Confinement

Confinement

A Story by R J Fuller
"

What do you do when you insist upon leaving, but can't, and others don't share your reason for wanting to depart?

"
The headlights on the approaching vehicle slowly made their way through the freezing snow and slush. It pulled into the parking area of a late night diner, as close as it dared. The doors wheezed open as one-by-one, the passengers made their way off the bus and hurried into the eatery. 

"Oh, my," the first woman said. "That weather is bad."

"Come on in," the black woman behind the counter called out to them as the rest of the passengers filed in. 

There was rambling conversations as the small crowd stood in the diner and some of them made their way to the seats, clearly expecting to be served. 

"Ya'll hungry?" the black woman called out. 

There were several responses to the positive. 

"Miss Iraya will get you tended to," the elderly black man already sitting at the counter on a stool called out. He turned and took a sip of the cup of coffee in front of him. 

"What'll ya'll have?" Miss Iraya asked the young couple at the first table. 

"Oh, I don't know," the girl said. 

"A sandwich and some fries," the guy interjected. "I'm starved after that bus trip." 

"I guess I'll have the same as Fred," the young girl replied. 

Two young women sat down at the far table. The bus driver came in at that moment, decked out in his rain gear. 

"Can we get some service here?" a stocky fella called out. The fellow with him looked around as tho he expected results. 

"I'm coming," Iraya said. "Got nobody else here tonight. Wasn't expecting any more customers." 

"We're not in any hurry, ma'm," the bus driver called out. "I'll have to call in to the station because that last pot hole we hit did its damage."

"How long do you expect us to be here?" one of the girls asked. 

"Not that long," the driver answered. "As soon as they get another bus here." He began dialing on his cell phone. 

"So now can we get some service?" the same fella asked again. Iraya looked at him and approached with her pad and pencil to write down what he wanted. 

"You serve beer?"

"No." 

"Why don't you serve beer?"

"Not this late at night."

"They don't serve beer here, Joe," he said to his friend.

"Would you like to place your order?" Iraya asked. 

"Yea, okay, . . . . don't rush me," the fellow stated, then said, "bring me a steak. You got steak?"

"We got steak. "

"Okay, good. They got steak," he said to Joe. 

Joe laughed. 

"How about a baked potato with cheese and a side order of green beans."

Iraya put her hand to her hip. 

"How long you plannin' on waiting to eat?"

The fellow looked up at her. 

"I expect decent service with a polite server."

"Oh, I'm polite," Iraya said. "That's why I'm telling you you'll be waiting all night for that baked potato alone."

"Only six minutes in the microwave."

"I don't use a microwave," Iraya said, looking back down at him. 

The guy made an exasperated expression. 

"What kind of place is this that doesn't have a microwave? Do you have electricity?"

Joe sat opposite him coming across with weak chuckles. Iraya looked at him sternly. 

"Do you want a baked potato or not?" she asked. 

"Don't look like I'll be getting one," he said, "unless I eat it for breakfast." 

"That's a good one, Rodney," Joe said, continuing to laugh. No one else in the diner looked amused. 

"You know what?" Rodney stated, "Since you won't hustle up that baked potato, forget the steak, just bring me a cheese and baloney sandwich." 

Joe gave way with belly laughs galore at that one. 

"You just want a cheese and baloney sandwich?" Iraya said, staring at him. Rodney nodded. 

"And what will you have to drink?" Iraya asked. 

"Well, since you don't have beer, I guess a glass of water," Rodney replied. 

"How about you, . . . . Joe?" Iraya said, turning to the friend. 

"I'd like some soup," Joe said," beef soup, preferably." 

"No potato, no beer, no good service," Rodney mumbled under his breath. Joe laughed. 

Iraya finished writing and moved on to the next table where sat the two young women.  

"What can I get you two?"

"How about getting that offensive loudmouth out of here," one of the women scowled. 

"Oh, honey, I've dealt with worse than him," Iraya answered. 

"He's rude and offensive," the first girl said. "He ought to be thrown out of here."

"To where?" Iraya asked. "Into the cold?"

"Would do him good," she replied. 

"No we won't be doing that," Iraya said with a smile. She finished taking their orders and made her way back behind the counter. 

"Don't get to shufflin' too fast," Rodney called out with a grin. Joe laughed some more. 

Iraya didn't seem to hear what Rodney said, but many of the other patrons did. The old black man on the stool observed, but said nothing. 

Rodney further stated, "get some jungle music playin', then I bet, . . . " but he didn't finish it. 

"Hey!" the bus driver called out over from the side where he stood. And the offended young woman now stood up and gave the two guys a truly horrible expression. 

"You need to leave!" she shouted. 

Joe was still amused. 

"Come again?" Rodney spoke up innocently. 

"I said you need to get out of here! You are not welcomed here!" she said even louder. 

"I'm not going anywhere," Rodney said, half-smiling.

The young woman stepped closer to Rodney. 

"You are offensive and a bigot!" she bellowed. 

"Mary, please," the other girl called to her. Over at the third table, the young couple simply sat and watched. 

Iraya came out at that moment with a tray of food and glasses. 

"What's going on out here, Will?" she asked the old man at the counter. 

"She done told him he needs to leave," the old man, Will replied. "Says she don't like his behavior." 

Iraya looked at all the persons, Mary still standing. 

"Called him a bigot," Will replied. 

Iraya slowly continued moving toward the table where sat Rodney and Joe. She picked up a glass off the tray and set it before Joe, then another one in front of Rodney. Still looking about, she placed a plate with a sandwich on it in front of Rodney, Joe getting the bowl of soup. 

"Thank you," Rodney said quietly. 

Mary watched with a bewildered expression. 

"You can't serve them," she yelled. "They're nothing but hate-filled bigots!" 

"Honey," Iraya began, "first off you need to quiet down. You're yelling too much."

Mary clenched up her mouth and snorted very loudly. 

"They need to leave," she came back very calmly in a mocking manner. 

"Nobody orders anyone out of my diner but me, dear," Iraya answered as she approached the young couple with their orders. 

"Well, they need to leave or I will," Mary stated. "I'm not eating in here with bigots."

"Where are you planning to go?" Fred asked. 

"I'll go sit on the bus," Mary said very pointedly, "but I'm not staying here." 

"You can't get on that bus," the driver said. "It's cold out there and having the heat on will run the battery down." 

"Well, I'm not staying in here with that!" Mary said to the driver. "You heard what racist things he said." 

"I heard what he said," the driver replied. 

"He said she needs to start shuffling with some jungle music," Mary repeated, much louder. 

Will began laughing at the counter. Upon hearing him, Mary turned and gave him a shocked look. 

"Iraya, I can just imagine you shuffling with your orders," Will said. 

Iraya came walking back out with some side orders and held her head back. 

"You know I used to dance to the music when I was younger, Will," she said, "and still can if I have to."

"I can't believe this," Mary said in an overwhelmed manner. "He makes racist comments and you laugh about it?" 

"It wasn't funny when he said it," Will replied. "It was funny when you repeated it." 

Joe, Rodney and the young couple all were amused by Will's observation. Mary became more frustrated. 

"I'm not staying in here with him," she said again. 

"Well, you can't get on the bus," Fred's young lady said. 

"He can go out there then," Mary ordered, "and freeze." 

"Nobody is staying on the bus," the driver declared. Mary turned to him again. 

"How can you condone what he said?" she asked the driver. 

"I don't condone it," he answered. 

"Well, you're overlooking it," she corrected herself, "and you're black, too." 

"I don't think I need you or anyone else to tell me what color I am, Miss," the driver said, "but just because he made a callous statement don't mean I have to leap up and protest. It's cold and late at night and I'd like to rest a bit, but if we are going to expect the same reactions because of race, he's the same race as you. Does that mean you have to agree with what he says and he agrees with you?"

Mary looked at the driver, stunned into silence. 

"Mary, come sit back down," the other girl at the far table called to her. 

"Just go on and sit down, ma'm," the driver said. "Get something to eat so you'll feel better." 

Slowly Mary walked across the diner back to where the other woman sat. She didn't look at Rodney and Joe as she passed them. Iraya had returned behind the counter. She tended to some other matters as she quietly spoke to Will. Mary sat at the table and literally pouted, while her companion ate from her meal. 

"Eat something," the girl said to her. "You'll feel better." 

"I'm not hungry anymore, Lou," Mary answered. 

The driver walked over toward the counter, standing opposite from Will. 

"Can I have some coffee?" he asked. 

"Coming up." 

Mary took a sip of her drink, obviously her throat had gone dry from her tirade. 

"Go on and eath something," the other woman, Lou, said to her. 

Mary picked up her utensil and began to fill it with some food. She was just about ot put it in her mouth when a request was delivered. 

"Can we get some pepper here?"

It was Rodney. 

The tinkle of Mary dropping the utensil was then heard as she stood once more to her feet. 

"Mary, no." 

"I can't allow this, Lou," she said, practically snorting. "I will not stay in here with that racist bigot." 

"What did I do?" Rodney asked. Iraya walked out with the spice shakers. 

"Ordering her around like she's a menial servant or something," Mary informed. 

"I asked for some pepper." 

"You spoke to her like she was your slave to fetch and carry for you!" 

Rodney and Iraya both looked surprised. 

"I asked for pepper." 

"He asked for pepper," Iraya repeated. Mary threw her hands up in disgust. 

"That's it," shae said. "I can't stay here. I can't. If he doesn't leave, I will." 

"We've already been through this," the driver said. 

"I'm not staying in here with him!" Mary said, now showing signs of tearing up. "I can't eat in here with his racist behavior. It's making me ill just listening to it." 

Iraya looked upon her concerned. 

"Sit down, honey." 

"No, I don't want . . . "

"Just sit down here. What's your name?"

"Mary. I'm going to be sick."

"No, you're not. You've got yourself all worked up now."

"I'm going to be sick."

"Just settle down," Iraya said more calmly. "Now, Mary, he asked me to bring him the pepper. That's my job." 

Mary leaned on the back of her chair and pressed her hand to her face. There was hint of a tear in her eye. 

"He spoke to you like you have to hurry up and bring him what he asked for." 

"He spoke in his own voice, regardless of what it sounded like," Iraya said. "Now you're getting all upset over this. I heard how he said it, I have been informed what he said the first time, and I have spoken to him so I can tell how he is. He is a customer and this is my diner. I will handle things." 

Mary sniffed. 

"Well, it's wrong. He should leave," she stated abruptly. "And everybody who is black thinks it's okay and that couple over there aren't doing anything either."

"Mary," Iraya said, "I told you I will handle things here. Thank you for your concern and assistance, but I am in charge here. Now, please settle down." 

With that, Iraya stood to her feet and asked everyone, "who wants some pie? Apple, peach?" 

The orders were called out. Iraya made note and began walking back to the counter. 

Fred called out from his table. 

"And, uh, . . . can we have some sugar? Some sweetener, if it's not, . . . too much trouble?" 

"I'll get you the sweetener," Iraya called over to him. 

"Miss?" 

It was Rodney. 

"Yes?" 

"I'd just like to ah, say, . . . um, if I said anything to offend you, I am sorry. I didn't mean to say the wrong thing." 

"I'm sure you didn't," Iraya said. The area was small enough so that the bus driver, Will, Mary, Lou, everybody heard what was said. 

"I might have tried to say something sooner, but, . . . can I have some apple pie?"

"Coming right up. And you?" Iraya said, looking at Joe. 

"Apple." 

Over at their table, Mary and Lou said nothing. Mary drank some more of her drink and stared down at her food.

Will looked at the driver. 

"I hope this doesn't make your arrival too late for anybody."

"Oh, I don't think so," the driver commented. "I think one way or another, we'll get there eventually."  

© 2021 R J Fuller


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Added on July 21, 2021
Last Updated on July 21, 2021
Tags: diner, patrons, racism, bus, bad weather, offended