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Table 7

by Shahnee Hunter about a year ago in literature
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Eggs, Sunny side up

On an early Saturday morning, just after sunrise at a Diner in the middle of nowhere, Sonny sat staring out the window over the green pasture. The small silver number 7 on his table caught the morning sunlight and reflected onto his crisp white buttoned up shirt. As he adjusted the salt n pepper shakers and ran his finger along the edge of the cold glossy marble table, thoughts of his mother came to mind.

His 5th birthday, sitting at table 7, with his brothers Casey and Joey singing happy birthday to him as he blew out the candles on the $6 store bought cake.

The Saturday morning breakfast routine they enjoyed each weekend, Waffles with syrup for Joey, pancakes with ice cream for Casey and eggs, sunny side up for Sonny.

He thought about the very few visits their dad made, catch ups at the Diner while he was passing through town. He remembered how happy they all were to see him, he remembered the smell of liquor on his breath, his crooked teeth and his laugh that always turned into a cough as his smoke filled lungs fought to catch his breath. More importantly, he remembered the broken promises, a new house, a better school, a longer visit, all just words that, along with him, vanished in a cloud of smoke on the back of his motorbike.

But the thought that brought him back to Harlow Road Diner, was the last breakfast he had with his family. Sonny was 12 years old, it was a typical Saturday morning breakfast at the Diner. Everyone ordered their usual and as the boys waited for their meals, mum was outside watching as she shakenly took a cigarette to her mouth and paced back and forth outside the diner walls. The boys meals were placed in front of them when their mother hurriedly rushed in and announced “ Boys, I just remembered, Mrs Falcone wanted Joey and Casey to join up for soccer try-outs today” His brothers looked at each other confused as a softly spoken Sonny asked “What about me?” “Next year Sonny. Now, you wait here.” None of the boys had any idea what their mother was talking about. As his brothers insisted on taking Sonny with them, their mother, instead shuffled them out the door without so much as a goodbye. “Finish your breakfast Sonny. I’ll be back.” Those were the last words she uttered as she left the diner, refusing to make eye contact. He continued eating, his mother looked back through the diner window at her youngest son, sitting at table number 7 all alone, then left.

Sonny, doing as his mother asked, finishing his breakfast kept watch out the window, waiting for his mother to return. Irene, the waitress who was familiar with Sonny’s family came over to check on him a few times, all the while Sonny reassured her his mother was coming back soon. Thirty minutes had passed and Irene asked if she could take Joey’s waffles and the ice cream from Casey’s pancakes that had now melted into a puddle of milk dripping onto the table, Sonny insisted they’d be back soon.

After an hour the workers at the diner asked the police to check on Sonny. They asked about his family, where he lived, what number they could call, if there was anyone else who could pick him up and where his mother could be.

Just as the montage of him being taken away by family welfare began to play in his mind, the sound of his breakfast being brought to his table snapped him back to reality. The now 27 year old Sonny, sitting at the Harlow Road Diner, his left hand brushing back his wavy brown hair, right hand straightening out his shirt and a final neck cracking before getting into his breakfast, eggs, sunny side up, that he ate patiently every Saturday waiting for his mother to return.

Each weekend for the past eleven years he had returned alone without fail, checking in with Irene and Burnie, the cook, with no luck as to who had seen his mother. His foster family would come with him the first few years but after a while they found it pointless and he returned on his own.

Today was like any other, the eggs were ordered sunny side up, Sonny rearranged the salt n pepper shakers, Irene came by with her little black book to take his order and Burnie kept an eye on him. Sonny always carried a new book in his satchel, a novel he would get halfway through in his Saturday morning routine.

He sipped a sweetened black coffee and dusted his fingers of the sugar from a donut, when, suddenly, a familiar face came through the door. Instantly, Sonny recognised the man, the smile, still the same although now it was all but missing the front two teeth on the left. It was his dad. Sonny did not react nor did he try to make eye contact with the man he hadn’t seen in several years but his father knew somehow that that had to be his son. As he staggered over and plonked himself down with a heavy “hello son” that left a lingering stench long after he had tried to straighten himself up. Sonny did not speak to him, he avoided looking at him, he just returned to his book. His father tried getting something out of him, offering money, asking about girls, poking at his donut, and finally saying “I saw your mother Sonny boy”. Immediately Sonny dropped the book to stare into his fathers eyes in a look that could only be described as helpless but hopeful. “Where is she?” Sonny demanded. To which he was only met with snarky remarks from this arrogant, pathetic excuse for a man. Irene and Burnie looked on as they all waited eagerly to hear where Sonny’s family were but his father seemed to be only playing games with him. Seeing Sonny becoming frustrated whilst getting nowhere talking to his father, Burnie came out from the kitchen and told him to leave but he insisted on staying and sharing a meal with his son. “You tell the kid what he wants to know or you get out!” As his father stood up and brushed past Burnie, he told Sonny that he would be back next Saturday morning, just passing through and then, he would tell him where his mother is.

As he left the diner Irene came to comfort Sonny. “Lies, he always lies, he doesn’t know where my mum is, he’s not coming back. I’m so stupid for waiting for her! She’s never coming back back!” Sonny began shouting as he burst into tears. As people looked on at him unable to control his emotions, Irene cried, Burnie just held him.

The next Saturday arrived and Sonny told Irene and Burnie this was his last breakfast at the diner and that he was thankful for all the years they sat with him, made him laugh and eventually became the only family he knew. But now it was time to stop waiting for his mother. Just then, a speeding truck slammed on the brakes outside on the Diner road turnoff.

With the look of shock in their faces, Burnie, Irene and Sonny were all in disbelief, his father had actually returned, just like he said. Could this mean he was going to tell Sonny where his mother was? As the truck he hitched a ride with drove off, he hurriedly ran inside with a limp. He was carrying a black bag and with every few steps looked over his shoulder at the direction he just came from. He slid into the seat at table number 7, opposite Sonny and ordered a sweetened black coffee from Irene. Sonny stared in wonder at him as he threw the black bag under Sonny’s seat without him noticing. “Alright kid, I think you’re going to be happy about this.....” Just then, a motorbike came tearing down the road and Sonny’s father sunk down in his seat almost close enough to touch the floor. The rider looked briefly in the diner window as he drove by but kept going, not seeing the person he was looking for. Sonny began questioning his father, what did he do? Why was he hiding from that man? His father needed to use the bathroom and told Sonny he’d talk about it when he came out.

His father went to the bathroom to look in the mirror at the gunshot wound on his right buttock, he had stolen money from the man on the bike and as he was climbing a fence to get away the bullet grazed him. In the meantime the man on the bike had turned around and was now making his way to the diner. Burnie told Sonny not to say anything about knowing his father and to just keep quiet. Irene told him to come round back but Sonny thought he would be okay because he had done nothing wrong.

The man charged in the diner door yelling and asking everyone if they had seen a scrawny little toothless bastard running away like a girl. In fear, no one answered, an elderly couple by the entrance just held each other's hands while a family in the corner put their heads down to pray. Just as the man was about to make his way to the bathroom he noticed the blood on the seat in front of Sonny. “Where’s my money boy?” He glared down at Sonny as he leaned in to ask him quietly. Sonny did not answer. As the man slammed down on the table with his hand he yelled in Sonny’s face “Where’s my Money! Answer me!” Hearing this, his father quietly slipped out the back door, leaving his son to answer to the dangerous man that just shot at him.

Sonny, now in panic, replied “Sir, please I don’t know what you’re talking about”. Then, the man who was already towering over Sonny took another step closer and kicked the bag underneath his seat. “What the hell is this then?” He yelled in Sonny’s face. Sonny now very afraid couldn’t utter a word.

A truck turned into the Diner car park as Burnie started yelling at the man to leave Sonny alone “he’s just a kid, take the bag and go!” Irene tried to shield him but the man shoved her to the ground, another waitress ran to the back to call the police. The man pushed Sonny aside and grabbed the black bag from beneath the seat and opened it up to reveal thousands of dollars in notes. “What do you call this boy? Try running away with my twenty thousand dollars! Still don’t know what I’m talking about!” With everyone in the diner now in tears, Burnie and the man shouting, Irene screaming, it was only a few short seconds when the gun was fired that the Harlow Road Diner was filled with silence.

The cries then broke out again as the man ran off, pointing his gun at everyone and jumped back on his bike with his backpack full of money and rode off. Sonny’s father, now far away in the green pastures turned back as he heard the shot, the elderly couple were inconsolable. Irene lay still on the floor in shock as Burnie ran screaming over to table number 7 where he tried to hold on to the lifeless body of his innocent friend Sonny.

No sooner had Sonny finished his breakfast this Saturday morning, eggs, sunny side up, had his short lived life been taken from him. The person who just pulled into the carpark got out, rushing inside to see what all the screaming was about. And who should it be, none other than Sonny’s mother. He finished his breakfast. She came back.

literature

About the author

Shahnee Hunter

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