art by Justine McGreevy
by Elizabeth Creith
Zen was the head waitress at Gus's Restaurant (Serving You Since 1952!) Other waitresses came and went, sometimes after only a week or two. So far neither low pay, bad tips, nor Gus's grouchiness fazed Zen. Rumor had it she'd run away and was hiding--from a biker boyfriend, an abusive husband. Zen smiled and neither confirmed nor denied the rumors.
"Zenobia," she'd said, the first time she served Mick and he asked about the name, "I like 'Zen' better."
"Suits you, too," he said, "You're cool. I mean, you keep cool. A cool head. Um."
She shook her head, black ponytail dancing, and smiled. Her nose crinkled a little, and Mick was in love, even though he was fifty-eight and she looked maybe twenty.
After that, whenever he came in he'd sneak looks at her as she bused tables and served customers.
Did someone need more creamers? Zen put her hand in the little square pocket of her apron and pulled out half a dozen. Ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard in neat foil rectangles of red, white, and yellow. Non-dairy creamer. Brown sugar in flat brown paper packets, pink envelopes of artificial sweetener. Tiny clear tubs of marmalade, peanut butter, raspberry jam and zesty Italian salad dressing. She never had to go back to the kitchen, never said "be back with that in a moment." It was all in the pocket.
"You got a rabbit in that apron pocket?" Mick asked her once.