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A bell rings, struck by a metal protuberance designed for that singular purpose. Gym shoes squeak across white-and-black tiles. The customer’s mouth is agape, both from exhaustion and wonderment — for everything is wonderful to her.

Ireshi slides into the diner’s third booth. She is a late-twenty-year-old in college, though she cannot recall what for or how long. All she knows is she’s older than a normal sophomore or junior…one of those two. Her runner’s outfit sticks to the seat’s red padding and her chest rises and falls.

She ran six miles to get here.

Stomach growling louder than the coyotes she encountered during the jog’s latter half, she sprawls out to take in the sun. The life-giving star’s rays cast a blinding reflection off ‘50s style stainless steel. Despite her strong Thai heritage Ireshi loves the place’s American aesthetic. Lineage matters much to her, but not to the extent it interferes with a fun time. And of course weight-watching takes priority over all other things. Anyway, it is a nice sunny morning. Her dark tanned legs bake against one such steel adornment.

A guy behind the counter between the kitchen and eatery points at Ireshi. He’s cute, but boney. His voice is so deep it vibrates the paper menu on the table. At first she cocks her head, assuming she is being talked to.

But then a waitress approaches: a girl around Ireshi’s age (maybe a few years younger) as white as a ghost and of a far heavier set. “Hello, my name is Georgia and I’ll be your server this morning—”

Hi!” Ireshi waves her hand like an innocent child. “Wait, Georgia? Like, the state?”

Uuhhhhh, yeah. Like the state.”

That can’t be a real name!” Ireshi exclaims, dumbfounded.

Georgia folds her arms. “It’s pretty common.”

Crazy! I’ve never heard of it.” Ireshi suddenly lurches over the table. Sweat dripping from her body trickles onto the waitress’s set of used menus. The jogger’s nose taps Georgia’s nametag pinned on her apron. “It is your name!” She snaps her fingers like a kid who lost a dollar bill in the wind. “Nuts, I look stupid now!”

Georgia recoils from that smelly runner. “Get back, jeez!” She pushes Ireshi away in a firm, but gentle manner and wipes the sweat from her hands. “What’s your deal?”

N—nothing, ma’am.”

Good. Your drink order?” Georgia demands. “Appetisers?”

Embarrassed by her own oddities, Ireshi settles back in. “I’d like just water and chocolate milk please.”

The waitress’s pen glides across her notepad. This motion harbors particularly hateful energy and takes far longer to write than such a simple order should. “Ok.”

And with the flip of an apron, Ireshi is alone again.

Childhood memories swirl like chocolate in mixing vats. The runner awaits her nostalgic drink. She recalls those good times fondly, especially the ones before the accident on the playset shattered her brain. Ever since her naive childhood self decided hanging upside-down from a set of monkey bars was a good idea, Ireshi has never been the same. She’ll never stop regretting that fall.

School was hell for her from then on; such a difficult trial.

Such an easy target she became for bullies so numerous she cannot recall their faces. “Dumbass.” “Retard.” “Stupid.” That’s what they said whenever she floundered in class.

All she had was fitness; endorphin highs from long dashes.

Ireshi plays with a salt shaker before her. Its contents scatter across the table — little crystals of beauty.

Muffled shouts lob themselves through walls like shockwaves — loud enough to make bitter crystals jump. The waitress with a state’s name tackles her way through the kitchen’s flapping door carrying a milkshake and orange juice. Drinks slosh on her apron. Condemnation spewed from the unfittingly twig-like man’s rancid mouth trails behind her like stray links in a ponderous chain.

Degrading tirade aside, she looks more depressed than angry. Yet something boils inside. She rapidly sets the beverages before Ireshi, her ill-fitting uniform creeping up and revealing her belly laced with stretch marks. Her face is redder than the booth’s padding. “Here. Gimme a sec,” she says with a quiver in her voice, spinning on her tippy-toes.

Ma’am?” Ireshi asks carefully, her fingers collecting dew from the ruffled glass. “I appreciate the shake, but…”

But what?” Georgia barks.

I only wanted chocolate milk.”

The waitress’s trunk-like arms slam the table. “Well, too bad. This is what you get now. It’s an upgrade, so be happy!”

Is it?” Ireshi’s lips pinch contemplatively. When Georgia tries to move on, the runner girl grasps at her arm’s loose skin. “Does a milkshake have less calories than chocolate milk?”

A vein threatens to explode under Georgia’s forehead. “I dunno. Do I look like a dietitian?”

Could you ask, please?”


Pleeeeeease? I’m sure twig-guy won’t be mad if a customer’s the one asking.”

Answer is no.”

C’mon! Do a weight-watcher a favor.”

Bye.” Georgia pivots on her feet again.

Wait!” Ireshi leaps in front of the waitress. “Maybe we could both go and ask. While we’re at it, why not stick by me? I’d love to do some weight loss stuff with you. It’d be fun.”

Are you…” Georgia’s eyebrows wrinkle at the implications and she sucks in her stomach. “I’ve had enough of your crap, bitch!”

Ireshi’s lip twitches. “It was an honest offer. I wasn’t trying to be mean.”

Georgia ignores Ireshi and moves on, yet Ireshi keeps after her like a pathetic puppy. “See, why are you so stupid? Leave me alone!”

Huh?” Ireshi suddenly gets a hit of nostalgia, and yet no chocolate milk was consumed. Something is familiar about the woman with the state’s name. “Why?”

For the love of… I don’t like you. Is that so hard to understand?” Georgia folds her arms. “You remind me of this one girl in school I knew. Literally four years older than the rest of us and pretty dumb for an Asian. Couldn’t shut up about exercise, too, like we should care.” She pauses, red pigment whitening like the outdoors in December. “Wait…”

Amid a sea of bullies and tough times, a single memory comes to Ireshi’s mind; one of the worst ones, in fact: a white girl with a potbelly she sucked in at every opportunity. Every time Ireshi worked out at recess, she was there to body slam her and tell her to loosen up. Every time Ireshi flunked a test or pouted, she was there after class to tell her how retarded she was. Tears stream from her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry! I’ll just take the shake.” She buckles beneath the memory’s weight, sinking back into the booth.

You’re her…” The waitress looks over her shoulder, sighs, and slides in across from the patron. “Sorry.”

Ireshi nods half-heartedly.

Polar opposites share swigs of OJ and milkshake in somber silence. The diner is nice and quiet for a while, merely a din of conversation and soft ‘50s music playing over loudspeakers. Both women let their emotions settle. However, tension lingers in the space between them.

Georgia feels watched. Someone wearing the same outfit as her leans against a wall, sunglasses obstructing his eyes. But her first priority is the patron. “So…”

So,” Ireshi repeats.

What have you been up to, then?”

Ireshi dabs her finger on her tongue and uses the wet tip to attract some salt off the table. “You first,” she mumbles.

What does it look like? Not much to tell.”

Well,” Ireshi replies with an air of sass, “I don’t want to assume anything.”

Assume the worst. It’s probably true.”

Sorry to hear that.”

It’s not on you. My life went down the shitter. Flunked outta college and landed this job.” Georgia sniffles. Sunglasses guy is gone. “You?”

I’m in college. Undergrad.”

What year?”


Figures. But you’re almost 30 from the looks of you.”

Oh.” Ireshi blushes.

No offense.” Georgia leans in close. “Stick with it, girl. Don’t end up like me.” She writes something on her notepad and tears out the paper, passing it to Ireshi. It’s her phone number. “Hell, call me up and let’s talk about fitness or whatever else. I’m sorry I’m such a bitc—”

Georgia!” the reedy guy with the low voice screams. He charges onto the restaurant floor, face as red as fresh meat. “Georgia!” he hollers, lumbering so hard his footsteps could belong to someone twice his weight. “What in the hell are you doing?”

Ireshi waves at the manager, oblivious.

Georgia tenses up. Every crease clenches. “I just want—“

You don’t take breaks unless you run them by me.”

Sunglasses man joins his side. “Giving me a bonus for busting ‘er, boss?”

The manager ignores his spy. “We’ve been over this a hundred times,” he condemns.

Sir,” Ireshi butts in. “Alabama and I were only talking. It’s fine.”

Baffled by this display of kindness, Georgia giggles, smiles at her old victim with quivering eyes.

Ma’am, with all due respect ‘Alabama’ is trouble,” the boss advises. “You don’t want to associate with her. I sure as hell can’t believe I hired her.”

Oh I’m aware she’s trouble,” Ireshi says with an innocent prodding of scarce blubber, “but lemme pick for myself ok? I’m kinda warming up to her.”

Once again, Georgia giggles. Not an ounce of malice exists in that jogger, just child-like bliss. To maintain composure, she has to bite her lip so hard it hurts.

A little ‘hmph’ escapes the manager. That tiny sound and his tiny expression like a snobby parent’s — that pure hatred and scorn in the face of a slowly mending relationship — send Georgia into a frenzy. “Hey, leave the customers alone why don’t you?”

The boss’s jaw drops. He clears his throat to quickly cover his surprise. “Excuse me? Want to say that again more loudly?”

Let us have a little chat asshole. Is that so hard? She’s an old friend who I wronged.”

Doesn’t surprise me. I’m sure you’ve trampled a bunch of people.” He gets right in her face. “I’m glad you feel like crap for it. Now get back to work.”

Georgia lurches up, flab shoving her apron to the side and her belly button hanging out. But she does not move.

Georgia?” The manager lowers his gaze again like a goody-good teacher. “Fix yourself, ok? I don’t want to see your body in this fine establishment.”

I’ve had it with your shit!” she snarls, clasping her OJ and chucking its pulpy contents all over him. At this point the whole diner is watching. She hobbles out of the booth. “I quit. Is that what you want?”

The manager lunges at Georgia. She locks hands with him, retaliating with a swift kick to the groin. Gasps and shocked expletives exit diners’ mouths as manager and employee enter MMA combat. Ireshi freaks out. Fists narrowly miss her face and thrown glass shatters everywhere. The womens’ drinks spill all over white-and-black tiles.

Run, idiot!” Georgia commands.

Ireshi dodges another flurry as she swipes up the slip with Georgia’s number. She bolts for the door. All the while, livid people rip at each others’ clothes and pummel each others’ bodies.

Doing what she does best, the Thai-American girl weaves around shocked customers and careens through the diner’s exit. It all stops with a bell’s ring, but Ireshi just keeps on running. Her belly is empty, but her adrenaline is substitute enough.

Her feet pound the cement.

When rush hour traffic and birds are the only sounds left, she stops, hands on knees. Her gasping turns to laughter. Tears of sorrow bring out tears of joy the moment she regards the paper in her palm again. At this moment, everything is wonderful.


R.E. Hagan is a writer and visual artist majoring in digital media production at Marquette University. He is fascinated by storytelling in all forms and explores the arts daily. His other works include the short films Audire and Alienation, and the short story Triple Dark Scale. He is currently editing his first novel.


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