Table for One


By Ray Gaskin

Winner, 2013 Oklahoma Writers Federation Flash Fiction Competition

The waiter ushered Harvey to a table.

“I’ll be dining alone this evening,” Harvey said. “Nancy couldn’t be here.”

“Sorry about that,” the waiter replied solemnly.

Yes, Harvey reminisced, dinner with Nancy would have been splendid. She was pretty, personable and fun. Besides that, she wasn’t a picky eater. What more could a guy ask for in a dinner companion?

“Let’s see if we can make it up to you,” the waiter encouraged.

“Well,” Harvey offered. “Since Nancy can’t be here, if you want to round up three other people and send them over to my table, we’ll make it a foursome and I can promise them a rollicking time with some great conversation and no strings attached.”

I’ll keep my eyes peeled,” the waiter responded. “Coffee now, or after dinner?” he asked.

“Oh, now is fine,” Harvey replied.

The waiter filled his cup and the coffee was piping hot and strong, just as he liked it.

Harvey loved to eat and carried the extra girth to prove it. And, like most men, if asked about his favorite meal, he could click off three or four tasty choices, and at least one would be salt of the earth.

On this evening he chose an old standby; pot roast with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, Waldorf salad, and homemade chocolate pie for dessert. No bread, he decided, and besides, it was too filling.

“Would you like your salad first, or with the main course?” the waiter asked.

“Oh, all at once,” Harvey replied, “like when I’m at Luby’s in Waco.

Before long the waiter returned with his salad and entrée.

“I hope you like it,” the waiter said earnestly. “The kitchen put some extra effort into it. Oh, and just to make sure I got it right, you want chocolate meringue pie for dessert, yes?

“Correct,” Harvey replied, sticking his fork into the Waldorf salad. It was delicious and reminded him of Sunday dinners at his grandma’s house. The pot roast was tender and the carrot and celery slices that were cooked with it melted in his mouth. He pressed his spoon down in the mashed potatoes, creating a small crater in the middle like he did when he was a little boy, and filled it up with gravy. He methodically worked his way through the succulent meal, savoring every bite.

The waiter refilled his water glass, poured more coffee and cleared the empty plates. Then he brought Harvey the slice of chocolate meringue pie.

“Of all the desserts, and god knows, I love ‘em all, Harvey beamed, “chocolate pie is still king.”

He took his time with the pie, and smiled before consuming the last tasty bite.

“It was a pleasure,” the waiter said.

“Likewise,” Harvey replied wistfully.

Footsteps echoed in the hallway. Harvey looked up and saw a visitor approaching.

“It’s time my son,” Father O’Leary declared, as he entered Harvey’s cell.