  He’d never ordered anything else in the entire time he’d come here, which was before she was even hired ten years prior.  Mr. Jones shook his head.

“Maybe something different today…I’ll be doing things differently from now on…” he murmured, barely audible.  Cindy paused and blinked.  Something was off with him today, but whatever.  Old people weren’t her problem.  She shrugged and walked off to fetch his coffee.

Mr. Jones held his breath and focused all of his energy on not thinking about it.  He tried not to look at the empty chair beside him and not think about that it would remain empty from now on.  Loraine had begged him to come have his coffee and pancakes like usual.  She made him promise to act like everything was fine, and go on as usual.  That people at the diner would miss his sweet face, and he’d be back in an hour or so.  He’d felt so hollow leaving her there in the hospital bed, as if he were leaving the rest of himself.

Mr. Jones looked around the empty diner, with its old fashioned red booths and checkered floor.  It was exactly as he’d remembered it the time he’d taken Loraine out on their first date.  Even though it had switched hands several times, the new owners had been kind enough to keep its outdated appearance the same.  He loved that.  They’d made it a tradition to come in on Saturday mornings when they both had a day off to relax.  Loraine even insisted on coming after rush hour to give the waitresses a break.  She was the most considerate person he knew on the Earth.  She was always writing him little notes, telling him that she loved him, and cooking his favorite foods, even after they’d been married for forty five years.

What he do without her?  How would he go on?  Who would he read the funniest comics to in the newspaper?  Who would he kiss on the forehead and beg to make him her famous apple pie?  Who would hold his hand a church when they prayed during mass?  There were so many things that would change very soon, and he couldn’t bear to even dwell on one of them.  He hadn’t even told their children yet.  The news was too hard to say out loud.

The waitress came back and set the coffee down before lingering beside him.  He glanced up at her and she smiled.  She was such a nice girl.  Loraine was always talking about what a sweet girl the Saturday morning waitress was.  He realized she was saying something and he hadn’t been listening.

“Mr. Jones?” she prompted again.  He shook himself out of it.

“I’m sorry, what did you need?” he asked, hearing the tired sound of his voice.  He hadn’t slept a wink, but the coffee would help.

“Did you decide on those pancakes yet?” she asked, and he tried not to frown.  He didn’t actually even like blueberries very much.  They’d grown on him though.  Blueberries were Loraine’s favorite, and she insisted on stealing a bite from his plate no matter what they ate, so he always ordered the blueberry pancakes.  But she wasn’t here today.

“I’ll have regular pancakes, thanks.” He let out, and turned away.  The waitress paused and finally left him alone.  He wished they wouldn’t say anything else to him.  He didn’t want to have to tell them.  Surely they’d noticed her absence today.  He didn’t know if he could keep his composure if they asked.  This wasn’t supposed to happen.  Not to her.

Bethany was busy cleaning the flat top in the kitchen when Cindy rushed in all in a tizzy.

“Beth!  Seriously, I think Mr. Jones is going off the deep end today…look!” she whispered excitedly, and ushered Bethany to the kitchen window to stare out at him.  She’d noticed him coming in, but hadn’t seen how sad he looked until now.  The lines around his eyes were so crinkled, she thought he might cry at any moment.  Then she realized that his wife wasn’t there.

“Is Loraine in the bathroom?” she asked Cindy.  Cindy cocked an eyebrow and curled her lip in confusion.

“Who the hell is that?” she responded.  Bethany wasn’t surprised.  Cindy never paid attention to anything the customers said or did, but remembered their orders like they were ingrained in her brain.

“Loraine is his wife.  Is she in the bathroom?” she repeated and Cindy shook her head with an irritated look.

“No, she isn’t here this morning.  Why do you even care?” Cindy asked, rolling her eyes.

“Anyway, he ordered regular pancakes today.  He’s acting weird.  Probably about to stroke out or something.” Cindy laughed and handed the ticket to her.  Bethany thinned her lips and frowned.

“That’s not funny in the slightest Cindy.  Did you even bother to ask him where she is, or what’s wrong?” Bethany inquired, looking back out into the diner.  Mr. Jones was slouched over, and his eyes remained on the table.  Such a look of defeat, it hurt her insides.  Cindy sighed.

“No.  You can if you want.” She retorted.  Bethany glared.

“God Cindy, do you think of anyone but yourself?  Honestly!  Go act like a human being and ask that sweet old man what’s wrong.  Do it, or so help me I’ll put you on bathroom duty for a month!” she hissed.  Cindy gawked and huffed before storming back out of the kitchen.

Bethany started the pancakes and listened with an eager ear.  She’d been working at the diner for twenty years and the two things about it that didn’t change, were the decorations and that kind elderly couple.  She could remember them being there for as long as she could remember.

She watched Cindy refill his cup and ask him the question she’d demanded of her.  Without thinking, her hand flew to her mouth as she saw the old man break down sobbing right there at their counter.  Cindy stepped back from him shocked and looked to Bethany for help.  Bethany shook her head and motioned for Cindy to help him.  Cindy reached out tentatively with one hand until it touched him on the shoulder, and she sat beside him.  Bethany could see Cindy’s obvious discomfort, but also genuine concern for the first time in her life for another human being.

Bethany flipped a pancake and tried her best to listen over its sizzling.  She heard the words “cancer” and “terminal” escape his lips before he put his hands to his face.  Bethany’s heart sank, and she turned away to face her kitchen.  It was too terrible to even think of.  Would they ever see the little old woman again?  Would he?  Then she was in a cooking frenzy, grabbing the blueberries out of the fridge.  She went to work right away, focused on her task.

Out in the diner Cindy listened to the old man’s troubles as he sobbed the terrible news into his arms.  His wife hadn’t smoked a day in her life, but her lungs were disintegrating before their eyes, and so was she.  He talked about how thin she’d become.  How different she looked.  How different she felt in his arms.  Cindy put an arm around the man and wiped stray tears from her face hearing him speak about his wife.  She barely knew him and felt like she was hearing him for the first time in her life.  Maybe there were different sides to every story when the world was viewed through someone else’s eyes.

Bethany appeared with two to-go boxes, and two travel cups in her arms.  She placed them in a large bag and set them on the counter before Mr. Jones before wrapping her arms around him.

“I am so sorry Mr. Jones.  Give Loraine all my love, and tell her we hope to see her soon when she’s feeling well enough.” Bethany said softly.  Mr. Jones wiped his eyes and looked confused.

“What’s this?” he asked, motioning to the bag.

“You have one order of regular pancakes, and an order of blueberry to go.  No charge.  Go and be with your wife.  Come back next Saturday and I’ll have the same thing ready for you when you get here to take back to her.  It too will be on the house.  I will have it ready for you every Saturday until you don’t want it anymore.  Go on.” Bethany said.  Mr. Jones stared at her and hesitated.  He finally smiled and nodded before taking the bag and leaving the diner.

Everything changes.  One thing that remains the same, is that our lives are so different.  The perspectives we see make the stories we tell unique.

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