Diner Talk

Write a short story set in a restaurant. One character orders their favorite meal. The other character orders the same thing. One character leaves before the meal is over.

“How have you been?” he asked his little brother, Emmett, who was shockingly tall compared to the last time they saw each other. Walker remembered how lanky and awkward he once was and now he looked like he ate his younger self. It was so disillusioning to be sitting across from him after all these years.

“I’m good,” Emmett answered flatly and scanning the menu in front of him. They were sitting in a cramped, red leather booth with the sun beating down through the window. It wasn’t just their conversation that was uncomfortable. “How’s Japan?”

Walker looked down at his own menu, spotting his favorite meal, and tucked it away for when the waitress would return. He could tell this meal wasn’t going to be walking down memory lane. Besides, Walker had no intention of talking about his time in Japan. War wasn’t necessarily ‘diner talk’. It only held visceral nightmares he wasn’t about to relive. “Just good? How long have you been out? Where were you held?”

“I was transferred from the juvenile center back home to a prison in Oregon,” he explained without looking up. “I’ve been out for almost two years now.”

“How was it?”

“Walker,” he paused, jaw clenched as anger flashed behind his eyes. It’s surreal how even after ten years since saying goodbye to his brother, he still recognized that look in a second. Emmett wasn’t just angry, but angry with Walker. “You have no right-”

Before he could continue the waitress arrived, chest outright and shirt low cut. “How can I help you handsome gentleman?” her voice perky. Since he’d been back in the U.S. he’d been more than happy to partake in the female attention he’d been receiving.

“I think I have a few ideas,” he answered smiling up at her. Emmett cleared his throat loudly and obviously. Walker rolled his eyes at him and ordered his favorite: the Breakfast Special. He always loved surprises. When the waitress turned to Emmett, he only mumbled that he’d have the same.

“Still the same buzz kill you always were. Huh, Emmett?” he asked once the waitress walked away with their orders.

“I knew I shouldn’t have come here,” Emmett snapped, finally looking him in the eyes. “I haven’t spoken to you in ten years and you’re the same asshole. You think I wanna talk about fucking prison with you? That’s not exactly diner talk.”

Walker tried not to smile. They used to try and convince their parents they had telekinesis when they were younger, but no one believed it. Even now, they were the same. Angry with the world, their parents, each other. But Walker knew when to pick and choose his battles with Emmett; this wasn’t one of them.

“I’m sorry, Emmett,” he put his hands up surrender. “I just wanted to see you.”

“Well maybe this was too soon,” he retorted, starting to stand up.

“Whoa!” Walker said, surprised. “What? Now, you’re just going to up and leave?”

“Why don’t you write me a letter in ten years? That’ll fix everything,” Emmett told him, his voice low and hard to hear in the busy diner. Walker’s stomach dropped, feeling the guilt that had been eating his insides since they were in high school. He should have stood up and made a scene, got him to stay, and explain why they’d lost the years they had. Instead, he watched his brother, who he hardly recognized, walk out the door without looking back.

*Photo Credit*


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