The story so far:
Four waters and a coffee. Abagail, the waitress, served the tray of drinks and surmised whether the restaurant’s patrons were the type to skimp on overpriced drinks because they understood the value of a dollar – those usually tipped well. Or were they cheapskates? She distributed the glasses and set a pair of creamers by the steaming white mug.
The diners nodded and grinned at her without breaking stride in their conversation. Something about rebuilding a half-million dollar house into one worth three times as much. Seven figures for a house! What must it be like to have seven figures worth of house to live in. Instead, Abagail washed and ironed her apron daily, hoping to earn another yellow star. Serving was an art – watch for summoning glances, keep soft drinks and hot drinks filled to the rim, recommend dishes without being overly pushy, be ever present without hovering. It required plenty of actual work, but she never dreamt of earning seven figures doing it.
She circled the floor to collect an order from an adjacent booth with a mother and three small children. Hopefully they behaved well enough to prevent the foursome from leaving early. Cracker Barrel attracted all types, from the suit-and-tie southern entrepreneur who remembered Sunday lunches after church to the homeless who came inside for warm coffee when it was too cold outside to use the rocking chairs on the porch.
Abagail scooped up a pitcher of water and refilled the four glasses. She returned with the decaf and topped off the bearded man’s mug. He stopped mid-sentence to ask, “What are you doing?”
She apologized, though unsure why.
He pointed at his cup. “I didn’t ask for a refill.”
“I’m just doing my job, sir.”
“That’s the problem with people. They don’t care about individual attention. They just go about doing their job. Moron.”
She suppressed the urge to spill her pot into his lap. “Would you like me to get the manager?”
“No, that’s unnecessary. I just want you to understand. This coffee cups holds what, ten ounces?”
Mr. Beard’s three cohorts sat back in their chairs, none offering to diffuse the situation. He continued. “You poured a full cup. I added four sugars and one creamer. That’s exactly how I like my coffee.”
The pot’s handle trembled as the coffee grew heavier. One of the kids slipped off the vinyl bench and under the table behind her.
Mr. Beard wasn’t done. “Abby?”
“Abagail,” she curtly corrected.
“Abagail,” he said, pronouncing it Abby-gale. “When you refilled my coffee, you ruined the ratio. Threw it off entirely. How many sugars do I need to add to fix it?”
Abagail glanced around the room. Mr. Beard nudged his saucer away and announced, “I’m not paying for this.”
“Refills are free,” she muttered through a clenched smile.
Bobby, the morning shift manager, arrived beside his employee. “Is there something I can help with?”
“There’s no problem,” Mr. Beard offered. “Abby made a mistake, but it’s taken care of.”
Store policy dictated to avoid conflict while on the floor and discuss issues with the manager behind closed doors. Abagail didn’t care. “I didn’t do nothing wrong.”
Mr. Beard grinned. “I don’t know how you train your wait staff, but the customer is always right.”
Silverware from the booth rattled on the floor. Bobby said, “Sir, I’m sorry if you’re unsatisfied with your experience.”
Mr. Beard’s brow furrowed. The other men at the table sipped from their waters, watching as their lion played with its prey. “Managers. You’re all alike.”
Bobby’s balding head grew pinker. He placed a hand on Abagail’s shoulder and tugged her toward the kitchen. She wasn’t sure if he was reassuring her or himself. When he spoke, it didn’t alleviate the confusion. “Sir, I apologize if you feel you were mistreated.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about. I apologize if you feel yadda yadda. How is that at all sincere? You’re sorry if I’m something?”
Mr. Beard stood and assumed Bobby’s posture. Two inches taller than the shift manager, he condescended to his now-empty chair. “Sir, we apologize for your shortcomings, but you and your crap feelings can pucker up and kiss off!”
Dennis rose from his table-for-one and tapped Mr. Beard gently on the shoulder. “You’ll have to leave the restaurant now.”
“Excuse me? Who are you?”
“I’m the bouncer,” Dennis said.
Bobby tried to interrupt, but Mr. Beard wouldn’t look away from Dennis. Abagail wiped her face and retreated to the kitchen. The eldest child whispered “Wow” too loudly.
Mr. Beard’s cronies collected their blackberries and pulled their jackets from their chair backs. One coat snagged and knocked over the peg puzzle. Eg-no-ra-moose.
Bobby cleared his throat and said, “We don’t want any trouble. Please, sir, would you leave the restaurant before I’m forced to call the police.”
Dennis nodded concurrently. Mr. Beard sniffed in defiance, but reconsidered as Dennis gripped his arm and shook his head.
Bobby led Mr. Beard through the gift shop. When the troublemaker paused at the cashier’s station, Bobby assured him not to worry about it. It was on the house. In exchange for never coming back.
The brunch crowd applauded as Dennis retook his seat and enjoyed his complimentary chicken-fried chicken.