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Space Diner Proposal

by Ben Waggoner 3 months ago in science fiction · updated about a month ago

A Giant Leap story

"You don't like cherries anymore?"

A hum of late lunch activity pervaded the Giant Leap construction platform's red, white, and blue bedecked Lone Star Diner. Clinking glasses and waitresses' saying, "I'll be right back with that," punctuated good-natured conversations.

A robust baritone voice boomed from the entryway. "You mofos better get out of here now!"

Flatware clattered in the sink behind the counter, and diner patrons lurched in their seats. Larissa Springer and the other three waitresses stopped in their tracks, eyes wide and mouths agape, and pivoted to see who had shouted.

A man in an amber jumpsuit with a moon logo on the right shoulder and his name and job title stitched over the left breast unfolded his bulk from behind a table, glaring. Joseph, Team Leader, rubbed his short-cropped beard. "I hope you're not talking at us!" His muscles rippled as he stood.

Dermond Raumschiff leaned against the doorframe, grinning impishly, and brushed invisible specks from his carefully pressed charcoal and starburst orange Engineering Group uniform before answering. "Yeah, I'm talking to you Moon Foundry guys. We're about to turn off main gravity, because your transport is fixing to undock."

Larissa smirked and ducked her chin, casting an amused but reproving expression at the wiry, square-jawed engineer.

One of Joseph's companions guffawed and slapped his moon logo. "Moon Foundry! Yeah, we're the mofos out here."

"Okay, I'll let that slide," Joseph said with a narrow-eyed grin. "How much longer do we have? I just ordered."

"You'd better ask for it To Go, because—" Dermond consulted his wristwatch. "—forty-five, forty-four, forty-three, forty-two—"

"What? We just put food on the tables!" objected Larissa. "Rocky has grease in the fryers—and burgers and bacon on the grill!"

"Yeah, smells great in here! Sorry about the short notice. I was supposed to get here an hour ago, but I had to do a thing."

"Do a thing? Dermond, this place is going to be a disaster!" Larissa lowered her tray to a tray stand and shouted, "Rocky, clamp down your fryer covers, or you'll get burned!"

A chorus of objections erupted from others in the diner.

"I need a drink lid!"

"How long will the gravity be off for?"

"What kind of an idiot waits until the last minute to notify—"

Dermond grasped the doorframe, backed a half step into the hall, and continued his countdown. "Thirteen, twelve, eleven, ten—by the way, remember that red button I installed above your checkout station last week?"

"Red button?" Larissa asked with a curl of her lip.

"Red button," said Rocky, drying his hands on a dish towel as he pushed through the saloon doors from the cooking area. He winked at her, revealing crows' feet weathered by years spent on the Texas range as a chuckwagon chef.

"Five, four, three—"

Rocky slapped a red button mounted on the wall just below the shelf with the cowboy hat-wearing armadillo. "Unggh!" He collapsed to his knees with a grimace, as did Joseph and all the waitresses.

"Good Lord!" exclaimed Reba, struggling to push up from the floor with one hand in a plate of Mesquite Meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes. She settled to an elbow, looking up at Larissa in consternation before sweeping a few loose grey hairs behind her ear with her clean hand.

Dermond's feet floated off the hallway floor, but his grip on the doorframe kept him moored. "I was going to say Now, Rocky. You were about two seconds early on that."

"What the—" the burly metalworker staggered to his feet and looked around. "What just happened?"

"Rocky inadvertently doubled your weight." Dermond swung himself into the diner, catching his weight with a deep knee bend before standing upright.

"The gravity's on in here but off out there?"

"Yeah," Dermond answered. "We developed some localized gravity generators for when there's a disruption in general service or for, like now, when we have to turn off the big beast so it doesn't interfere with docking and undocking operations. See that black cabinet by Rocky, and the two tracks of fixtures running the length of the room? That's the system doing the job for the diner, so all of you can keep enjoying your meals." He eyed a napkin floating against one of the portals looking out at the Alpha quadrant of the Giant Leap assembly sector and, beyond it, the arc of a bright blue and white ball in space. "Well, most of the diner, along with the kitchen. And you guys can't eat now—your transport's still leaving on schedule."

"Ahead of schedule," Joseph growled.

"When did you set all this up?" asked Larissa as she helped Reba to her feet. I thought those were just tracks for new lighting. "

Dermond's brow furrowed. "About ten days ago. I thought you were here that day. Or was it two weeks, Rocky?"

"Sounds about right. Ten days, give or take."

Larissa crinkled her nose at Dermond and mouthed, "No."

Rocky and Reba prepared carryout bags for the Moon Foundry team, and waitresses circulated, helping patrons clean up spills so they could resume eating.

"Where have you been the last couple days?" Larissa hissed.

"I had to go to Houston on short notice," Dermond said. "But I brought you this." He reached into the hall and grabbed something from about thigh level.

Larissa's face brightened as she accepted a small potted plant. "You got me marigolds! I love marigolds."

"I got you something else, too, but I had to go to Saturn for it."

"Go to … You didn't go to Saturn," Larissa scoffed.

"Let's sit down," Dermond said. "Hey, Rocky, can Larissa take her break now? She wants to sit down with me and have a piece of chocolate cake."

"Now? Sure, I guess."

"I do?" Larissa looked from the wall clock to Rocky to her boyfriend.

"Now?" echoed Reba. Getting a nod from Rocky, she scurried to the cooler and pulled out two plates with a slice of chocolate cake on each. "Sit, sit, sit. I'll bring it."

Dermond led Larissa to the table where the napkin floated by the window on the universe. Uncharacteristically, he took a seat with his back to the diner and the door he had come in. He grabbed the floater and tucked it under the corner of the heavy napkin dispenser.

Reba set the cake down in front of them and gave each a mysterious, eyes-twinkling smile before hurrying back to her station.

Larissa watched her go. "She's acting so weird. And now you—you don't like cherries anymore?" She picked up the cherry Dermond had just put on her plate and sucked the chocolate off of it. His eyes also had a strange light in them.

Dermond adjusted his plate slightly and took a deep breath. "I did that because, of all the sweet things there are in this life, I always want to give you the best part."

"Aw, sweetie, I feel the same way." She smiled at him. "But I think you're just trying to make up for telling that story about going to Saturn. I know nobody's been beyond the asteroid belt."

"But Saturn has something The Belt doesn't."

"What's that?"

"Rings." Dermond pushed his cake to one side and guided a small, red, velvet-covered box across the table before reaching over to flip open the top. "Will you share the sweet things with me for the rest of our lives?"

Larissa gasped, her eyes welling with tears. She grabbed the edge of the table with one hand and stage whispered through the other. "Dermond! Are you asking—?"

"Yes! Say you'll marry me."

"I—I can't," she whispered. "Dermond, you know I'm a traditional girl. You'll have to talk to my father first."

Dermond wagged his head for her to look beyond his shoulder.

Standing near the gravity generator at the end of the diner, Rocky put his arm around Reba's shoulder and squeezed her close, nodding.

Reba dabbed at the corner of her eye. "We couldn't be happier for you, Babydoll!"

Throughout the diner, customers chanted. "Say yes, say yes, say yes!"

Holding a shiny red cherry over her heart, Larissa gave Dermond a deep, heartfelt nod. "Yes!" she squeaked.

They stood, and he took her in his arms at the end of the table.

"Cake for everybody!" exclaimed Rocky.

Reba and the waitresses loaded up their trays.

"I know we have to schedule the wedding first, but where do you want to go for our honeymoon?" asked Dermond.

Larissa gazed out the window. "I'd like to go somewhere I've never been. Can we go on a tour of Earth?"

Author's note: Larissa and Dermond are also featured in the short story Alien Honeymoon. You are invited to continue reading about them here on Vocal. Follow this link:

Alien Honeymoon

  • Cake image: Ben Waggoner

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