“One Denver omelet, over medium, please,” Charlie said, sitting back in his chair, hands on the table, loosely clasped beside his cup of coffee.
“Sure thing, Charlie,” Monica answered, smiling.
Gratified, Charlie smiled back.
“Two strips bacon, extra cream cheese on the home fries. English muffin, butter on the side, and a bowl of fruit, extra honey dew.”
“Sure think, Charlie.”
“I forget anything?”
“No, you did not,” she laughed, and Charlie winked.
She picked up his menu, turned smartly on one heel and walked away. She’d always liked Charlie. He was one of her favorite regulars. He was polite and patient. He’d never pushed the flirtation thing too far, and he usually left a good tip.
When the cooks finished with his plate, she added an extra wedge of orange, because she remembered from idle conversation that he liked orange, though he had never asked for it special.
“Here you go, Charlie,” she said, setting the plate on his table. “Denver omelet over medium.”
Charlie had one hand on the base of his throat, like he was trying to clear away a stubborn piece of phlegm.
“You okay, Charlie?” she asked.
He raised his eyes to hers. It looked like he was trying to tell her something. But he was usually so obsequious.
Even though she was busy, and she had food out and more on the way, she stopped at Charlie’s table. The restaurant buzzed around them like a meat and china beehive.
“What is it, Charlie?” she asked.
Charlie closed his eyes. He opened his mouth, and a sound came out that made Monica think of a hippopotamus. Then he collapsed face-first forward into his Denver omelet.
If it had been eggs over-easy he might well have drowned.
Luckily a recent pre-med graduate was dining at a nearby table. After dialing 9-1-1 and working Charlie’s neck, arms and shoulders to get the blood flowing, he reassured the crowd gathered around them that the poor guy was going to be alright. Except for Monica, everyone applauded.
The paramedics arrived a few minutes later. The pre-med student asked Monica for her phone number, and she gave it to him, though she didn’t feel very good about it. She’d realized that she’d hoped Charlie would ask her, one of these days. But, as it turned out, she would never see Charlie again. Over-medium or no, that was the last Denver omelet Charlie would ever order.