Don’t Forget to Tip Your Waitstaff
By Jeff Bake
“Over there,” T.J. said. “Tank top. Backpack. Shoulders.”
“Mmmm! I see!” Ronny mused quietly with a grin, glad they were back to their old game of checking out cute guys, even though they only had eyes for each other. And that they were at their usual table at the café.
In the weeks since the café had re-opened, they had become semi-regulars again. They were amazed the place was still there after about seven months of largely no power and sporadic plumbing in town. It was a return to something like normal, T.J. had said the first time he’d left a tip. Amazed again that the bank had opened again and grateful they had a generator at the house the last few months, they made it a point to go to the café a couple of times a week, even though the coffee was nothing to write home about. It was just the atmosphere. It was reassuring. They had actually heard a radio broadcast the other day; the country was recovering and there were a lot of small cities and towns like this that had been self-sufficient. But the big cities were gone.
Like someone had predicted, there had been no winners.
T.J. grinned and sipped his coffee. “So, if I wasn’t around, would you ask him out?”
“Too young!” Ronny said. “Besides, I’d be holding out for perfection. You!”
“Awwww!” T.J. said with a smile.
Over at the table by the window, the man in the tank top ordered a cup of coffee and opened up his backpack. Out popped the cutest furry face Ronny and T.J. had seen. It sniffed the air and let out a happy “yip!” The man grinned again and pulled something out of his pocket and held it up to the dog, who sniffed it and gobbled it up. The dog then happily licked the man’s face.
“Hi,” T.J. said. “I’m T.J., this is Ronny. Excuse us for staring, but we haven’t seen a dog in a while.”
“I’m Marc,” the man said. “This little thing is Greta.” As he said that, the dog started licking his ear and he laughed. “Sometimes they save some scraps for her from the kitchen. She likes those, don’t you girl?” Greta seemed to understand and gave out with another bark.
“We had a dog like that when I was a kid,” Ronny said. “Seems like a long time ago.”
“Yeah, how long has it been since either of us have seen a dog?” T.J. said, sipping his coffee. “People used to walk their dogs in the park all the time. I haven’t seen that since before the war.”
“Lot of things changed,” Ronny said.
“Yeah, Marc said. “I was going to College in Wichita…”
“Yow!” T.J. said.
“I know,” Marc said. “I mean, we were out of town when it all…went down, you know? So, we hit the road, me and Greta. Been here for a few weeks.”
“We’ve lived here about three years,” Ronnie said. “Been doing odd jobs, what have you for the last few months. Trying to keep it as normal as we can.”
“Yeah,” T.J. said. “I’m just glad I have him.”
“Greta’s been my only real family for a while,” Marc said, feeding her a scrap from the small plate the waitress had brought over. “We’re going to be heading out as soon as it gets warmer. See what’s out there.”
“Well, hey, good luck to you both,” T.J. said.
“Thanks, you too.” Marc said, wiping Greta’s face with a napkin.
“See you around,” Ronny said.
Ronny and T.J. finished their coffee and walked home in the afternoon sun. Ronnie reached over and grabbed T.J.’s hand and he smiled. Their minds were on the dog and how nice it had been to see something so normal for a change.
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