I bring them each a Coca-Cola, pink straw for the little girl in her lace dress, a wedge of lemon for the mom. The first 20 minutes soothing as a river, the We Love U Bill balloon kissing the ceiling lightly, the layer cake weighted with purple frosting centered on their table. After that, an order of Bar-B-Q fries, the sweet potato kind with honey-mustard dipping sauce I put in two little cups to make it festive.
The girl’s buckling and unbuckling her patent leather shoe; Momma is picking her teeth with the corner of a matchbook. Next a placemat and what crayons I can find from Mickle’s drawer; then an ashtray for stubbing out half-smoked Lucky Strikes. I’m watching the front entry hoping the man in seersucker, even if bald as an egg, is the boyfriend, father figure, dad or husband-to-be, or this one striding across the parking lot in a rush. But he just wants change for a 50-dollar bill.
I have the back section swabbed down, the specials clamped in their holders for tomorrow when the woman has her daughter by the arm, and snip-snap goes the purse, chip-chip the stilettos across the parquet floor, the two of them looking neither left or right as they exit while the balloon bobs at the ceiling, and their cake takes up half the table looking foolish as a snowball in church. Every inch of frosting intact, I carry it to the dishwashers out back, although nobody reaches for a fork; nobody pulls up a stool; everybody just glances at the clock above the door, its face with the jerky second hand telling the whole story.