If you missed last weeks installment please visit the post here.
Clara glanced at the clock, 11:05. “Pastor Tony!” She called through the order window to the cook. “Pastor.”
“Miss Clara,” Tony appeared with a magazine in his hand. “Please call me Tony. Formalities aren’t necessary.”
“Neither is that hair net” Clara smiled in response glancing, only briefly, at the bald spot between his mostly grey hairs. “Mrs. Kurtz will be here soon, I need to run out and shovel” Clara said, already heading to the coat rack in the corner of the diner near the front door.
“Clara, I insist that you let me take care of it.” Tony said his chivalry revealing his southern upbringing and father-like concern.
“Thank you, but I’ll get it.”
“Clara please, I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” Pastor Tony pleaded. He had approached Jim for a job about a year ago, said that he’d moonlighted as a short order cook while working his way through seminary. With the economy the way it was, his previously reliable job in the automotive industry had become all but obsolete. He didn’t need much, it had just been him since his wife had passed away many years before, just enough to pay the bills and keep him busy.
Clara had been going to his church, First Baptist, since she was a little girl, and it was hard for her to think of Tony as her friend now that they worked together. She’d been taught about respecting her elders and people in positions of leadership. She couldn’t bring herself to call a man the same age as her father solely by his first name.
I’ll be fine Tony, I’m a Michigander, shoveling comes with the territory.”
Clara startled in response to Henry’s interruption. She’d nearly forgotten he was still there, nearly.
“Clara, it really is coming down hard, and heavy. You should let one of us take care of it, of you.” Henry spoke, uncharacteristically revealing sentiments.
Clara blushed as she slipped into her coat, “That’s sweet, it is. But I want to do it. I could use a little fresh air.” She watched as the guy’s exchanged exasperated looks but Tony finally shrugged in defeat. “Could you just get a fresh pot of decaf brewing in a few minutes for me? Mrs. Kurtz will want it piping hot and ready the minute she sits down.” Then she walked outside, and paused for a second enjoying the kiss of the cool air on her still hot cheeks.
The snow was still coming down hard and already they had about three in a half inches, but the prediction was 8 inches for the day and 6 more that evening. Most of the time Clara would jump at the chance to get out of shoveling. But sometimes at work the chance to get outside, even for 8 minutes, even in the snow, was enough of a way to break the monotony that she didn’t mind.
The parking lot wasn’t huge, but large enough. Clara knew that the plow, friend of a friend, wouldn’t be by for several hours, if at all. She decided, while she wouldn’t mess with the whole lot, she would shovel the handicap place Irene Kurtz favored. Inhaling a deep breath of the cold air and blowing the hair out of her face she rested her head on her arms and the handle of the shovel and looked at the diner for a minute before finishing the job.
Rarely did she have the chance to observe it from the outside. She realized standing there in the snow, that her uncle really had made some major changes to the place from what she remembered it being when she was a little girl. He’d redone the windows, trim, painted the outside a pale yellow, had the roof completely redone, and installed a beautiful new door. The only thing hinting at the buildings age was the rickety old aluminum canopy and the rusted poles that supported it. She didn’t really see what the purpose was, it only stretched out a few feet from the building so the protection from the elements was minimal, though now she was grateful for the pile of snow on top of it which had lightened her load in that area significantly, she figured it was the next big change her uncle would make.
Clara let her eyes gaze into the diner once more. Henry’s stuff was still at his place but his camera case was sitting open in his chair and he wasn’t. Her eyes swept the diner and she spotted him leaning against the side wall, watching her, camera in hand.
Feeling the blush return, she smiled and waved awkwardly and finished shoveling the spot just as headlights swept into the lot. Clara ducked into the building and removed her gear, stomped her feet a few times, and brushed at the flakes in her hair watching as Mrs. Kurtz and her company climbed out of the car, all while trying not to notice the faint sounds of the camera clicking nearby.
“Dear, how lovely to see you,” Crowed the elderly Mrs. Kurtz as she made her way, slowly but sturdily out of the snow.
“Mrs. Kurtz, I believe Pastor has just brewed a pot of decaf just for you. Annette, Kathy I didn’t expect to see both of you today!” Clara smiled and took the coats of all three of her elders.
“Mom had an appointment with the surgeon I wanted to be here for,” Kathy whispered in Clara’s ear, “She’s thinking about having the surgery, we’ll talk later, but for 93 she’s basically self sufficient, I don’t think that would be the case if she goes through with it.” Clara smiled and went about getting coffee for the women. Kathy loved and cared for her mother best she could from their home 3 hours north of her. Clara loved it when she came around because it was the only time Clara could hope for any kind of a health update, Mrs. Kurtz was very private and pleasantly concerned herself with the welfare of others while hardly even registering her own needs.
Clara brought two cups of coffee and a creamer to the table. She set them down in front of Mrs. Kurtz and her youngest daughter. “Annette, what can I get for you to drink? We have coffee, tea, lemonade, orange, apple, and cranberry juice, or Pepsi products.”
Where Kathy was welcoming, joyful and reflected her mother’s warmth and love for Christ, Annette had always been very aloof, uninvolved and closed off. “Cranberry juice.” Annette said from behind her menu. It often bothered Clara that Annette only lived a few miles away but they easily saw Kathy twice as often.
Behind the counter Clara noticed that at some point Henry had migrated back to his usual spot. He’d pulled out his second book and was apparently studying something in depth, but the camera had not been returned to its bag, it was sitting on the counter, the lens cap hadn’t even been replaced.
“Welcome, I'll be with you in just a moment,” Clara said automatically when the door chimed, when she looked up and realized who had entered her mouth dropped, “Amy! What are you doing?”
Clara left the cranberry juice on the counter and quickly rushed over to her friend, she scanned the drive way then added hastily, “Did you walk here? Are you crazy?” Clara pulled the closest chair out for her friend then shot a dirty look at the other guest who’d just entered, “How could you let her walk here Mark? Don’t you know she’s due in 2 weeks and there is a blizzard outside?”
“Amy, you’re pregnant? Why didn’t you tell me?” Mark mocked Clara and pulled out a chair of his own. “You know my sister as well as anyone, I tell her not to do something and she’s that much more determined.”
“I’m right here you two. Stop talking about me.” Amy unwrapped her scarf and unbuttoned her coat. “I’m trying to walk the baby out. A little snow isn’t going to hurt.” Clara smiled watching her friend get defensive. Her short dark hair moved easily as she shook her head and continued her argument with Mark.
“My cranberry juice” Annette said after loudly clearing her throat. Her coat was still fastened, had and gloves remained firmly in place.
Clara smiled at her friends and rushed off. “Very sorry ma’am. Are you ready to order or would you like a few more minutes to get comfortable and review the menu?”
Annette raised her eyebrow but Kathy replied “A few minutes would be great.”