Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
June looked up as the diner door opened. There was Jack, ten-fifteen every morning like clockwork. Same dark, carefully pressed single-breasted suit, always with his trench coat folded over his left arm, fedora perched on top of his head.
“Morning baby-doll, what’s cookin?” He flashed a wide smile that she couldn’t help but return.
“Nothing much Jack,” he took the newspaper she had waiting for him and headed back to his corner booth. “The usual?”
She didn’t have to ask, he ate the exact same breakfast every single day.
“Yes please. Why mess up a good thing?”
June followed him to his seat with a fresh pot of coffee, and placing a mug on the table, filled it almost to the top with a flourish.
Jack picked up the mug and swallowed half the steaming liquid without looking up from the paper, and June waited until he’d put the mug back down before filling it again and heading back to the counter.
Her line cook already had eggs, bacon and home fries in the window, and chased it a moment later with a side plate of white toast. She picked up a bottle of HP sauce in one fist and balanced the toast plate on top, then carried the lot to Jack’s table.
“Thanks a bunch cookie!” That smile again. He’d taken off the hat and placed in on top of his coat on the bench beside him. His hair as always was gelled perfectly. She watched as he doused the plate in sauce, then systematically devoured every morsel, washing it down with the rest of his coffee.
He’d been coming since before she started working at the diner, and she’d originally assumed that he was part of some period movie shoot; always the exact same look, always the exact same clothes. In fact nothing about him ever changed. She’d been serving him nearly a decade now, and she could swear he wasn’t a day older than the thirty years she figured he was when she’d poured him that first cup of coffee. She’d put on a few pounds, and acquired a few wrinkles along the way, but Jack, well Jack was just perfectly Jack.
“Holy mackerel!” Jack’s shout startled her back to the present. “Would you get a load of this!” He was pointing excitedly to a page in the newspaper in the Science & Technology section.
June read the headline, “Scientists Find Seven Earth-like Planets Orbiting Nearby Ultracool Star”.
“That’s pretty exciting,” June watched Jack as he rapidly scanned the page without looking up, “maybe one day we’ll be able to travel there.”
Jack stopped, and stared June right in the eye. She felt cold all over.
He stood, and placed a crisp ten dollar bill beside the empty breakfast plate, lining the edges up exactly square to the corner of the table without averting his gaze.
“I certainly hope so,” he said, finally looking away and collecting his hat and coat from the bench.
“I’m going to need a ride home.”
Putting his hat back on, and folding his coat over his left arm, he started for the door.
“Do you want me to call you a cab?” June asked, her confusion evident in her tone.
Jack didn’t turn as he answered. “Oh baby-doll, no,” he hesitated, then added “but thank you.” Then he disappeared out the door into the mid-morning sunshine.