"Did you make good tips today, Dear?" My mother, always worrying
about how much I bring home. "Yes Mom, didnt do too bad".
"Oh good, you can go downtown and buy Steven some school clothes then,"
as if that wasnt what I was planning on doing. My precious little Steven; the light
of my life; the only thing that matters in this world will be starting school this year.
He has grown so fast right before my very eyes. His beautiful blond hair glistens in the
sunlight and his eyes are the bluest of blue. I swear, when you look at them just right
the whites of his eyes turn blue. Every time he smiles the dimples in his cheeks seem to
get deeper. I sometimes tease him and call him Tigger as he has the cutest bounce to his
little step. Too bad his father wasnt here to witness all this. Maybe it is best
that he is not.
I met Jonathan Sparks one day at the coffee shop where I worked. I was pouring
coffee and happened to look up catching his beautiful blue eyes staring a hole through me.
"What can I get you, Sir?" I asked. "Ill take page 1". I
couldnt help but bust out in laughter at his answer.
"You must be hungry," I said.
"No, not really. I just dont want to leave. I think Im in
love". One of those phrases a waitress NEVER hears.
"Please, call me Jonathan," he interrupted.
"Well, Jonathan, you see you are going to have to wait in line. Look around
you. All these men feel the same way you do. I have such a hard time deciding". With
a sheepish smirk I turned with my coffeepot and headed back to the kitchen. Once inside I
cupped my hand over my mouth to help mute the laughter that was building up inside me.
Going back out to take his order I noticed that his chair was empty. A bit of
disappointment swept through me, but it was not unusual for a man to come into the coffee
shop, make a pass and leave.
Meanwhile, life goes on. The same routine customers frequented the coffee shop. It
was an endless source of mind occupiers. Never a dull moment. There was Old Jake the town
mess. Dont know how else to describe him. Wearing a dingy sheep skin jacket and
boots that looked as if they had seen better days, he proudly walked through the coffee
shop door. Slowly but with purpose he made his way to the counter. He had a full head of
gray hair pulled back and secured by a long leather lace. The unmistakable odor that
followed him drew the attention of everyone in the room. His weathered blue jeans had
patches and tears and the sweater he wore under his jacked had been knit by hand. His red
and black Ascot bore stains from the morning meal he just devoured.
Although his appearance let one to believe he had not bathed in a month or more,
this man was respected and revered wherever he went. He had lived the history we had
learned in school and to talk to him was like talking to a living history book. His
56 frame was frail with age but his mind was as sharp as a tack. He could care
less about the outward appearance. All that mattered to him was someone to tell his tales
After ordering a cup of black coffee he would turn and head toward the first table
that would invite him to sit. Although he always smelled like he had just stepped out of a
pig sty, no one turned him away. He was walking, talking history and he knew everything
about everyone and where they came from.
"Did I ever tell you about the time I was a postman?" he began. "In
those days we would go by horseback through the Black Hills from Grassy Butte to
Williston. It would sometimes take a week to get through. Look how quickly mail is
delivered today. Life was tough back then but we had values."
His stories would go on for hours with his audience changing continually
throughout the day. He loved the attention he would get which seemed to fuel his stories.
It also eased the loneliness he felt after the passing of his beloved wife of 53 years.
Old Jake as he became affectionately known had no heirs. With Hatty gone his coffee shop
audience became his children and he loved them all. His hands vividly gestured the
frustrations he felt as progress and poverty took over his life.
In his prime he was a respected rancher and part-time teacher. Interstate highways
and public schools forced Old Jake to sell his meager ranch and move into the small town
of Arnegard where he was able to pick up odd jobs to make ends meet.
Mel, the town drunk was always in at the crack of dawn for his half a pot of
coffee. You would never know it to look at him now, but he was once a very strapping man.
This man would never consider going out of his house, let alone come to the town coffee
shop with a single hair out of place. He used to be known as "The Man Most Likely
To" and at one point in his life even campaigned for City Council. When I was young I
had the wildest crush on Mel and pictured him running for President one day. The beautiful
white brick three story home in the middle of town used to be his. I would pass it on the
way to school and marvel at its beauty dreaming all the while that one day I would
be living in that house with Mel.
No one is really sure what happened, but one night that beautiful house burst into
flames and took Mels wife and three children with it. Mel was never the same after
that. He lost everything he had including his law practice and seemed to just not care
anymore. When he took to drink we all knew that we would never see the old Mel again.
Sitting in the coffee shop every morning he would look down, drinking his coffee, but as
soon as 8am rolled around, he knew his favorite watering hole would open up and off he
would go for another day of bar hopping. I felt sorry for Mel. I wished so much that I
could soothe him but he just didnt want to be bothered. The world around him
doesnt exist anymore. The bars are now his only family.
Around 11 Jim the musician would come strolling in. He hated to hear music while
he was eating; especially if there were singers in the song. A lot of times he would stuff
napkins in his ear to avoid hearing "the noise" as he called it.
Jim recorded one record for the old Mercury Records label back in Chicago and
after being given a recording contract and advance on that contract, he met the girl of
his dreams and decided to postpone being a recording star to raise a family. Big mistake!
He never got the chance again. Mercury wouldnt record him since he backed out and
never repaid the advance and he then became blacklisted among the recording industry.
"Dont you have any respect for your customers?" he would scream
and pound his fist on the table.
But he always came back. There were other restaurants in townm, but he always came
back to ours. He was a mediocre musician but thought of himself as another Liberace or
Burt Bacharach. His playing was his livelihood and even though he didnt draw a crowd
he kept going night after night.
Sara, now theres an attitude for you. She is what one would call a bitch
with an attitude. She walked around town like she owned it and looked down at everyone who
came in contact with her. No wonder she had not been able to keep a man. Who would want
"Sara, would you like your usual today?"
"Yes, poached egg on toast, and do you think I could get a cup of HOT coffee
today?" she snapped. I wanted to strangle this woman. Who does she think she is? Just
because she is married to the leading physician in town doesnt give her the right to
be so high and mighty! Of all my customers I really disliked this one. She could put a
damper on anyones day.
I guess it is time I introduce myself. My name is Alycia
Sparks. I have been
working at the coffee shop for almost 6 years now. Being a waitress is not what I want to
be in life, but at the time it was all that was available. After Steven came along I was
too scared to quit. I had him to think about and I would do what it took to make sure he
was well cared for. Fortunately, I have a mother who truly cares for me and invited me in
after the accident that took Stevens father from us. I dont know how I would
have lived if it werent for Mom.
I am getting a little ahead of myself here so let me go back to when I first met
Jonathan Sparks. Three weeks went by before he meandered back in the coffee shop. I hardly
recognized him as he had grown a beard and mustache since our initial meeting.
"May I help you sir," I said as he took a seat at the counter.
"Ill have coffee and page 1." Immediately I knew who he was. A
smile swept across my face as I returned to the kitchen for more coffee. It was great to
see him again.
After I returned and he gave me his order I couldnt help but ask him why it
had been so long since he had been in?
"Well pretty lady, I had a job to do and couldnt come back till it was
"What type of work is that?" I asked. Nothing like being nosey right off
"Im an insurance adjuster and I was accessing damages out at the Wilson
place after the tank explosion took their home. Quite a mess."
"Yes," I said "but the good thing is that no one was home at the
time. They have six children, you know."
"Yes, but we will get them taken care of soon enough. Tell me, what are you
doing after work? Care to join me for dinner?"
I was dumbfounded that he would ask me on such short notice. "I would love to,
but I need to get home. My mother will worry about me. Perhaps another night"
"Make it tomorrow then. That way you can get your mothers permission
ahead of time." He chuckled.
Jonathan and I dated for almost three months before he asked me to marry him. I
was crazy about him and even though our courtship was short I gladly and happily said yes.
Two weeks later we got married in front of a Justice of the Peace, as I really
couldnt afford a big wedding and neither could my parents. Our honeymoon was short,
but Jonathan promised that he would make it up to me as soon as we could afford it.
Almost immediately I became pregnant with Steven. Jonathan was the proudest man in
town. He would walk around constantly telling people that he was about to become a father
and expected everyone to congratulate him over and over. He was very protective of me as
well, making sure I didnt lift anything too heavy or do too much around the house.
He was wonderful and I felt very fortunate to have found him.
Two months before Steven was born I lost Jonathan. I had no idea that he had a
history of heart disease in his family and one evening he woke up in terrible pain. I
didnt know what to do and by the time the paramedics got there my husband was gone.
It still amazes me when I think about it. I had him for such a short time. At least I have
a constant reminder of him in the form of my precious son.
The coffee shop is good to me and pays me well. Not to mention the tips I receive
every day, which helps me to do the things for Steven that I want and need to do.
I have no desire to be with another man. Jonathan is still a big part of me and I
am not ready to give up on him. I dont feel another man could take his place.
Working at the coffee shop is like living in a motion picture at times. I feel I am a
friend, counselor and confidant all wrapped up into one package. My customers love me and
know if there is anything bothering them, I am there to listen and MAYBE if they are lucky
I might have some sound advice.
Two weeks ago Jake came into the coffee shop and was noticeably quiet. He
wasnt his usual self. Tom, the mailman came up to him at the counter and asked him
if he would like to join his table.
"Not today Tom", Jake said.
"You ok Jake?" Tom asked.
"Didnt you hear about the shooting at the Club last night? They killed
Dave." Jake was visibly shaken. Dave was our town police officer and usually worked
the night shift. All ears were now on Jake.
" Some idiot from out of town went into the Legion Club last night around
11:00 and asked to be served a beer. Mick (the bartender), noticing that this young
whippersnapper was very drunk and refused to serve him. He got mad and pulled a pistol out
of his pants pocket and demanded to be served. When Mick still refused he shot the mirror
behind him. The customers scattered and shortly after that Dave walked into the club. The
stranger shot Dave. Can you believe that? He shot DAVE. What is happening around here?
This used to be such a peaceful town.
"I know Jake," Tom said. "You just never know what is going to
happen. One minute everything is fine and the next, some stranger walks in and changes all
"Too bad we cant put a big bubble around our little corner of the world
and keep all the riff raff out, huh Tom?"
"True Jake, but wouldnt life be boring then? I feel terrible for
Daves family, but I am sure that the culprit will pay for what he has done."
Jim the musician was sitting in the corner of the room doing his usual stuffing of
napkins in his ears. "Do you think you could turn that blasted radio off for one
morning?" Jim snapped.
Mel sat peacefully at the counter with his hot cup of black coffee.
The door swung open and in pranced Sara "Whats going to be done about
this town? I cant take much more of this crap around here." Sara yelled.
"OH SHUT UP SARA!" Everyone echoed.
Meanwhile, life goes on.