picklzzz - Back to the Flashback Again If only he could have kept it in his pants. He had really tried, damn he tried, but Lewiston Maverick’s daughter was just too fine to ignore. Kent had worked for Maverick’s law firm as a paralegal for three agonizing years. He liked the work, sure, but having Sierra taunt him with that gorgeous body of hers every chance she got, well, shit, it really wasn’t his fault. He finally gave in, a few times in a row actually, after she lured him up to the rooftop at the company Christmas party and stripped down to nothing right there in two feet of snow. Got down on her knees, buck naked mind you, unzipped his pants with her teeth, and when he tried to back away and almost fell off the roof (he was a bit blitzed at the time), she held him down and mounted him while he partly dangled from the twelfth floor. Hell, what man could resist that? So, needless to say, it didn’t go well from there. She got all serious on him, even though she knew about Jenny, his girl for the past four years. When Kent told her in no uncertain terms their first night together was their last, Sierra spilled the beans to everyone. It got back to Jenny, through a coworker whose sister was in Jenny’s yoga class, and she dumped him right off. Even the barrista at the coffee cart in the lobby knew and winked at him. And of course, it got to Sierra’s father, that night in fact. When a security guard went to lock up the roof access door on Christmas Eve and found the boss’s daughter and an unidentified man in the heat of passion partly hanging off the ledge, he told his supervisor, who then told Maverick, and he came to the security office in time to witness on all the monitors his precious daughter in a very unladylike position with his top paralegal. Maverick didn’t fire him as he expected. Kent sort of wished he had, even though jobs were hard to get in this fledgling economy. As he drove past the sign that read “Entering Peecok, Georgia, Population: 502”, Kent realized this punishment was far worse. What the hell am I going to do here for a whole year? Kent wondered as he drove past the “downtown” area faster than he was able to blink an eye. A diner, a drugstore, a hardware store and a grocery, a rundown movie theater, a few offices and that was about it. He slowed to the curb at a gas station past town, got out and looked around. Fields of unknown harvests stretched as far to the right as he could see, and beyond the town the way he’d come in on the left, the very same. Just a block of stores and nothing else? This couldn’t be right. How could anyone exist here? He was used to the bustling city of Atlanta, with a wide variety of shops and restaurants for every taste or mood. This just wouldn’t do at all. Kent got back in his car, drove on to the little motel about a mile down where he’d arranged to rent a room, and figured he’d better get his resume spruced up to apply for a new job. *** After two days barricaded in his one-room hovel, subsisting on chips and candy bars he found in the motel’s only vending machine (which was almost out of everything, thanks to his failure to go get some groceries), Kent decided he might as well go into town and get a real meal. He’d already put together a stellar resume and sent it out to as many firms as he could find online (amazingly, he got a signal even from the middle of BFE, otherwise known as his new home), unpacked his few belongings, called his mother to tell her he arrived and was fine (she’d leave endless messages, filling up his voicemail box, and probably call the state sheriff’s office if he didn’t), watched a few stupid movies (what had Hollywood come to producing that garbage?), and wondered about the meaning of life. He was bored shitless, and more important, he was hungry. So, he showered, dressed quickly (he thought a plaid shirt was appropriate and wondered if he should break out his cowboy boots he’d bought as a gag when visiting Texas last year) and decided to walk the mile into town. He needed exercise. He certainly didn’t see a Bally’s or TotalGym anywhere in this dump. It wasn’t hard to spot the diner. It was separated from the other shops, not physically but by appearance, because it was clad in shiny metal that gleamed brightly in the afternoon light. He looked up at the neon sign, which read “ashback Diner”, and he saw that the “F” and the “l” were burned out. As expected from the name, as he entered, he saw a typical throwback to a fifties diner, with black and white checked linoleum floors, red pleather stools on chrome bases, diamond plating on the walls and counter, and an old jukebox in the corner playing some doo-wop tune he’d always found annoying. So, this is where I’ll be eating from now on, he thought with a grimace. He sure hoped the food was decent. He was already a bit thin, and he didn’t want to waste away to nothing. The room he was renting didn’t have a kitchen, so maybe if the food was terrible, he’d have to get another place with one and teach himself to cook. Hopefully, a better job in a bigger town would come through before he’d have to go through all that trouble. “Hey, Kent, I’ll have your order up in just a minute,” a waitress called as she whizzed by. Huh? How did she know his name? Or his order, for that matter? The waitress set food on a nearby table, dropped the check, and rushed back to the kitchen before he could call her over. He hadn’t even seen a menu. “Here you go,” the waitress said a few minutes later, appearing out of nowhere with a tray full of food. “Country-fried steak, cooked medium-well, baked potato with sour cream and no butter, green beans with almonds, two biscuits, and an iced tea with three lemons. Just the way you like it.” Kent looked at her and down at his food, his brow crinkling as his mouth watered. How the heck did she know exactly what he was in the mood for? And how he liked his steak, or how he took his potato, for that matter? And she even knew he liked three lemons in his iced tea. He shook his head, wondering if he was in an episode of the Twilight Zone or something. As he ate, he watched the waitress scurry about, chatting with patrons and bringing huge trays from the kitchen. The food was better than decent, so although he was puzzled by the waitress and how she knew his order, he was glad to have a good meal for a change. *** The next evening, after working his first day at the new office, which was a sister company to Maverick’s firm serving the southern counties in the state, he headed over to the Flashback Diner for another meal. He sat in the same booth as the day before, and this time, he found a menu at the cashier’s stand before seating himself. He decided on a linguini and clam dish, with a side salad with French dressing, a Coke with two lemons (he had a preference for the number of lemons depending on what he was drinking), and a dessert of warm apple pie with vanilla-bean ice cream and caramel sauce. The same waitress approached. She opened her pad, smiling at him, and scribbled down his order. As she walked away, he realized he hadn’t told her what he wanted! Of course, she brought him exactly what he craved, but on the salad, she gave him Ranch dressing instead of French. “Excuse me, ma’am?” he called as she raced by. “Be right with ya, Kent,” she said. She returned after a trip through the kitchen and two deposits of plates to different tables. The waitress, whose nametag read Florine, looked at him expectantly. “Um, I’m sorry, but I had hoped to get some French dressing for my salad,” he said, pushing the plate toward her. “But, you always get the Ranch. Why the sudden change?” She looked down at him with a frown, tapping her foot impatiently as he wondered how he could always do something when this was only his fourth day in town. “Um, er, my mistake. Must’ve been thinking of something else,” he muttered, and he picked at his salad awhile as he wondered how this woman knew so much about him. She must be a psychic, he decided. Maybe he’d ask someone at his new office if they knew her. He was curious about their experiences at this diner. Something weird was going on, and he was damned if he could figure it out. *** “Hey, Barb. Can I ask you something?” Kent said to the woman next to him as she typed away at her desk. “Yeah, sure thing. Just a sec,” Barb said, finishing what she was doing. Finally, she spun in her chair to face him. “You ever go to that Flashback Diner?” he asked, but of course he knew the answer. Barb rolled her eyes. “Course. It’s the only place to go, unless you wanna drive 20 miles into Marburg to go that greasy Mac’s or forty-two miles south into Sperling to go to that horrible biker bar, Dewitt’s, where they’ll paw you or beat on you, dependin’ on if you was a gal or a guy.” “So, you know the waitress over there, think her name’s Florine?” “Yeah. Me and her went to school together. She was a little loosey goosey, if’ya know what I mean.” Barb winked, and Kent smiled. God, he couldn’t wait to get out of here. He was working with a woman who said “loosey goosey”, for Pete’s sake. “Did she ever get you your order before you even told her what it was?” Barb studied him for a moment, her brows arching in concentration. ‘Is this a trick question or something?” “No, nothing like that. I just wondered.” “How could she do that? You’re sayin’, she just brings you whatever you want without even telling her?” Kent’s face turned red. “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. So, that’s never happened to you?” “Sheesh, no. That would be nice though. I can never decide on stuff.” A call interrupted his inquisition, and as Barb picked it up with an enthusiastic “Howdy, you’ve reached Bailey Law Offices”, Kent returned to his research while simultaneously wondering if he’d lost his mind. *** The next morning, before work, Kent decided to go to the Flashback for breakfast. As he drove into town, he thought up an unusual order, just to see what would happen. He was in the mood for blueberry pancakes with sixteen pecans on top, not on the side but right on top in a crisscross, with strawberry syrup, a side of grits with brown sugar, and a coffee with two creams and one sugar. He was anxious to see how Florine would do with that. This time, he sat in a booth far away from the one he’d sat the previous times. He also wore a baseball hat. As soon as he settled in, Florine rushed over with coffee. “How’ya doin’ this fine mornin’, Kent?” she asked. Before he could answer, she rushed away. He looked for cream and sugar, but he did not see it on the table. He looked up to get her attention, but he jumped slightly when he saw her standing over him. She put some items on the table. “Sorry, almos’ forgot! Where’s my head today?” She laughed and raced off again. Kent looked down to find two creams and one sugar. This time, as he stirred his coffee, he noticed Florine taking orders at other tables. The people were actually saying what they wanted and she was writing it down. Why was he so special? Somehow, she knew exactly what he wanted every time. Well, almost. Last time, she got the dressing wrong, but she insisted that he usually ordered Ranch. A few minutes later, Florine brought his breakfast. He looked down and counted. There were only fifteen pecans on top of his pancakes, but he’d be damned if they weren’t in a crisscross just the way he’d pictured. His grits had a few chunks of butter and syrup, but no brown sugar. He ate, wondering how she got it almost all right again. Boy, I’m cracking up in this god-forsaken place! Kent thought with a scowl. His favorite pastime had become wondering if the waitress would get his stupid order right. *** Each day Kent went to the diner, he varied the times and his orders, and Florine got them almost all right without ever taking asking what he wanted. Each time, a few things were slightly off, but he never complained. He was still amazed that no matter what he decided on, she brought it to him without batting an eye. On a Saturday afternoon, after seeing a movie at the poor-excuse-for-a-theater if he’d ever seen one (they didn’t even have Mike and Ike’s, his favorite, and played two movies, both of which he’d seen on cable already), he decided to go to the Flashback for a quick lunch before heading home to watch the big game. The Lions had actually made it to the Superbowl, and even though he didn’t normally root for them, he hoped they’d beat the pants off the Packers. He liked cheering for the underdog. The diner was quiet for a change. Only a few others were at various tables, talking softly or reading. The jukebox had a sign on it that read “Busted”, which ended the smattering of fifties classics he’d been tortured by for the last few weeks. “Hey, Florine,” Kent said when the waitress came over to his table. She looked over the rim of her glasses at him for a little while. “Sorry, do I know you?” she asked. Kent wondered if he’d waken up from a dream. What was with this chick? Maybe she had Alzheimer’s or something, and it was quickly taking over. Suddenly, she didn’t know him anymore. When she didn’t know him, she did. And now that she knew him, she didn’t. “I’ll have my usual,” Kent said. He’d been ordering the same steakburger and onion rings, with a strawberry malt and a side of coleslaw, since he’d had it a few days before and decided he loved it more than anything else they served. “And what would that be?” she asked, her pen poised over her pad. Kent told her, not wanting to start up trouble by asking her if she just fell out of a tree or something, and when she brought it, the burger was too well done, it was covered in chili, which he didn’t ask for, and she gave him mashed potatoes instead of onion rings. His strawberry malt turned into a Cherry Coke. He ate quickly, thinking he needed a break from this place. It was consuming too much of his thoughts, way more than it should, and he hadn’t come any closer to figuring out what was going on than the first day he’d gone there. He drove to a town fifty-three miles away and found a K-Mart, where he bought some groceries and a two-pot burner. He picked up a small fridge, the kind you put in a dorm, and splurged on a fancy coffee maker. He would make do for awhile. He’d been cranking out the resumes every chance he got, so hopefully he’d hear something before he went totally nuts. *** Two weeks later, Kent was ready to jump out the nearest window. Problem was, all the buildings in town, including his motel, had only one story, so he’d probably just break his leg or something. His boss, Shaker Bailey, was celebrating today after winning a big case, and he was treating for lunch. Kent tried to beg off, saying he had a touch of the stomach flu, but the man, who wore white suits even in the dead of winter, clapped him on the back, almost causing him to dive headfirst into a potted tree in the lobby. “Course you’re comin, Kent. We’re a family here, and when I say we celebratin’, well, we celebratin’!” So, of course the only place to go “celebratin’”, was the Flashback Diner, which was across the street. In this rat’s ass town, everything was right across the street cause there was only one street. Shaker, Barb, and Janie the receptionist, all sat around him as he huddled in the corner booth, trying to avoid Florine. He’d had odd dreams about her for the past week, and when she looked over at them and signaled she’d be right there, he winced. He expected fangs to sprout from her mouth, or wings to erupt from her back or something equally as disturbing. “Hey, ya’ll,” she said, coming over with menus. “How ya’ doin? My name is Florine. It’s my first day here, so please bear with me for a spell while I get it all down. Okay, you start.” She pointed to Kent, and he told her his order. She asked him to repeat it three more times. She brought something else instead.