Coffee, Dry Toast, Four Butters, Two Honeys

from by Thadra Sheridan

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lyrics

Monday through Friday
5:50 am,
they assemble in the parking lot
of my diner.
Always chilly at that hour, they
huddle in idling cars,
monitor watches and
stereo clocks
until 6 am open.
Sometimes,
if I wait ‘til a few minutes past,
they form an impatient line,
shifting from
foot to foot
outside the door.
Once I unlock it from the inside, they
shuffle in
to take the same chairs
at the same tables
they’ve perched
Monday through Friday
since the dawn of time.
I don’t have to ask any more, just
rattle off their orders as a formality.
Bob at the lunch counter:
oatmeal, no raisins, coffee,
cinnamon toast,
George in non-smoking:
cheddar omelette, no toast,
earl grey tea,
five in smoking with
separate tables and
one conversation:
well-done waffle with bananas,
raisin bran with skim and
half a grapefruit.
Midge takes the center four top;
Always the back left chair,
always coffee and dry toast
with four butter pats
and two honeys.
She leaves a neat stack of six dimes
every day.
If her table has been
slightly moved,
if I give her
three butters, instead of four
she will comment.
These are real breakfasts
but not real names.
I’m not protecting the innocent,
it’s just
mostly I call them
whatshisname and
whatsherface and
that idiot who throws
quarters at me, because
there’s only so much I’m willing to do
for a stack of six dimes,
and remembering your name
crosses that line.
Friday morning an
isolated trap door to the
bowels of hell opens
directly beneath
the back left chair
at the center four top.
It sucks Midge down
to eternal damnation.
That wouldn’t have happened
if she’d sat in the chair
on the right that day.
And I laugh at her receding frame
for every time she
waved me down frantically
to add a tablespoon of coffee
to her nearly-full cup,
because the fact that I’m
the only person here
to cover twenty-three
impatient, demanding regulars
just doesn’t factor in
to her tiny
coffee, dry toast,
four butter, two honey
mind.
She needs unwavering routine:
same time
standard chair
regular waitress
typical room temperature
“Good morning”
cup of coffee
glass of ice water
rolled silverware and napkin
delivered promptly
usual breakfast
paid for in
exact change,
leaving six dimes
piled neatly.
Unfortunately the regular girl
is on vacation this month.
And she fits nicely into this vortex,
but I can’t eat leftovers
the very next day.
I assemble twenty freelance checks a month
and wait tables from time to time,
because with nine to five under fluorescents
I wouldn’t need
a trapdoor to hell.
Al comes in around ten;
bagel sandwich with pepper jack
seven days a week.
He says some people need their routine
to maintain stability.
What the hell’s so
great about stability?
I’m rather fond of my
What’s going to happen tomorrow.
And if one day some
little whippersnapper
calls me Midge, because
she refuses to learn my
stupid name,
although she could set her watch
by my chronic meticulous
morning ritual,
I’ll take a blindfold, a cigarette,
and six to the frontal lobe, because
I’d rather check out early
in a blaze of maudlin
movie western parody
than grow steady mold and apathy
in purgatory.

credits

from Poems My Rat Didn't Eat, released June 23, 2014

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about

Thadra Sheridan Minneapolis, Minnesota

Writer, Performer, Humorist, Teacher Thadra Sheridan has performed her works on stages from HBO's Def Poetry Jam to San Quentin Penitentiary. She writes a regular column on opineseason.com, and tries very hard to avoid waiting tables. Her recent film, "Waiting" recently went viral when it was picked up by Upworthy. ... more

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