Something Burning

Written with my Thursday group with the prompts:  diner waitress, burning, haphazard groups, in David’s mind

We live in a land where the autumn is brown and orange.  The leaves don’t fall from the trees anymore.  They hang on, wilting, defying wind and season and temperament of the sun. The children never learn the color blue. Everything here is tinged with red.

“Do you smell something burning?” the diner’s new waitress asked David.  He scowled at her as she crossed the threshold into the kitchen, his kitchen.  He flourished his knife as he sliced the potatoes for home fries.  In his mind, this steamy, boxy room was his domain alone and she should keep her place on the other side of the counter.  “Is something burning?” she asked again, and he took a step closer to her, wanting to indicate that he would not back down.  This invasion of his space would not be tolerated.

“I thought I smelled something,” she started a third time.

“I heard you,” he said curtly.  “Don’t you get that the air always smells this way now?  Here.  In the west.”

She gaped at him, then backed into the dining room, giving a quick glance at the griddle.  David stepped forward to lift eggs and bacon onto plates.  She took the meals and gratefully trotted away.

David stared after her, annoyed that the dining room was arranged in such haphazard groups.  A couple here at the counter, three at a table near the door.  Three more in the back, four by the juke box, six near the water station.  It was asymmetrically disturbing, but he had no control over that.  He could only keep order in the kitchen.  He fried the eggs and sausages and bacon, kept a large sauce pot of tomato and basil bubbling for this evening’s spaghetti.  But whenever he had a moment he’d mince fennel and mint, rosemary and sage. The manager of the diner wouldn’t let him use his favorite herbs in the dishes.  But he kept chopping and mincing anyway.  To tamp down the smell of the smoke.

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