After Alandra staged a big birthday party for Dawson Winston when he turned 30, Dawson figured the next party wouldn’t be as extravagant. Ben’s Burgers, after all, was the place they met when she worked as a table server. Dawson never forgot how she spilled the giant thirsty-sized Fruitola in his lap when she served it to his table. He supposed a difficult customer would have filed a lawsuit, claiming the thick blueberry-pineapple concoction permanently froze his testicles. The only thing that froze was time itself, and Dawson realized the big brown eyes and long, dark hair of a beautiful Guatemalan girl. Alandra grabbed a nearby towel, then paused right before she reached towards his lap. They both laughed, and so began a romance that led to marriage a year later.
Ben’s Burgers did have quality beef greasers, and would remain their favorite fast-food joint long after Alandra quit her job. The seats were always soft and cushiony. The table servers were always friendly, and quick to bring delicious after-dinner snack mints in a tiny blue paper cup.
Dawson supposed nothing ever stayed the same, and Ben’s was certainly noisier than when he first met Alandra two years ago. Ben’s must have advertised heavily, because the cozy dining area of 1990 turned into individual hectic rooms with table servers running around everywhere with Fruitolas.
Of course business success doesn’t always equal positive results. The noise level seemed to have doubled. Ben’s must have installed high-tech potato friers because every minute an alarm went off sounding three obnoxious beeps right into his ear. An intercom sounded, “Key personnel to Room Three.” Apparently, the management implemented mandatory training for all table servers, perhaps teaching them how to balance a tray of Fruitolas with one hand. Personal hand-held call buttons were conveniently added to each table if a customer needed immediate assistance.
Colorful lights blinked everywhere, and it was fun imagining that Ben’s was attempting to intensify the experience of his 32nd birthday. Before he had the chance to push the call button, a table server came to the other side of their table and asked if he wanted a refill. When he nodded, the server had a frothy drink ready with a fresh straw and a blue paper cup with a tiny white mint. With his hands by his side, she lifted the refreshing liquid to his lips, then gently placed the mint on his tongue. Ben’s always made its patrons feel like royalty.
“Feel any older, birthday boy?” A flirtatious table server with a name tag spelling Alice awarded Dawson a single-candled cupcake bearing a warm blue-yellow flame. He thought thirty-two candles would have set off the fire sprinklers. Her lipstick and fingernails were bright red which could have meant only one thing – this girl was available.
“I love you, Dawson Winston,” he heard Alandra whimper as she squeezed his hand. Alandra was always so emotional and cried at weddings of people she didn’t even know. He hoped she was not becoming jealous from all the attention he was getting from the table servers. Her birthday card was folded upright on their table, and he knew it contained a long, mushy poem.
“Key personnel to Room Four,” the intercom blared. He supposed that was their room because several table servers and a manager rushed in to make sure their dining experience was pleasant. The manager’s light blue uniform made him almost disappear into the cold, blue walls. The manager reached over and adjusted a device that beeped with the same sound of the potato frier. Several tenticle-like cords branched out from the awkward contraption and were attached to Dawson’s chest. Alice pushed another button and the back of his chair began to lower until it was completely flat.
There were three final beeps. The room became silent and dark. Dawson felt total peace and comfort, as if a warm blanket was tenderly placed over him.
“He’s gone, Mrs. Winston,” the nurse said as she turned the heart machine off. “I know he really enjoyed his 90th birthday.”
They say ones hearing is the last thing to go before death, and Dawson distinctly heard Alandra’s sweet voice as she kissed his forehead and whispered into his ear, “Goodbye, Dawson.”
Written by Diamond Mike Watson
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