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A steak tonight, I decided earlier after a thought last night. Driving home from work, made my plan final... always best to do so once already on your way. And I hoped again that they took checks, though I was sure they did -- had watched more than one person write checks at the counter, picking up orders they'd called in, big bags going home for the family.

Place was near-dead the last time I was in, Wednesday, I think. Not so tonight -- waiting for tables, but all groups, families plus extras, all ages, and not such a big place. And only has 4-seaters. And here I am solo with a book in my pocket.

So I stand a while, reading. Then I sit a while, reading. Just more folks coming, so I keep sitting. A table comes up and it's my turn, but I say give it to them, motioning towards the group next to me. I want smoking anyway. A smoking table comes open later, but folks want first available now -- that kind of wait. I pass on another table, take my book outside to smoke. Sit and stand on the slab out front, covered, but not quite a porch -- needs some rocking chairs, screen eventually, but just rocking chairs for now.

Soon I'm leaning against one of the poles supporting the roof, rough hewn and natural like someone saw it in the woods out back and said 'Hey, this'll hold that roof up,' and stripped the bark real quick before they stood it on end for me to lean on later. Having to hold the book at weird angles and move it around a lot to catch the light from the flood lights at the end of the building. Getting pretty cold after a while too, feet numbish and fingers mad at me for wearing fingerless gloves, of all things.

Others are out too, little kids chasing each other in circles, folks looking at the menu and talking, some smoking also.

Back inside a little later, I reclaim one of three waiting chairs. Still people are arriving, the manager-type guy says, 'Well, boss, you're gonna sit there and starve aren't you.' I guess he calls everybody boss. He's called me that every time I've been there. I've got nothing but time, I tell him. And hey, reading time, interestingly different reading time, with pauses for observation of all those other universes. Though there were kids, I never heard any crying. Though all the tables were full, and conversation going, never a hearty laugh from a table all at once. Just a smooth Saturday evening.

The waitress who served me on my first visit jokes with me too, 'They still haven't got you a table? You're gonna finish your book sitting there.' 'I know, I almost have. Read over 100 pages since I've been here. But it's worth the wait.' And she says she knows it, slaps my knee and goes on... and I think, no, really the wait is worth it. Food good, but nothing to write home about... Not what I meant saying 'It's worth the wait.' Nah, just enjoying the wait, why not? I had nothing else to do, I had a book to keep me occupied, and meanwhile felt like a ghost remembering so many nights in restaurants, getting slammed like that... But this time I could just read and watch them, busy. They got hit at three this afternoon (overheard) and it didn't let up till after 8, probably, when I finally sat comfortably -- knowing there'd be no pressure for me to hurry up and eat and leave, and that's why I really waited -- to make my steak better. To read and smoke after I order, drink sweet tea, set book aside to eat and just look around (at least that's what I end up doing (noticing shoes)). Then arrange my plate like I know I'd want it if I was bussing my table, sit back and sip on sweet tea while I read and smoke. Just a little tonight after dinner... since I really had gotten so near the end, now I'm getting that bummer feeling of the end of an engaging book, so I set it aside to make it last a little longer.

I stand up and put on my coat, return book to the pocket, slide a five under the ashtray. My waitress takes my check at the counter, says she likes my tie-dyed checks. Hey thanks, I say and I'm on my way home at last with a happy tummy.

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