(Synopsis in a 9-word flash): Waitress Helen saves the day, vanquishing slimy memory monster.
Shelly, in her booth, flips her hair back to catch a glimpse of kitchen staff, Josh. His honestly-earned farmer’s tan flashes below his white t-shirt as he lugs a tub of dishes to the kitchen. She parts her lips. He blushes and smiles.
Helen, behind the counter, tugs the hem of her zip-backed uniform, smiling at the two. She refills Emil’s coffee cup. He grunts thanks.
The door jingles as a youth in leather and studded wristbands sidles in. Emil snaps his newspaper once, tightening his jaw.
“Welcome to the Half-Moon café,” Helen lifts her coffee pot in greeting.
He slides onto a cracked red stool, three spaces away from Emil.
He bobs his head, “Hot, à la mode, please.”
The café settles into a homey silence, broken only by the clank of washing dishes and rustling of newspaper. Leather Boy flips his spoon on his tongue, to get every morsel of pie. Helen gathers her tray with two open bags of Morton’s iodized and starts refilling in the booth at the far end of the café.
It was the usual crowd, but none could remember being there before.
The door jingles and a gust of cold air pushes its way in. A squat man follows in a floor-length brown raincoat. He turns and pulls the door closed behind him, snapping the lock shut.
Only Helen registers nascent alarm. She sinks down into the far booth, clutching her tray.
The man is hairless, eyes bulging behind thick glasses, with no discernible neck. He turns and glides toward the counter, his coat scraping across the black and white tiles. Shelly wrinkles her nose, disgusted, then leans back, dazed, against the back of the booth as he passes. Leather Boy twists on his stool, dropping his spoon with a clatter. Emil crumples his newspaper, opens his mouth to scold the boy, then takes in the newcomer. He freezes, as well.
Josh peers through the kitchen’s serving hatch, wiping his hands on his apron. His mouth gapes open and he grabs a chopping knife from the counter. He steps back and around to the swinging door to the dining room.
The newcomer gurgles happily. His glasses drop to the floor as his eyes stretch on two independently-moving stalks. He lifts a stubby hand in the air and flicks a finger down. Leather Boy and Emil slide off their stools and fall, heads cracking together.
The newcomer pauses, his eye stalks searching the far corners of the café. Something is different this time. Where is Helen? He enjoys Helen’s memories so much.
Josh bursts through the swinging door, sliding over the top of the counter, landing just behind the newcomer, eyes averted. Perhaps he’s retained some memory, too? He slashes downward with the knife, splitting the stiff raincoat.
Helen is ready. She dumps the first bag of salt on the creature’s quivering shoulders. It spins, hissing. A dark red mouth gapes where its neck should be. She screams and throws the second bag inside the gap.
Sun sparkles through the windows of the Half-Moon Café. Josh slides next to Shelly to share a piece of cherry pie à la mode, while Helen pours him a cup of coffee. Emil pounds his cup on the counter for a refill.
“Keep your shirt on, old man,” says Leather Boy as he strides through the front door.
Helen looks up at him and smiles, “’Morning, Lawrence!”
© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2017-11/04/17)
(Delighted to receive First Place for this Event of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo.)
Carrot Ranch Rodeo Prompt#8__TUFF (11/06/2017): FIVE STEPS to the Flash Challenge~~5 minute unedited free write//99-word flash based on free write//59-word flash based on 99-word flash in step 2//9-word flash based on the 59-word flash//599-word story in 3 acts, as the hero’s transformation