Route 7 Review - Page 132

Tables and Mesas By Maxine Kollar I’m leaning against the counter when they come in. She ushers him in, scans the restaurant and gently tugs at his shirt to steer him to a booth. She could have sat at a table with two chairs but she knew he needed the room. I can tell that she wouldn’t have taken the booth if the place was full. I like her right away. They come in so many sizes that it is hard for me to place if he is five or six, maybe seven. A fidgeter. Not all of them are, but mostly. He slides in the booth first and rounds the curve, probably pretending it’s a rocket ship or something from the whooshing sounds he makes. She puts her pocketbook on the seat between them and pulls out a wipe. I’m not insulted because she doesn’t examine the table and find it dirty; it’s just what she does. The little boy probably drops food on tables and eats it anyway. While she is working on the table, he lies on his stomach and slides to the other end of the seat. He hangs is head over and examines the underside of the seat. Something catches his attention and I see the finger stick out. He is hesitant and looks over his shoulder a bit then quickly pokes the thing. It’s the same thing that is under all seats in all restaurants. He wipes the tip of the finger on his jeans and sits up. She finishes with the table and takes the menu out from the condiment/napkin holder. There isn’t a big selection to begin with but I can tell her choices are even narrower. She moves the pocketbook on the other side of her and scooches over to the boy. She is pointing to two things he can have but he wants that third thing. She has to tell him no and it pains her. It’s not the pain of so many parents these days who can’t say no. It’s a different no. He is about to protest when an angel’s wing quiets his lips and he points to the first thing. She nods and takes a calculator out of the pock- etbook. She is going to figure out tax and tip. All the money in her wallet is on the table and she searches the corners of her bag, probably not for the first time today, for a missed coin. I come over and take their order like I just noticed them. I mention in an offhand way that the tip is built into the cost. They’re doing that at some places now. I would love to hear her story but I know she can’t tell it with the boy there. There’s loss there, like for so many. Maybe a lost job, or a guy storming out, or that blown gasket that will cost so much to repair and will make it all fall apart. When I leave, the boy goes back to hanging over the edge and she grabs one ankle and taps on the calculator again. I think about the mesas I have seen; all table and edges. I bet if they were on one of those, she would sit in the middle and the boy would run to the edge. She would get up and hold the back of his shirt. I see them up there, the wind whipping her brown hair about her face as she struggles. I bring the food and she tells me that she didn’t order chocolate milk for the boy; it’s just supposed to be water. I tell her I’m sorry but since I already poured it in the cup he can have it if he wants it, no charge. She smiles and the boy reaches for it but she touches his arm and he tells me a quick thanks. She grabs both hands and wipes them. He is sucking down the milk like it is water on the dessert floor. She is about to stop him but doesn’t because she knows he’s going to eat the whole burger anyway. Maybe she’s in her late thirties. I can’t tell anymore. She used to be pretty before the thing happened. She wants to be in the middle again but she is at the edge of the mesa, just hanging on. I want to take her other hand and pull. I want to write no charge on the whole order but there is carbon underneath and I can’t do that. There was a time when you could do