The Short Order Cook
He stood exceedingly still. Not for a moment or a minute, but for many minutes at a time. This happened at least 3 times while I was eating at the counter. He looked in the fridge at one point. He waved goodbye to a customer, not saying anything. He checked under the grill for something when the counter waitress asked if they needed to reorder something. Otherwise he was still.
I had stopped in on a whim. It’s a very small hamburger joint, really just a counter and a cooking area with windows all around. I had passed it many times over 24 years of living in Tulsa, but had never gone in. Now I was out enjoying my birthday. I had already stopped by a coffee house to draw and a museum to wander and now it was lunch time. I passed the place and decided today would be a perfect day to finally stop in. I did a u-turn and made my way in to a seat at the counter.
There was another cook behind the counter and he was the one who made my lunch. I ordered a patty melt (my favorite type of burger) and fries, with a Dr. Pepper. It was not a diet day for me, obviously. The waitress didn’t really need to do much since the cook could hear me say my order and had it going before the waitress had it fully written down. She went around the corner into the back of the place and I didn’t see her until the minute my food was put on the plate, at which point she magically appeared to pick it up and walk it the 5 feet from the grill to my spot. She then turned around and in no more than 3 steps poured me my drink and gave it to me. She was all about the efficiency of movement.
While I was eating I drew this cook. He didn’t notice me drawing since he was staring out the window in what seemed like a daze. I imagined him seeing a fully made hamburger floating away out the window in front of him. I imagined him wishing he could follow. In the meanwhile, the meal was perfect. The patty melt was greasy, the fries were crisp and the drink was obnoxiously sweet.
As I left I said goodbye to the waitress and waved to the two cooks. I headed out the door and as I did I heard the waitress say, “You gonna move outa my way Bobby?” and the cook who stood exceedingly still said, “I really should.”
Drawing and story © 2018 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com