Restaurant Blues

The waitress stuck her head through the open doorway of Doug’s cramped office at the back of his restaurant. Doug absentmindedly took a sip of the black coffee on his desk and studied the large sheet spread out on his desk.

“I’ll give you one of my world famous massages,” she said, “if you come over and hang out at my place. You look like you could use a break.”

He set his cup back on the desk and looked up.

“Sounds enticing, Cali,” Doug said. “I can’t though. I have a new waitress to interview.”

“Too bad,” she said. “If you change your mind later, come on by.” She turned and left for the day.

Doug went back to his paperwork. It seemed never-ending. As soon as he went through one pile of papers, another took its place.

He reached for the cup and realized that it was empty, empty just like his life. He set his pencil down and leaned back in his chair and listened to Louis Armstrong playing “West End Blues” on the Bose CD-player behind him. He sure did love that Satchmo. A slight smile came to his lips, then a frown as the music coursed through his body and he remembered.

Since his fiancée, Sheryl, broke off their engagement, Doug had developed a new rhythm of working, sleeping, working more. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen hours a day seven days a week he worked and it had paid off. His restaurant, Doug’s Tabard Cafe, had prospered. It had earned more in the last four months than in the entire previous year. And it kept him from thinking about his ex. But, for some reason that rainy Wednesday afternoon in February, it didn’t do the job.

He went back to his work. As he weeded his way through the paper on his desk, he stared down at an imagined Sheryl’s face smiling back at him. His eyes watered up with tears. He brushed them aside and went to take a drink out of the coffee cup. Realizing that it was empty, he ignored it and continued his bookkeeping. The blurry figures on the sheet before him didn’t want to add up.

He looked at his watch. Three-thirty. What time had she said she’d be in for the job interview? He glanced up at the door and quickly straightened his tie.

There she stood, a tall, lanky blonde in her early thirties.

“I’m here about the waitress job,” she said and introduced herself as Diane.

“Yes, you are,” Doug said, his dark brown eyes meeting her large blue eyes. They smiled at each other. He reached over to the coffeemaker at his side and poured himself a new cup of coffee. For the first time in a long time, he was happy.

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