"Hi Mary!" Tom waved. It was Mary at the counter. Tom liked Mary.
"Hi Tom." Mary didn't look up as she continued to wipe down the counter.
Tom walked past the various Chicago Bulls and Cubs T-Shirts and memorabilia and sat down at the counter of the Woolworth's dining station.
"It's pretty cold outside you guys, that's why I'm wearing my coat."
Phil piped up, "Yeah, is it really? I don't think I should go out. I'm not supposed to go outside when it's cold."
Mary walked over and stood across the counter from Phil, "Phil, are you finished with that?" she pointed with her rag at his half eaten English Muffin.
"Mary, you know I always clean up my plate. That's what my parents told me when I was young. 'Always clean up your plate', that's what they said. And I've done that ever since. Always cleaned up my plate. Never left food behind me."
Tom looked over at him, "You never left any food behind?" It seemed unbelievable / inconcievable.
"Nope," Phil said proudly, "'Take what you eat and eat what you take' that's what I've always said."
A young black man sat down and Mary walked to the other end of the counter to wait on him.
"I wish I could do that," Tom said wistfully, "Sometimes I just forget to eat it all."
Phil pulled out a crumpled pack of cigarettes and eased one out. Putting it to his lips, he replaced the pack and drew out a lighter.
Tom looked down the counter and saw Esther.
"How you doing Esther? I didn't see you when I came in." Her jowled face rose from her dainish. She trained her watery blue eyes on him, "Hi Tom." They stared at each other for a few moments. "Did you get a haircut?" she was slurring her words.
Tom looked up and ran a dusty hand through his thick brown hair, "No, not really, I guess." He looked back at her. Esther was taking a bite out of her danish. Tom saw Mary pass him out of the corner of his eye. "Hey Mary, I wanna order some food."
She continued waddling away from him, "Hold your horses." Tom noticed the young black man staring at him strangely. Tom smiled and waved at him. He ignored Tom's greeting and kept staring. Mary was in front of him now.
"What do you want? Hurry up, there are other people here you know."
Tom looked away from the young man at his menu and smiled, "Hi there. I just got a five dollar rebate from General Electric for sending in some light bulb boxes, so I'm gonna order food this time." He looked up too late to notice Mary rolling her eyes, "How about an order of scrambled eggs, some sausage, and three pancakes with syrup. Does that come with toast?"
"Yes. What kind do you want?"
"Well, let's see, what kinds do you have?"
"Wheat or white."
"Well, I guess I'll have white. Could I get coffee with that?"
"If you pay for it."
"How much is it?"
"Sixty-five cents. Free refills."
Tom scratched his whiskered chin, "With the food, how much am I up to?"
Wordlessly, Mary waddled over, grabbed a menu, and buried her face in it. Tom picked his up and studied its contents carefully. Mary walked away and came back a moment later with a short glass of water. "Well, what do you want?"
"Well, actually come to think of it, the waffles sound pretty tempting."
"I'll come back later," Mary turned and waddled away.
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