A Matter of Taste

by wordytom

Copyright┬ę 2010 by wordytom

Romantic Story: She was forty, overweight, owned a small diner and was tired of much work and little money. He was forty-five, hard working and tired of his job, his employer and living alone. After he had been a customer of Thelma's Diner for nine years, Sam and Thelma discivered each other.

Tags: Ma/Fa   Romantic   Heterosexual   True Story  


Okay, a little story with no sex- So sue me!

Every morning he came in the front door of the diner looking dour and grumpy, at best only half awake. Every morning he said the exact same words, "Gimme a stack and a cuppa coffee."

Always the same order every morning, five days a week. If the stool he normally sat at was occupied he chose the nearest empty one. Otherwise, no change, ever. Even the time he arrived, six thirty in the morning, never varied by more than a couple minutes.

Good grief, Thelma thought to herself, what a miserable existence you must lead. She stared pityingly at him. Does your wife wind you up like a toy and send you waddling off to work every day?

He looked up and caught her stare. "What? What's wrong?"

"Your fly's open," she answered without thinking. Gawd, why did she say that? Me and my big mouth, Hell, now he'll get ticked off and go someplace else to eat. And slow as business has been lately ... I am so stupid!

He jumped up, looked down at his front, and saw that his fly was closed. "No it's not." Then, the slow grin that brightened his face, made him look younger, more rugged and somehow more approachable. "Aw, you were just teasing me." He laughed and sat back down and attacked his stack of pancakes.

Minutes later she placed a side order next to his breakfast plate. On it were two eggs and four slices of bacon. "I just made this up for another customer but he had to leave before it was ready." She mentally crossed her fingers and added, "It's on the house. You are a regular so, anyway..."

He looked up surprised then took a tentative taste and exclaimed, "Thanks. These eggs are just the way I like 'em. The bacon, too, even the toast."

"You have been coming in here for the nine plus years I have owned this place and probably long before that. You never say anything to anybody. I once saw you nod to another customer, but that was it. You always order the same thing. Even your tip is the same; it is always twenty percent of the price, which never varies either, except when I raise them. How come?"

He looked at her in surprise. "Well, I never ordered anything else because I never thought to. The coffee helps me wake up and the pancakes fill me up. I have been coming in here for nearly fifteen years, ever since my wife left me."

"I'm sorry," she told him. "Welcome to the club."

He continued, "After she went on down the road, I started coming in here. Hell, I never ever even tried to cook for myself. I hate the thought of getting all those pans and dishes and stuff dirty and then having to wash 'em." He shrugged, "I don't know, I guess I took the path of least resistance and then it got to be a habit." He shrugged, self-consciously and turned his attention back to his food.

"Since we're getting so cozy and all, what's your name?"

"Oh, it's Sam, Sam Weaver." He answered, cleaned the last of the food off both plates. He stood; nodded at her and placed the usual twenty percent tip beside his plate in its usual place, paid his bill and, with a smile and a nod, started to leave.

"You don't even know my name," she told the closing door, sadness in her voice as she turned away.

"It's Thelma Larkin," Sam told her. She turned around quickly, grasped her throat, startled. He was standing in the door. "I have real good eyesight. Good hearing, too. I'm a maintenance mechanic at the computer labs down the street. I saw your name on your business license the first day you took over as owner." He smiled, "I have a good memory too." He waved, then he winked and left for good.

At noon he was back. "Hi.".

"Well. This is a first," she greeted him. "What'll you have for lunch?"

Predictably, he sat at his regular stool and leaned his elbows on the counter, watching her with more than a little interest. There was a slight smile that softened his usually stern face. It softened his chiseled almost craggy features. "You surprise me," he told her.

"What do you usually have for lunch?" She looked at him and got the distinct impression he was looking right back at her. Not just at her the waitress, but Thelma the woman. She felt an unfamiliar flutter go through her stomach and just a little lower down.

You are a woman of forty. Stop acting like some horny teenager. Then added, Well, not quite, but close. But you're fat and nobody's dream date. Who'd want a chubby never- was, not even a has-been, when there's all those pretty younger ones running around?

He interrupted her thoughts, "Sometimes I don't even eat lunch, but if I do, it's usually just a sandwich out of a machine. We have these machines that dispense dry sandwiches and stale pies." He smiled at her apologetically. "I guess I could have come in here, but it's a block and a half away and I just never thought to."

She looked at him with mock severity. "Sam, if you were water, you wouldn't even try to run downhill, you'd probably just seep into the ground. Don't you ever do anything adventurous or spontaneous?"

He shrugged and looked down at the counter. "Well, no. I have never thought to 'do anything adventurous.' It just never occurred to me."

"Then I am going to surprise you. I shall fix you a great lunch. And I want you to know that I feel hurt you never ever came in here for lunch before this. I better hurry so you can get back from lunch break before you get in trouble."

His smile was half apology, half sheepish. "I can take all the time I want. One of my helpers can handle things while I'm not there."

There was more and more to this man that she had ever thought. "Helper? What are you, a foreman or something? I thought you were just a mechanic."

Again, that half "I'm sorry" and half bashful little boy look. "Well no, I'm the plant engineer. That means I am a mechanic with a title and I have two good helpers working for me."

"You are some sort of strange man, Sam I Am." God. I'm starting to sound like Doctor Seuss. "You sit here and drink your coffee. I'll fix you your lunch."

As she turned, other customers began arriving, also expecting fast service. She began hurrying to take care of the lunch crowd. Somehow she was able to rush around the small diner and bus the dirty dishes off of the booth tables, keep the dirty dishes cleared off the counter. She also cooked the various orders and served them quickly making no mistakes.

Sam watched her in amazement. Never had he seen a person able to plan her every move in advance so that as one job was done, she was naturally where she needed to be to begin the next one with no lost motion. "You are beautiful to watch. It's almost like seeing a ballet without music!"

The unexpected compliment he gave her as she hurried past him almost threw her off stride. She shook her head and smiled her appreciation and kept the banter up with the lunch regulars. For almost a solid hour and a half he sat and watched her serve, cook and clear dishes. Suddenly she slapped her forehead, "Ohmigod! I forgot your lunch."

She hurried to the back and slapped a strip sirloin steak on the grill. At the same time, she tossed the two halves of a sourdough bun on the edge griddle to toast and warm. Quickly, she sliced a tomato and a sweet onion. The steak was turned and the bun coated with a light brushing of the highly spiced au jus from the small steam table. Next came a light spread of ranch dressing, followed by a sprinkling of coarse ground pepper. A leaf of Romaine lettuce, the meat, tomato and onion followed each other onto the bottom half of the bun. Three spears of salty Polish pickle were laid to one side of the sandwich. The top half of the bun was placed on the assembled goodies; everything was cut on the diagonal for easier handling.

She placed the plate in front of him. "Here, try this. Sorry for the wait."

Sam was prepared to heap lavish praise on mediocre food such as he had tasted in all the other countless diners he frequented since his divorce. He lifted the sandwich to his mouth and took a bite. Taste buds, long unused to well-prepared food, exploded in his mouth. "This is good. This is damned good. In fact, it's great." He swallowed the first bite and took a second.

"The eggs you served me this morning were good. But short of burning them and the bacon or serving everything raw, its hard to screw them up. Now if you can cook this good, why haven't I ever tasted it before?"

"Perhaps it's because all the years you've been coming in here, all you ever ordered were the pancakes and coffee. There's not too many ways to make a plain old stack of hot cakes shine in the dark. Like you said, outside of not burning them that is. And you always have a second cup of coffee."

"Well, that's because it's good. If it was lousy, I'd only have one cup." He shoved his cup toward her for a refill.

His cell phone chirruped. "Yes." Suddenly he was all business. The friendly, affable man was gone. The busy supervisor took his place. "I'll handle it tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow." He sighed. "Look, right now I am eating lunch and having a great conversation with the most charming and interesting lady I have met in years, perhaps ever. Now, unless the plant is burning down around your ears, please leave me alone." He paused and listened. In a loud and angry voice he said, "Tell him I said to go do impolite things to himself."

He turned the phone completely off and looked up into the expression of almost awe in Thelma's eyes. "Who was that you were giving such a hard time to?" she asked.

He looked at her in surprise, "Oh, you heard?"

"When you raised your voice, whoever you were talking about probably heard, unless he's out of state."

"The owner of our company has a great opinion of himself and my main helper is overly impressed by greatness, either real or imagined." Suddenly he grinned, "Could you use an apprentice dish washer? I may be out of a job when I go in tomorrow morning. In fact, let me help you right now."

He slipped off his stool and began to carry the dirty dishes into the back, then loaded the dishwasher. He shoved the racked dishes into the machine and turned it on. While the first batch was washing, he went back out for a second load. She refilled the saltshakers, cleaned the condiment trays and the back bar while he did dishes. He worked steadily and with a minimum of motion and effort.

"Where did you learn to bus dishes and run a dishwashing machine?"

"I got my first degree from Stanford and worked in fast food places to make it through to graduation. Then, I was a fry cook in San Diego where I got my diploma in design electronics. So I do know my way around the kitchen. I can't make a steak sandwich like the one you just fed me. That was pure pleasure."

Hearing him heap lavish praise on her sent shivers coursing through her body. "Why thank you, kind sir." Easy there, old broad, she told herself, you aren't a teenager by many years. So stop trying to act like one.

All at once the unfairness of it all struck her. She imagined how it would be to have somebody look at her in that special way. Not just friendly like Sam was being right now, but to be up close and personal. Just once.

Suddenly a big, burly man came crashing through the front door of the diner and brushed Thelma to one side as if she wasn't there. She staggered and almost fell.

"What did you tell that idiot helper to tell me?" He shoved his chin aggressively forward.

"You are right about that 'idiot helper' since he is the only one in the whole plant that has any respect for you. All your other employees hold you in fear and loathing. Me? I just hold you in contempt. In fact, you can go screw yourself twice." Sam had such a look of hard, cold disgust on his face that she was afraid the other man would actually hit him.

"You're fired." The man was livid; he trembled with great, black rage.

"Good, I'll clear out my desk and be gone in ten minutes. I told you the last time you tried to push me around that I'd quit if you ever started in again. You pay me to perform a service, not kiss your tail end. You couldn't pay me enough to do that."

He walked past the big man and outside where he turned left and walked back toward the plant...

An hour later, a jeep pulled up out in front of the diner. Sam stepped out. He entered and asked, "Need a kitchen helper?"

She looked at him in amazement. "I thought you never did anything adventurous. You almost hit your boss. You come back an hour later asking for work. I assume you're jobless?"

"You assume right," he answered with that grin that made him seem almost boyish. "That didn't come under the heading of adventure. It's been a long time coming. He's a bully and I refuse to be cowed by a blowhard."

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