Across the gravel parking lot she sees him walking toward the root beer stand. He walks with the confidence of a sixteen year old, a kind of swagger that says he knows Something More about life. She sees his dark hair, his t-shirt and jeans, sloppy tennis shoes, and wonders if he could ever really like her. A teenage girl wanting desperately to be noticed by a teenage boy.
“I know him, ” she tells the owner who is also watching him approach. It’s a quiet afternoon with few customers.
“Want to play a trick on him?” he asks her, not waiting for an answer.
He doesn’t see her shrug her shoulders and try to pass it off. She’s suddenly nervous about this boy seeing her working there, this girl who lacks the confidence in just being herself.
Meanwhile, the owner has decided what to do. The young handsome teenage boy gives his order to the owner there at the window, while the girl sort of tries to hide in the back ground.
She doesn’t wait on customers, just works inside and makes fifty cents an hour making coney dogs, filling orders, cleaning up the place. She’d rather be at home riding her bike on this perfect summer day. It’s hard to be this age, wanting to hang on to childhood fun and games, yet longing to be comfortable in this body that is changing and awkward and strange. Besides all that, this is her sister’s job, and she is just filling in for two weeks, a decision made by the grown ups, not her choice.
The coney dog is prepared, and the owner steps back into the kitchen to “help” with the order. He folds a sandwich wrapper neatly and places it inside the bun, then covers it all with the homemade sauce. Then he hands the food to the handsome teenage boy, takes his money, thanks him, and settles back on his favorite perch, a stool situated behind the counter.
“Watch! This will be fun!” says the owner.
The boy walks away, back across the gravel parking lot in the blazing sun, slowly taking his time as he eats his coney dog. The girl is anticipating what may happen and it makes her nervous. She notices all the details around her, the yellow lights, the deep orange walls, the thick glass mugs along the shelf, the combined smell of coney sauce, root beer, and cigarette smoke. She doesn’t like that she leaves the place wearing all those smells.
A few steps away from them, the boy slowly turns, a look of surprise on his face, then glares at the root beer stand. The paper gets pulled from inside the sandwich and tossed onto the parking lot. They don’t see what happens to the rest of the coney dog since he has his back to them. He keeps walking with that same carefree pace.
The owner lets out a laugh, clearly enjoying the moment. “Bet he won’t be back for a while!”
The owner and the girl both laugh. It was just a joke, she keeps reminding herself. The owner turns on the radio, puffs on another cigarette in the endless chain, and she decides to wipe off the counter one more time.
Two weeks. Anything can be tolerated for two weeks.