Marilyn entered the diner and looked around. Her high hopes were met on the way down by a rising hunger that overcame her leariness of the place. The smell of grease and bacon and eggs and a vague sweetness were enveloped in cigarette smoke and bleach. She considered turning around and going right back out the door but the stranger had said something about pancakes and...well, she had promised Teddy something to eat...and she would hate to be rude to the new friend she had just made...maybe just a quick bite and then she and Teddy would continue running away.
She noticed the stares of the few patrons in the place when she walked in. She realized she must look frightful and became embarrassed by the muddy clothes she had on. She tried to run her fingers through her hair but hit tangles instead. Standing there was almost more than she could do and she again felt the need for escape but just as she was turning to go she saw her new friend wave to her from a booth toward the back. His smile was friendly and accepting and reminded her of her father's smile that she realized she missed terribly. A thousand thoughts raced through her mind and she felt herself walk toward the man fearing everything but him.
She sat down in the booth across from the man and looked around the room. Mismatched chairs sat in foursomes around tables draped with checkered tablecloths. The checkering was continued on the curtains pulled back from the windows and ash trays and condiments all sat partially full on each table. There was considerable noise coming from the kitchen next to them and a tired old waitress bustled back and forth between tables and the kitchen with trays and dishes and drinks all the while seeming to put most of her effort into ignoring Marilyn and the man. Marilyn realized the man had never said his name.
He seemed to be in no hurry to tell her much of anything and yet he had a friendly, knowing look about him that intrigued her. He sat back in his seat and lit a cigarette he had just taken from the ash tray and breathed out making an unusual effort to not blow the smoke in her direction. He seemed to relish in the smoke and the moment, tilting his head back and looking toward the ceiling and then down to her like they were old friends who did this every day. Marilyn just stared at him.
"The owner of this place is a friend of mine" he said, as if Marilyn had asked about it. "I sit back here and nobody hassles me." He paused and then said, "I recommend the pancakes."
Marilyn still stared at him without speaking, trying to soak up everything she was seeing. He looked more real now away from the gazebo with an air of intelligence in his weathered face that even she recognized. She felt he must be an important man even though he was not dressed like it and had humor in his eyes that made her feel welcome and comfortable.
"So, is that what you want? Pancakes?", he asked.
Her head cocked ever so slightly to one side and after a pause she said, "What's your name?"
He grinned and said simply,"Don...Don Dodson."