Friends With Benedicts - Staci Hart


The amount of coffee Texans consumed in hundred-degree weather astounded me.

I made my eleventyith turn about the diner with the steaming coffee pot in my hand, smiling my Tip Me smile, praying to the grease gods that the backup pot I had going would be finished brewing by the time I made it back behind the counter. This one was nearly dead.

It was unnatural, really. How anyone could drink anything besides water, beer, or sweet tea in this heat was beyond me, but there they all sat, swigging their drug of choice faster than science should have allowed.

Ding. “Order up!”

“Perfect timing,” I said to my empty pot as I hurried to the window where breakfast plates waited to be swept away to their forever homes.

Seconds later, plates were stacked up one arm, and I whirled back onto the floor for distribution.

It was my third day of work at Bettie’s Biscuits in the bustling metropolis of Lindenbach, Texas, population eleven hundred and two. Eleven hundred and five as of last week when my mother, my kiddo, our dog, and I rolled into town after three hard days of driving. In the heat. With no A/C.

It was a real treat, let me tell you. My barely four-year-old, Priscilla, was sticky on a normal day, but after eight hours without air conditioning and nothing but gas station junk to eat? Forget about it. The kid had eaten so many lollipops, she could stick to the wall like one of those jelly spiders. Not that I would stick my child to the wall. I mean, on most days, anyway.

As I divvied out pancakes and eggs, I listened to the Hill Country twang in everyone’s voice, finding it charming and familiar. I’d spent summers here as a kid with my cousins, running around their thousand-acre bee farm here in town, but I hadn’t been back in near five years.

I don’t know when I would have visited again if we hadn’t lost our house in Northern California. I certainly never thought I’d live in Texas under any circumstance. But here we were, gratefully accepting the handout from the Blum side of the family until we got back on our feet.

I wondered if my mom’s cousin Dottie knew we’d never been on our feet and decided not to be the one to tell her.

It was nine in the morning, but I figured it was already a hundred-and-twenty degrees outside. Maybe an exaggeration, but for a California girl used to a coastal breeze, this land-locked hellscape was an abomination of nature.

And yet, the coffee flowed like wine.

“Can I get you anything else?” I asked, hoping they’d say no.

“More coffee, if you’d be so kind,” a leather-faced man with cowboy hathead said with a smile that made me think of grandparents and the sweet scent of tobacco and ice cream on summer nights.

“Absolutely,” I answered.

It was my go-to, canned waitress answer to any given question. Every server had one. Some people said you bet, or sure, or be right back with that, but I found absolutely really sounded like it was a top priority. Nobody said absolutely and then didn’t do what they promised.

I mean, except servers. But only when they were really busy. Or when their patrons were dicks. The dicks got their coffee last.

Marlboro man would get his pronto.

I scuttled around the room picking up plates on my way to the back, humming along to “All Shook Up.” Bettie’s Biscuits was a classic 50’s diner—pastel pink and that minty Tiffany shade of blue-green that the pervs at Crayola called “Sea Foam Green.”

Aggie, another waitress who I’d decided was going to be my work wife, stood in front of the window to the kitchen with her lip hitched in classic Elvis style, her hips jerking back and forth. She didn’t quit until the guys in the back were laughing, then got back to work, snagging the fresh coffee pot.

“Hey,” I called over my shoulder as I headed to the back. “Would you hit table twelve with that?”

“I will not hit Mr. Hersch with the coffee pot, Presley Hale. You should be ashamed.”

“Thank you,” I said on a laugh.

I unloaded my burden at the dish station, careful not to get anything on my pretty pink uniform or the pristine white of my apron. The odds of me making it to lunch without syrup and ketchup all over me were slim to none, and I only had two uniforms. Ya girl was not a fan of laundry, and even less into