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Moira Gillen

A little bit of darkness to brighten your day

Pleasantries

This was written for a prompt involving "eavesdropping on a conversation."

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I keep my head lowered as I make my way to my booth in the corner. Eye contact in this place is at best, awkward, and at worst, an apparent invitation -- however unintended -- for conversations I’ve no wish to take part in. No, Jackie, I didn’t hear about Vick and Jaxon’s latest screaming fight behind the bleachers when she caught him making out with Emily. Please, fill me in. *vomit*

I look up just in time to see that, oh, awesome, stupendous, my booth is already ocupado by three jocks from the football team. I hadn’t seen them earlier because apparently they’d been having a milkshake-chugging competition but they’re loud and clear now, guffawing at the drool-laden jets of ice cream shooting from the mouth and nose of a choking, laughing Danny. Charming.

“Grow. Up,” I grumble in disgust, backing away before they spit ice cream snot globs on me. I scan the room for any empty booths or seats. It’s so crowded in here lately after school that I don’t know why I even come here anymore.

I mean, yes I do, it’s for the chocolate cokes -- they’re just not the same when you make them at home with Hershey syrup and a can of soda -- but it’s reaching the tipping point for me when it won’t be worth it.

“Ugh,” I say aloud. Jessica is at the counter, legs crossed, skirt riding up her thigh, lips pursed around a straw, body contorted ridiculously. It’s so pathetically obvious she’s posing in the hopes that the troglodyte trio in the corner will notice how suggestively she’s slurping her diet soda that I almost feel bad for her. Almost. With a snort of disgust that I hope she can here, I roll my eyes and head in the opposite direction.

There’s only one booth left open and it’s next to the one currently being filled --and I do mean filled -- by Big Becky and her little sidekick, Weird Wendy. Whatever, I guess. It’ll have to do.

“Great,” I mutter as I slide onto the empty bench. “Banished with the bizarros.”

I play with the napkin holder and wait patiently for the waitress -- it’s Thursday, so Dana -- but she’s taking for-eh-ver, flirting with some old guy in a hat at the other end of the counter.

“Jeeeezus,” I sigh and start drumming my fingers loudly on the table. Finally she comes over and, with what is clearly a forced smile, asks me what I’ll have.

“Chocolate Coke,” and, before she can ask, “REGULAR, DANA.”

She raises her eyebrows -- it’s not my fault I get sick of incompetence; like I don’t order the same thing every effing time I come in -- but doesn’t say anything, just makes a mark on her pad.

As she leaves to go fill my order, I can hear Becky and Wendy whispering about something in the next booth. I see Becky’s head turn toward the counter -- of course I can’t see Wendy at all, Becky’s bulk is taking up almost my entire field of view. You can bet she didn’t order the fruit plate.

I make out the words, “...such a jerk.”

I lean closer and hold my breath, listening.

“... sick of it. She’s just so awful. Seriously. She thinks she’s so much better than everyone else...”

I follow Becky’s gaze to land on Jessica at the counter. The same Jessica who has apparently decided that her subtleties aren’t working. She’s switched tactics and is now leaning forward so low that her boobs are about to pop out of that slutty pink tank top she’s wearing. I swear, she’s about to slip a nip and turn this diner into a strip club.

Ha! At least I’m not the only one who’s fed up with these “people.” IF you can even refer to the animals that make up 97% of the high school student body as such.

“Seriously,” I hear Wendy’s tremulous response, her normally timid voice trembling slightly less than usual. “She thinks she’s really great but she’s not actually anything special at all. She’s just a bitch, and--”

Of course, right then, the waitress returns with my soda and sets it down hard on the table. Not so hard that any of it spills, but hard enough that I know she did it on purpose.

I shoot a look at her retreating back and huff in annoyance but she doesn’t turn. She didn’t even ask whether I wanted anything else. See if she gets a tip.

I unwrap my straw as quietly as possible and take a long draw of the coke. You can barely taste the chocolate syrup. That cheap bitch Dana totally shorted me on purpose. I’d complain, but Becky and Wendy are still muttering and it sounds like it’s getting heated.

“Seriously.” This time it’s Becky -- nice that these two share such a vast vocabulary. “I think it’s time somebody taught her it’s not okay to act like that.”

“You really think...?” Wendy trails off, voice quavering. Then, more firmly. “You know what? You’re right. I’m in.”

Ooooh, things are getting interesting now. Are they “seriously” going to do something about Jessica? Not that the snotty little tramp doesn’t deserve it. God, I’m so sick of seeing her bouncing figure jumping all around the gym leading cheers at the pep rallies I don’t manage to cut.

Becky continues, louder, like she doesn’t care who hears her. “She can’t just go around treating people like she’s so much better than they are. I’m going to show her what happens when she--”

Wendy cuts in, “Wait, shhh. Listen. Is she finishing?”

I take another sip of my soda and shoot a look in Frisky the Fledgling Floozy’s direction. Sure enough, she seems to have given up hope of attracting attention with her primitive mating dance and is forlornly clinking the remains of the ice cubes in her glass.

“Let’s go outside and wait for her in the side alley.” Becky’s husky voice, far from nervous or muffled like it usually is, is calm. “I’ve had it. Like high school isn’t miserable enough even without her.”

Wendy squeaks something in agreement and the two of them stand. I watch from the corner of my eye as they head to the cash register and pay their bill. As soon as I hear the jingle of the bell hanging on the front door, I look over to see Jessica sliding off her stool, her skirt sticking to the pleather seat and giving everyone in the entire place a momentary glimpse of one pink-undies-clad butt cheek. With purple hearts, because of course. Gag me.

I pull out the straw and toss it to the table, downing the rest of my soda in one go. Reaching into my pocket, I take out a few wadded dollars and throw them on the table; it’s probably a several cents more than the actual cost of the drink and normally I’d want change, but Jessica is almost outside now and I do not want to miss the show. This is gonna be good.

I try to act nonchalant as I speed walk across the now half-empty diner, but nobody’s paying any attention anyway. Either Dana saw me toss down the money for my check or she’s flirting again because she doesn’t call after me or try to stop me.

I push out the front door and spill out onto the sidewalk. Nobody. Damn.

Oh, they’d said the alley! They must have grabbed her and pulled her into it.

I make a right and turn the corner.

Smack into Becky’s waiting fist.

Image: 2017-03/diner.jpg

Written by Moira Gillen

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