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Marcie’s Waffles Are the Best in Town Sunil Patel

By Dario Bijelac
By Dario Bijelac

The diner was closed forever. The Closed sign hung on the door, redundant as a spoon in a cup of soup, but Marcie would never turn it over. Never take it down. It was her way of keeping the riffraff out, and these days, there was a hell of a lot of riffraff.

They could smell the syrup. Her supply was running out, but she sprayed ammonia around the doors and windows when she warmed it up. It wasn’t enough, but it could dull the smell. She had the shotgun for any unwelcome visitors and a dwindling stock of meat in the freezer for any welcome ones. The former never made it to the door, but she always checked the latter through the glass to see if they were going bad. One look at Alice, though, and she knew she deserved better than meat.

She fixed the girl some waffles, and the diner filled with the aroma of warm batter. They both inhaled in silence. A much more comforting smell than the sizzle of dead things, Marcie thought. The girl offered her name as a courtesy, and the two syllables wafted through the air and mixed with the scent in Marcie’s mind. The girl looked the right age, too, about 14. This felt right. Like before.

When Marcie slapped a couple waffles onto a plate, Alice’s eyes went wide like she’d only been eating rocks for weeks. For all Marcie knew, she had. She was gaunt, ribs showing through the rags she had on, hair a mess. A scratch on her left cheek, deep. Marcie didn’t ask where it came from, but as she traced the path on her own face, she thought it could have come from fingers. Or what used to be fingers.

“This is real nice,” Alice said, between hungry gulps, barely chewing. “What’s that blue stuff in it?”

“Blueberries,” said Marcie. Last ones she had, but that didn’t matter as long as she still had chocolate chips

“Huh. My mom never put blueberries in waffles.” A pause, the next words crawling out as if fighting against a memory. “Fruit in waffles, that’s so weird.” The pall passed, and as she returned to eating, her face was joyful, satiated. In the right light, at the right moments, she looked like Cynda. Just in those fleeting seconds, and then she didn’t, not because of the light but because Marcie chose not to see her. She would never see her again, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to see her in this outcast waif who just stumbled in out of the wastelands. Not this one, not the last one, not any one of the godda–

Marcie relaxed her grip on the syrup bottle. She’d almost broken the handle. Couldn’t have that.

From behind the counter, Marcie watched Alice devour her food as she’d done with her customers before the Meltdown. Her favorite customer was a big trucker named Maximilian who insisted on being called Maximilian, never Max. He wouldn’t respond to Max, and Marcie loved seeing the passers-through try to engage with him. They didn’t know the code to interacting with him. They didn’t have that connection, not like she did.

Maximilian was out there. Maybe he’d found Cynda. Maybe he would take care of her.

Alice gulped down half a glass of water. Milk would have been better, but it had gone sour as Marcie’s business some time ago. One by one, her staples went bad. That’s how the people went too. One by one.

“So they don’t come in here?” Alice said with trepidation.

“No,” said Marcie. “They don’t come in here.”

“Not ever?”

“The door holds. The sign says Closed.”

Alice chuckled, then let it linger, like she hadn’t laughed at anything in ages. “I don’t think they read signs, lady.”

Maybe the shape of the sign, the length of the word, was a signal burned into the back of their brains, like a red light. They‘d respond to it like fire: stay away.

Cynda never cared what the sign said. She’d push the door open and call, “Yo, Moms, how about some choco waffles?” She’d take her seat at the counter and ask what Max had done today. She never called him Maximilian when he wasn’t around. Everything was short with her; Marcie was surprised she actually pronounced the entire word “waffles.”

The day of the Meltdown, Cynda left the diner with the words “Coulda used more syrup.”

Alice picked at her plate with the fork, soaking the bits of waffle in syrup. Marcie’s eyes narrowed. Stupid, stupid of her to let her in. She’d given her too much syrup. She had to keep some back. Waffle mix, chocolate chips, syrup. The essentials.

So much syrup left on Alice’s plate. It was going to go to waste. But Marcie could salvage it. This girl had had enough. She’d gotten more than the last one. It had been six days since Khaalidah looked through the glass door, her pleading eyes like Cynda’s when Marcie wouldn’t take her to IHOP. Not as chatty as this one. This one, sitting in someone else’s seat. They were all sitting in someone else’s seat.

“Get out,” Marcie spat, grabbing the plate.

Alice had some waffle in her mouth, and she almost choked in surprise. She chewed quickly and swallowed before squeaking, “What?”

“Get the fuck out of my diner.” Marcie stared at her with dead eyes.

“Okay, okay, lady,” said Alice, pushing herself away from the counter, scrambling to keep her balance. “Thanks for the waffles.” She didn’t look back. She ran to the door.

The sign said “Open.”

Alice threw the door outward and fled back into the wastelands. As the door shut, a bell rang.

There were a few pieces of waffle still left on Alice’s plate, not dry. Marcie picked them up and began squeezing to extract the syrup.

The diner was closed forever.

© 2021 Sunil Patel

Meet the Author

Sunil Patel

Sunil Patel

Sunil Patel is a Bay Area fiction writer and playwright who has written about everything from ghostly cows to talking beer. His plays have been performed at San Francisco Theater Pub and San Francisco Olympians Festival, and his fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Saturday Night Reader, Fireside Magazine, The Book Smugglers, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place. Plus, he reviews books for Lightspeed. His favorite things to consume include nachos, milkshakes, and narrative. Find out more at ghostwritingcow.com, where you can watch his plays, or follow him @ghostwritingcow. His Twitter has been described as “engaging”, “exclamatory”, and “crispy, crunchy, peanut buttery.”

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71 Comments

  1. numbatwoman
    June 3, 2015 @ 9:12 pm

    Cecily_Kane ghostwritingcow dangit I got so excited and then remembered about the other meaning of ace

    Reply

  2. Cecily_Kane
    June 3, 2015 @ 9:04 pm

    ghostwritingcow didic Hahaha gettin’ there (with real life caveats :p)
    Misandryyyyyy

    Reply

  3. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 9:02 pm

    booksmugglers Maybe we should invent The Sita Test.

    Reply

  4. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 9:01 pm

    THAT THEY DO. Maybe not one of them. That’s arguable. Look one story has a male protagonist. elliesoderstrom https://twitter.com/elliesoderstrom/status/606248771786137600

    Reply

  5. elliesoderstrom
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:59 pm

    ghostwritingcow but they pass the Mako Mori test. 🙂

    Reply

  6. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:56 pm

    Cecily_Kane didic You don’t see gender, and by gender you mean men.

    Reply

  7. geekstarter
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:54 pm

    ghostwritingcow I have SO MUCH READING to catch up on.

    Reply

  8. geekstarter
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:53 pm

    ghostwritingcow Of COURSE I could psychic alligators.

    Reply

  9. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:52 pm

    geekstarter People say dialogue is one of my strengths, so I’m hoping I’m doing it right.

    Reply

  10. geekstarter
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:51 pm

    ghostwritingcow Dialogue is one of the hardest things for me. My characters always have the same voice.

    Reply

  11. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:51 pm

    .geekstarter I am counting one without dialogue, and one MAY count if you count psychic alligators.

    Reply

  12. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:50 pm

    I love dialogue. The four that fail either only have one female character, or two that never talk. geekstarter https://twitter.com/geekstarter/status/606245783747358720

    Reply

  13. geekstarter
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:47 pm

    ghostwritingcow Are your stories light on dialogue?

    Reply

  14. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:45 pm

    Out of my 7 sales, only 3 pass the Bechdel Test, oops. I have way way more female characters than male characters though. Hrm.

    Reply

  15. Cecily_Kane
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

    didic ghostwritingcow O wait… I didn’t notice him lolol this is even better

    Reply

  16. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:42 pm

    didic Cecily_Kane KEEP HOPE ALIVE DIDI.

    Reply

  17. didic
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:41 pm

    ghostwritingcow Cecily_Kane Well, there WAS a dude. Isn’t he probably dead by now?

    Reply

  18. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:40 pm

    There is a dude but the female characters don’t talk about him. Cecily_Kane https://twitter.com/Cecily_Kane/status/606243591862816768

    Reply

  19. Cecily_Kane
    June 3, 2015 @ 8:38 pm

    OH YEAH ghostwritingcow’s story ALSO ACES THE BECHDEL TEST
    0 dudes, 0 mentions of dudes, I approve
    #Misandry

    Reply

  20. ghostwritingcow
    June 3, 2015 @ 7:37 pm

    Cecily_Kane Aaaah thank you.

    Reply

  21. theotaylorr
    June 2, 2015 @ 3:33 am

    Wiswell ghostwritingcow I was uncertain at first; skeptical even. And now I’m sold and in desperate need of waffles.

    Reply

  22. Wiswell
    June 2, 2015 @ 3:26 am

    ghostwritingcow My pleasure! I probably owe you some syrup the next time I see you.

    Reply

  23. ghostwritingcow
    June 2, 2015 @ 3:24 am

    Wiswell Thanks, John!

    Reply

  24. ghostwritingcow
    June 1, 2015 @ 7:24 pm

    Stammily Thank you!! And thank you especially for pointing out that line; I’m so glad it worked for you.

    Reply

  25. Stammily
    June 1, 2015 @ 7:10 pm

    I really enjoyed this story! Especially the line: “They were all sitting in someone else’s seat.”

    Reply

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