"What's he doing?" I asked the waittress, looking at the gentleman in the tattered tweed alone in the corner.
"Oh, honey, that's just Frank. He comes in here every Tuesday night and does the same thing. Pours syrup on his table and plays around with it. Other than a stic(more)ky table, he doesn't bother nobody. Here's your eggs." She laid the steaming plate of eggs and toast on my table, right on top of my maniac tricolor crayon drawing of a unicorn on the back of the kids' placemat.
I love Denny's, though on this occasion I was not quite drunk enough to order the fried mozzarella stick grilled cheese sandwich. "You think he'd mind if I sat with him?"
"He don't really talk much, sweetie. Let me know if you need anything, kay?"
"Thank you." I got up, took my plate and my water over to where Frank was playing with syrup. "Mind if I join you?"
His eyes above a salt-and-pepper beard never glanced up from his work, tracing the swirls made by his index finger in the viscous brown puddle. "Do you mind if I enlighten you as to the nature of being? Or are you one of those that think they've threshed the seeds of serenity from the chaos of the stream in which they are encased?"
He was terribly thin. Nothing on the table but the condiments, the puddle of syrup, the empty syrup dish, and a half empty ice water. "You want some eggs?"
"What is your opinion on abortion?" His finger never stopped swirling.
"It's okay in certain extreme cases. But not for every one."
"And yet you eat aborted, fried fetuses. Fascinating." The gray-blue irises still locked on the finger.
This is turning into a very interesting Tuesday night in Jersey.(less)
As a child, he always remembered his mother complaining about the stickiness of the table after dinner time. With three boys in the house, all under the age of 12, the house was never clean. He always remember his mother using Lysol to get rid of the stickiness.
(more) Now he was the father of three boys. The stickiness was still there. This time, however, it was his own stickiness. He had just had hot, sweaty sex with the attractive intern who always wore bowties on top of his own kitchen table. He felt shameful, and the shame was heavily present in the sticky matter on the table. He had to get rid of it this instant, or he would puke due to shame and worry. What if his wife found out? His kids? They would never forgive him. He had been lying to them, to his sons since the day they were born, to his wife since the day they met 20 years ago. He was 38 now, his hair still intact but gray was beginning to take over. He should really make an appointment at the salon soon, he thought. He then pushed aside that thought and went back to the task at that hand. The cute bowtied intern stood beside him, zipping up his tight jeans. "That was fantastic, Greg. Who knew such a straight lace could be so wild? We should do this again sometime," the intern said, flirting as he pulled out a pen and a business card so he could write his number down. He winked at him, and left. Greg continued to stare at the table, looking at the mixture of semen and sweat. He couldn't believe himself. He quickly wiped it away, remembering that he had to pick up his kids soon.(less)
I spent my first summer out of college living in a small apartment with some friends. Our schedules rarely allowed for us to cook and eat together, but when we did, it was quite the spectacle. Our tiny kitchen could fit no more than one person at a time,(more) but we always found a way to fit two or three of us at a time. I would be at the sink, cutting vegetables on the cutting board. Chris would sautéing some vegetables, while Anne kept an eye on the time as the chicken baked in the oven.
One night, only Chris and I were home. I was curled up on the couch reading a book of T.S. Eliot's poems when Chris scampered out of his room and into our tiny kitchen. "Let's make cinnamon rolls!" he exclaimed. I didn't look up from Eliot's fourth Prelude because Chris's spontaneity did not come as a surprise to me. (We had also consumed a significant amount of wine without dinner, and we were both slightly more than tipsy.)
So Chris baked cinnamon rolls, and I kept reading, and twenty minutes went by. The apartment began to smell of cinnamon and icing, and I finally put the book down and got off the couch to go sit at the table. Chris was putting the final touches on the rolls.
We each ate two. Icing dripped on our fingers, on our hands, on the table. I think some even got on the floor. We didn't mind. The cinnamon rolls were a little burnt on the bottom, but they were still delicious. Sudden, unexpected, but delicious. Glorious, warm, sweet. We laughed as we ate.
On Sunday, when Gregory was wiping down the table, he asked why it was so sticky. Chris and I just smiled.(less)
He practically tripped through the door, catching himself before crashing into the floor. Through beer-hazed eyes, he surveyed the devastation of his home. "Just as I left it," he mumbled drunkenly towards himself, walking to the kitchen.
(more) The chairs around the table were all flipped over, and glass crunched under his feet from the broken wine glasses. A red wine stain marred the wall like a blood stain at a crime scene. It was a crime scene: love had died here.
He reached into the cabinet, short 3 glasses from the fight, and pulled out a clean rocks glass. Filling it with ice, he looked in the fridge, picked clean save for his Coke and a half-full bottle of Jack. The ice crackled as he poured in the whiskey, then the Coke, the soft hiss of bubbles penetrating the still silence of the kitchen.
He grabbed a chair and flipped it right side up, sitting down with a heavy sigh. She didn't love him, she'd never loved him, or so she said. Everything was nothing, at least in their marriage. Apparently, he'd subjected her to 8 months of hell, at least, so she said. All he could remember was trying to do everything she'd ever wanted, giving her what she needed, or so he thought. "Fuck," he muttered, taking a long sip to try and blur his memory.
He reached for her wedding and engagement rings, set in the middle of the table, and felt stickiness from spilled syrup grab his arm. Defeated, he dropped his arm down in the syrup, leaving the rings where they were. He drank, and cried, and drank some more.
He woke up the next morning, arm still stuck to the sticky table, clung reaching toward the last traces of his former love.(less)
With the house now engulfed by flames, the least of his worries was the table.
Boy, it was hot. Like, really hot. I mean, he knew fire was hot, on principle, but he had never been surrounded by quite so much.
He used his shoe to pry open t(more)he blackened cabinet door, searching for a rag. There was only one that hadn't been touched by the fire.
He ran it under the sink, but most of the water turned to steam as it came out of the faucet.
"Dammit!" he shouted. "Why won't you work?"
By the time the rag was sufficiently dampened, the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room was completely on fire. Behind him was a ground level window. He could get out now. Be just fine.
But the anxiety beating in his heart was not from the gloriously wild fire raging around him. No.
It was because SOMEONE hadn't wiped off the table after breakfast this morning, and dammit, he had standards.
He pulled his collar over his nose and shut his eyes before diving through the door of flame into the dining room.
There it was.
He attacked the table top-- the parts that weren't already burning, that is-- with such fervor, that the whole thing snapped in two.
This did not deter him. He followed it to the ground, scrubbing out the grubby little finger marks left by those imbecile roommates.
Satisfied with its cleanliness, he burst forth onto the street.
No one hailed him as a hero, but in his heart, he knew he had done the right thing.(less)