Writers-in-Residence Excerpts of Work


Over Easy

Jackie’s making eggs over easy when I walk in. He turns and looks my way
then goes back to the eggs.
I sit at the counter. Same seat as before.

You want coffee, says the waitress.

Yeah, I say, and scrambled eggs. Not runny, okay? I always hated runny
eggs. My mother made them like that.
I see nothing’s changed after all these years. Jackie hasn’t aged a bit.
Still the same. Doesn’t even have gray hair like I do. And he’s still
thin. I wish I could have stayed like that. I wonder how he does it.
Twenty-five years slinging hash in the same spot and he looks the same
as the day I first walked in and saw him scraping the grill. Maybe I’m
expecting too much. Maybe I should say something.

You don’t remember me, do you, I say to Jackie. He turns and looks at me
again. Takes his time. He shakes his head. Sorry, he says, and pushes
two sausages around the grill. They sizzle; I remember the sound. I
remember the smell. It’s a smell you always know wherever you are. Like
toast. Everyone remembers toast. That burny, hot toaster smell. You
never forget that. It’s the same everywhere. You remember things like that.

Jackie spatulas the eggs on to a plate then lines up the sausages next
to them. The waitress pulls the toast out and flips it on to the plate
as Jackie turns to hand it to her. Like short to second, Belanger to
Grich, Concepcion to Morgan, she’s done it a thousand times. I used to
like baseball. When I was a kid. It’s not the same now. The players are
different. They used to care about it. They don’t care anymore.

I ask Jackie again. You still don’t remember me? From the old days? I
came in every morning. Same seat. Right here. Good view where I could
see who was coming and going. Then Jackie says when was that. I never
saw you here. I say to him when you first opened. Like I said, Jackie
tells me. Must have been some other place, some other time. The waitress
says more coffee, Carl? I look at her. Fat, old, worn out. See, I say to
Jackie. She remembers. You remember, don’t ya, I say to her. I look at
her name tag. Marlene. Marlene. I dated a girl in high school named
Marlene.

I know, she says.

Michael Downend
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania

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