Samantha pulls the bathroom door closed. She takes her uniform out of the heavy plastic bag, kicks off her boots, slips out of her sweater and jeans, shivering in the morning chill of the tiled bathroom. She swears mama’s smoke lives in her skin permanently no matter that she just used that new fruity shower gel.
She stares in the cracked mirror wishing she didn’t have the full breasts and round ass that makes every man who comes in stare. Mr. Mason insists the waitresses wear short, tight uniforms because it’s good for business, but it makes her feel cheap. She eases the uniform on, steps into the ugly waitress shoes, ties her thick brown hair in a tight ponytail and rubs at her freckles wishing they’d disappear.
In the neon-lit dining room, the first pots of steaming coffee fill the air and potatoes and onions sizzle on the grill. Through the big front window she sees a hint of pink over the tops of the pine trees. The screen door slams and the morning rush is on.
“Hey Sam…It’s damn cold.” Red, a bear of a man and one of her regulars, rubs his meaty hands together blowing on them.
She gives him a sweet smile counting on his usual generous tip. “Hey… yourself. G’morning. Sit yourself anywhere. Coffee? The usual?
He winks. “You know what I like girl.”
She brings Red two eggs over easy, a mound of home fries and a huge side of ham and refills his coffee three times. He checks her out between bites. If she wiggles her ass it guarantees a bigger tip. She hates this stupid game but she’s saving every penny of her tips to go to junior college. She wants to study literature. If the other waitresses knew they’d laugh just like mama especially when she’s been sipping vodka from her cracked coffee cup.
In high school Sam didn’t care much about school. Her grades weren’t good and she ended up at the diner. It took one of the truckers who brought books to read over breakfast every day to introduce her to literature. He started to leave books for her on purpose and Sam was hooked. She vowed she wasn’t going to end up like mama, working until she couldn’t stand on her swollen legs any more.
Sam refuses the truckers who invite her out Friday nights preferring to stay home with the stack of books the town librarian picks out for her. The junior college is sixty miles away and she needs a stake of money to get her own place even if she gets a job right away. Then she’s determined to transfer to the state university.
8:30 and Sam is ready for a break. Cook makes her poached eggs and toast and the bitter coffee revives her. She sneaks in a few pages of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms losing herself in the beauty of the language. Maybe next year she prays… one class, just one.
published 28 March 2012