“I’m sorry, Sir,” Marie bit her lip. “I’m not on the menu.”
With that, the dentally-challenged truck driver flung his menu to the floor. “Step on that, please ma’am.”
For what seemed like the millionth time, Marie placed her petite foot on the menu and waited for the next line, which would likely send his three sidekicks into raucous laughter.
“Heheh! Y’are now!” The trucker roared, and his friends burst into the predicted guffaws. “An’ I’ll have a double order!”
“That’s very funny, Sir. You certainly are a wit!” Marie countered. “If only ‘wit’ were teeth, you’d be all set, wouldn’t you?”
Her quick, deadpan response was well-received by the sidekicks, but the chubby trucker failed to see the humor. Instead, he pretended to study the name badge pinned to the left side of Marie’s uniform blouse.
“Marie…,” he read. “That’s a real nice name for that one, but whaddaya call the other one?” He motioned toward her right breast.
Again; laughter all around.
Marie responded in kind, studying the name embroidered on his sweat-stained polo shirt.
“Bob…” she feigned amazement. “How fascinating! It isn’t every day that one meets a palindrome.”
“Now, wait just dad-gum a minute, “Bob the Palindrome blustered. “Ain’t no need in name-callin.’ I’m the customer and you’re supposed to treat me with respect!”
Marie could feel her face begin to flush as she held her ticket book in trembling hands, jaws clenching.
“Sir, I really am quite busy.” She forced a smile, but her eyes flashed lightning. “Are you going to order something or not?”
“I will when you ask me nicely…” he crooned.
Marie glanced at the sidekicks who stared into their coffee cups as if they were reading tea leaves. They didn’t dare meet her gaze. Palindromic Bob, on the other hand, was staring her down with a mocking grin plastered on his pockmarked face.
It was as if every muscle in Marie’s body relaxed into a numbing tingle. She knew there was no going back now.
She smiled sweetly and leaned her left arm on the table and bent down so she and Bob were face-to-face.
“You want nice…Bobby-boy?”
Bob’s stupid grin had faded. He swallowed hard and tried to lean away from her. “Wha…?”
“Marie!” Fred, the restaurant manager, quick-stepped toward their table. “What’s going on here?”
A look of relief spread across Bob’s face, and he found his voice: “She called me a…a…pelican…or, somethin’…!”
Marie continued her deadly gaze, seemingly unaware of the manager’s presence.
“Palindrome.” A sidekick chimed-in. “She called him a palindrome.”
Fred’s puzzled expression transformed into one of comprehension, and then amusement, as his eyes scanned the name on Bob’s shirt.
“That’s because you are, Sir,” Fred replied dismissively and turned to Marie. “Listen, this is third time today you’ve gotten riled-up. Maybe, just maybe, this isn’t the ideal position for you…”
Fred’s words snapped Marie out of her rage. She handed him her pen and ticket book, and began to untie her soup-stained apron.
“Y’know Fred, I think you’re right.” She shoved her apron into his arms. “I’m damned sick and tired of spending eight hours a day, every day, in the ‘Land of the Bubbae’.”
She then popped the rubber band out of her ponytail, tossed it on the table, and shook her long red hair loose.
Marie spun on her heel, grabbed her purse from behind the hostess stand and left: Her career as a truck stop waitress had come to an end.
The rubber band had landed in Bob’s saucer. He picked it up and began stretching it back and forth; his brow furrowed.
He kept that rubber band for a long, long time.