The clock on the far wall ticked off the minutes slowly approaching the five o’clock hour seeming to take forever to get there, Danny wiped down the last of the stainless prep tables thinking back on the day and flexing his fingers his arthritis had been flaring up lately. This was always his favorite time the cooks had left after cleaning up their stations and mopping down the floors. Shirley, Janet, Alice had been with him for years but even they and the other waitresses were long gone having counted up their tips and checked the following week’s schedule, not that it ever varied. None of the bustle, noise, and energy of the breakfast and lunch rush remained, just the soft whir from the walk-in coolers and the pie case kept him company. Thinking back a sad smile escapes from the edge of his lips, it was times like this that he missed his dad the most, all those years helping out learning the business the first ones to arrive and the last to leave, sure he had chafed at it as a teenager, but he loved the place maybe even more than his old man had. When his Mother had passed it had just been the two of them and they had both pretended the crew and customers could somehow fill the gap she left. But these days it had started to cross his mind that unlike his dad he had no one to share these memories with and further down the line no one to pass the traditions to, he no longer indulged the fantasy that somehow he was part of some bigger “family” no Danny had developed a comfortable relationship with lonely over the years.
Flexing again he hangs the rag on the sink edge taking the time to neatly straighten it, he was more a creature of habit than compulsive about it. Gosh he must have shaken hands with five or six hundred folks today and he was feeling it. His dad never failed to greet a customer many of them by name with a firm handshake and smile; he always wondered how the old man managed to remember so much about so many people. It was second nature to him now though and he could recite a thousand names and just as many little tidbits of information on each one. These were his customers and they all loved him for it, without really knowing the man behind the smile and warm greeting. And that was the way of it, everyone was sure he was as happy, upbeat and surrounded by friends cause how could it be otherwise? A final turn through the dining room, double check the bathrooms, Toby was a good kid but he had an interesting definition of clean sometimes. Check the doors, set the alarm, a parting glance almost forlorn and he locks up heading home to reheated leftovers and a little TV before calling it a night, four in the morning comes early.