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Franklin Osmond should not have been frowning at the remains of his breakfast. The half-dozen scrambled eggs had been light and fluffy; the rasher of bacon crisp. The rack of buttered toast had been delicious. But the eight-tiered stack of waffles, though covered with whipped cream and strawberries, were disappointing. They had definitely been frozen, not freshly baked, as was the custom at Kurtz Coffee Shop. The waitress brought his check. “Is everything all right?” Frank considered telling her about the sub-standard waffles, but realized she had nothing to do with the food preparation. He pushed his six-hundred pound bulk out of the chair (chairs, actually; Frank had to use two), paid for his meal, and walked ponderously into the Mall.


Frank lowered himself carefully onto a bench to think about his options. He could say something to Mrs. Huxley, the manager. Of course, if this had become Kurtz policy, there was nothing she could do about it. And it might be just a fluke. Perhaps the waffle-maker had broken down. He’d see tomorrow; things might be back to normal. If not, he could substitute pancakes, French toast, an omelet…


The one thing he didn’t want to do was find another place to have breakfast. Frank’s meal schedule was very carefully structured: Kurtz at nine o’clock; almost always, essentially, the same breakfast (occasionally sausage links or ham). J.’s Deli at one; three hot corn beef sandwiches and sauerkraut. Then the Sweet Shop for seven or eight sour cream donuts—perhaps an éclair or a few puff pastry cream horns. Dinner was varied. Rib eye steak at The Longhorn; Tony’s for a few plates heaped with spaghetti and at least a dozen or so of their delicious bread sticks; Mom’s Home Cooking for stuffed pork chops, chicken and dumplings, savory beef stew…


Thoughts of food stirred Frank’s appetite. He considered getting a caramel sundae at ManyFlavors. Then his eyes fell on the girl.


She was small, scarcely over five feet—but perfectly proportioned, like some exquisite figurine. Her silken hair was the colour of moonlight. Her skin was honey and cream and roses. As if feeling his gaze, she turned and looked at Frank with sparkling brown eyes. Her mouth was made for smiles. Incredibly, her rose petals lips curved upward—and she was smiling at him!


The earth exploded. Planets crashed into one another. The universe lay in golden, glittering debris at Frank’s feet. He heaved himself off the bench and walked toward this wonder. “I’m not trying to pick you up,” he assured her. “That would be absurd. But I felt compelled to at least speak to you. I’m Franklin Osmond.”


Again that earth convulsing, planet shattering smile. “My name is Amber,” she murmured. Her voice was low and sweet. A bird sang in it. Bells tinkled through it. They talked for a few minutes. She was standing in front of Barnes and Noble, so it was natural enough to speak of books. They touched on politics. They both loved movies, although, unable to fit into a seat, he hadn’t been to a theatre in years. At last he said “I’m not asking you for a date. That would be absurd. But each day I have breakfast at nine o’clock at Kurtz Coffee Shop. I’d be delighted if, one morning, you could join me.”


“Perhaps I will.” She left him then, with one last golden smile. He watched her graceful progress…leaf in a flowing stream…feather born by the wind…


Frank didn’t know if he would ever see her again. But the next morning, as he was breakfasting at Kurtz’s, she sat down across from him, smiling. Earth exploded, planets crashed…


Amber didn’t seem surprised at the gargantuan meal spread in front of Frank, but he was suddenly faintly ashamed. She ordered orange juice and a biscuit. Frank felt the sudden possibility of a life not centered around food but a vision of light…


They ate in silence for awhile. Then Frank paused in mid-bite. Amber looked up. “Is anything wrong?”


“Exactly what happened yesterday,” Frank answered. “These waffles are not fresh but frozen.”


Then Amber asked the fateful question, which was to end their relationship before it was born: “What’s the difference?”


Frank almost dropped his fork, as her beauty faded before his eyes. The moon silk hair was dry straw; the sparkling eyes flat and dull; the smiling, rosebud lips thinned in a sneer. He could think of nothing to say.


Amber finished eating, murmured her thanks, and walked away. Frank knew he would never see her again. He felt no regret. Anyone who didn’t know the difference between fresh and frozen…well… really…


Frank is well above seven hundred pounds now. He no longer goes out to eat but has two superb chefs: Anselmo and Picard. Occasionally he wonders if his world might have been different. But then Anselmo announces dinner. Frank looks at the standing rib roast surrounded by potatoes and gravy…or the shrimp swimming in garlic butter sauce…the sumptuous Chinese meal of stuffed mushrooms, sweet and sour pork, rich egg drop soup…


He sits down and picks up his fork and realizes that life just doesn’t get any better than this.


Lela Marie De La Garza has had work published in “Behind Closed Doors”, “Pound of Flash”, and “ChickLit”. She was born in Denver, CO. in 1943 while her father was serving in WWII. She currently resides in San Antonio, TX. with two and a half cats and a visiting raccoon.


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