“You’ll like it, I promise. Charlie is like Ralph. You know Ralph, right? From the movie ‘Wreck It Ralph? Yeah, Charlie is basically him. Only a less clumsy Ralph. Charlie is very careful.” Tamie droned on.
She was driving her mini truck, as I sat in the front passenger seat, listening to her talk about a dude named Charlie and the diner he owns. Earlier after lunch and before we went our separate ways for classes, I asked her if she knew anywhere I could find a part-time job to do after school.
Now, school was over and she was driving me to Charlies’ Diner. Apparently, I was in luck cause one of the waitresses, a girl named Becky, had quit because she was moving away from North-Winds together with her boyfriend.
“Oh, okay.” I said.
Usually I’m not one to be at loss for words, but Tamie talked too much and quite too quickly. She had an easy ability to lead the conversation, and make you fall back, lagging behind with ‘Ahs’ and ‘Uhuhs’ and ‘Ohs’ and ‘Okays’, because there was no attempting to talk through her walls of words. It was like she sucked the words right out of you and used them for herself.
“I never thought Becky would actually agree to leave North-Winds with her shitty boyfriend, but I guess she wanted to get away that badly. She was born here you know, and it felt constricting for her. It gets constricting sometimes though, not gonna lie. I haven’t been here my whole life, but I’ve been here long enough to understand why she would use her boyfriend as a ticket to freedom. Can you believe it? North-Winds doesn’t even have a club. Or a bar. The closest cinema is like a thirty minutes’ drive from here. Thank God it’s our last year of high school. I don’t think I’ll be able to spend two more years in this sleepy town full of retired rich people and locals who literally inherited the houses from their ancestors. I’m going to university in Seoul. You? Where do you want to apply to? For college, you know…”
I stared at Tamie, subconsciously asking myself how she could talk for a very long time without even worrying if the other person was listening to her, and how she always seemed to go off topic in anything she was talking about.
She took her eyes off the road for a split second to glance at me, and smile, showing rows of perfect pearly white teeth.
“Far… I don’t know where yet, but it’s definitely going to be a long distance away from this town.”
That was considering I ever get the funds to go to college or get accepted if I do apply to whichever college I had in mind. To be honest, I didn’t even want to talk about college, or think about it. I had a very slim and close to nonexistent chance of ever attending college and studying something related to the sciences.
I know people usually have all of this figured out by senior year, but I just… well, I haven’t figured it out. Deal with it.
Tamie busted out with laughter. Her laugh was as ugly as they get and sounded like a hybrid between a chortle and a cackle. It was also as loud as her car honk.
“You spend what? A week here, since you just moved and you hate it already? Wow, North-Winds really is something… I can’t believe…”
I droned out what she was saying. It hadn’t even been a week yet. And I didn’t exactly hate North-Winds… like I said, the town was beautiful. Only, it wasn’t for me. The reclusive life, the people… it didn’t fit in with me. And I was planning to get as far away from my father and grandmother as possible the moment I turn eighteen and finish high school.
I also didn’t tell her that I had lived here almost twelve years ago and had gone to North-Winds Kindergarten. I couldn’t remember the few years I spent in this town, but that didn’t erase the fact that I had been here before now.
“Were here.” Tamie announced, snapping me out of my train of thoughts.
We both got out of the car and I took a moment to look at the diner.
The first thing I noticed was the large neon green sign on top of the building that read ‘Charlie’s Diner’ with the ‘Charlie’s’ written in cursive and the ‘Diner’ written in bold block letters. It reminded me of those diners from the ‘50s, with its transparent windows and blue stools.
There weren’t many customers in the diner, except for a middle-aged woman wearing a black leather jacket that looked badass on her, a teenage boy with numerous freckles that I might or might not have seen in the hallways of North-Winds High, and a couple, hunched over burgers, sandwiches, and three bottles of chilled Coca-Cola.
Tamie talked to the tired and bored looking boy behind the counter, and he nodded for a moment, stole a quick glance at me, and disappeared through a door behind him.
“Come on, don’t just stand there, sit here. Charlie will be here in an instant. And let me do the talking, okay? I’ll be your erm… advertiser. Is that what they call it? And I’ll make sure you get hired.” Tamie said, tapping the blue stool next to her, and slapping her rainbow-colored wallet on the counter.
I took the seat next to her, saying something along the lines of ‘Okay’ that showed I agreed with her proposal, and help.
I was still going through the menu on the counter when a man appeared out the doorway, with the tired looking teenage boy behind him, who didn’t seem so tired and bored now, because he was peering at me curiously. Instantly, I noticed why Tamie had referenced this man named Charlie to Ralph from ‘Wreck It Ralph’. He was tall, very tall, and walked with a slight hunch. Probably because he was very tall, obviously. His muscles and fats had drawn a thin line between themselves that was now being blurred out because I couldn’t decide if he was fat or built. Either way, he was very large, like a literal giant.
“Hello Tamie, hello…” he greeted, sparing a small smile at me, and waiting for me to offer my name, so he could fit it into the sentence. His voice was surprisingly calm and soothing for a man so huge. There was an aesthetic value to his voice and I felt like if he ever decided to make podcasts, people would listen to it just for the ASMR.
“Hello, Charlie! Ellie, this is Charlie, Charlie, meet Ellie, aka the prettier, calmer, nicer, and more mentally stable new replacement for Becky. Now, I know you’re careful and choosy when it comes to people that work at your diner but trust me… with this chick in your deck of cards, the locals will be rolling in in heaps, and before you know it, you won’t just have your hands full, but you’ll want me to find an extra pair of helping hands for you. I mean, just look at her face…”
I smiled at Charlie, which honestly looked and felt more like a grimace. I wasn’t sure about being prettier than this girl named Becky, since I had never seen her, but ‘calm’ and ‘nice’ and ‘mentally stable’ were definitely not adjectives that should be used to describe me, in any situation and under any circumstances.
“Nice to meet you, Ellie. I’ve never seen you around…” Charlie said, letting the question he wanted to ask, and imply, hang in the air.
“Yeah, I just moved here.” I answered the unasked question.
The teenage boy, who was now resting his elbows on the counter a few feet away from us, turned slightly. His ears perked up as he pretended not to eavesdrop or to be interested in the conversation. It wasn’t exactly working for him. He was obviously horrible at being subtle.
“Interesting. What do you have to say about North-Winds? Do you like it?” Charlie asked, leaning towards me over the shiny and spotless silver counter.
I was tempted to scoot back with the stool I was currently sitting on, because I felt like I was being scrutinized and investigated. He was also almost within my fictional comfort zone bubble. However, I stood my ground, and focused on keeping good eye contact. That was one thing people always advice you to do while being interviewed right?
I was also tempted to lie and cook up some heartfelt review of this sleepy and idle town that would bring Charlie to sigh and say ‘awn’. But I remembered Tamie was sitting next to me, beaming and proud of the connection she had now initiated between Charlie and me.
“It’s very picturesque, but I don’t like it. It’s too sleepy.” I said, making a compromise between truth and sugarcoated words.
“Spot on.” Charlie agreed with a laugh.
He asked me a few more questions about how I planned to manage school with the part time job, which I answered by saying I wanted to take the evening shifts, after school, and if I had any past experience with being a waitress. I told him I did. It was a lie. I had never worked at a diner, or at a restaurant as a waitress. I had experience with working at a bar though, which is kind of the same thing, right?
Charlie finally nodded in satisfaction after a few more questions. Tamie was outside the diner, talking through her phone animatedly with someone that was, as I could guess, getting on her nerves. The teenage boy working the current shift had somehow slid from him previous spot, unable to keep away from the conversation slash interview, and was now next to Charlie, staring at me curiously and looking away at the speed of light whenever we made eye contact with him.
“What do you think of this diner, Ellie? When you came in, what were your first thoughts?” Charlie asked, crossing his arms and keeping his eyes on me as if he would be able to tell if I was lying.
I’m a good liar.
“Aesthetically pleasing, retro vibes, like a time machine to the ‘50s or ‘80s. This Charlie guy must be really obsessed with vintage.” I replied. Which honestly wasn’t a lie. That was the first thing I thought as I walked in…
A huge grin overtook Charlies face, and he jutted out his hand, which I took with slight confusion. He gave me a firm, but comfortable handshake, which felt more like a hand-hug because his hands were twice as large as mine. Maybe thrice.
“Congratulations. You’re hired… Please be here tomorrow by four pm, for the briefing. Your shift starts at five and ends at nine. Is that okay with you?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Awn look… The truth does get you somewhere.