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The Long Vacation

The Long Vacation

A Story by Juan More Story

“Because, it just feels like there is something missing. Something that can't be bought, made, or gifted to me...only experienced. I don't know what it is, but I'll know it when I see it."


“I'm gonna need you to come in tomorrow morning at 10,” Enrique said, counting the money in the register.

“Can't, I have class at that time,” Linda replied flatly as she painted her fingernails at the counter.

The diner was completely empty save for the two employees. There weren't many times where business was so slow, given the fact that it was located right off the only highway in town, so Linda was able to get away with it. Most days she never even got a lunch break, let alone time to manicure.

“Didn't you work last Tuesday morning?” Enrique asked, a slight pause in his count as he made the connection.

“Yes, and technically I had class then too, but it was just a lecture so I skipped it. I can't miss tomorrow because I have a test...I think,” Linda said, frowning as she struggled to remember.

She gently put the nail brush back into the jar of polish and, holding her painted hand up, dug through her purse with her other hand and pulled out her planner. She flipped through the empty pages until she found the current month, October.

“I guess I can work tomorrow morning. My test was two weeks ago,” Linda said, halfheartedly.

Enrique counted out two more bills and then threw all of them back into the register drawer.

“I thought you said you were going to start taking school more seriously,” he said, giving her a stern look.

Linda looked down at her half painted hands that were now resting on the counter to avoid his gaze.

“That was until Stacey decided to quit all of a sudden two weeks ago. I knew you needed the help so I didn't say anything when you scheduled me during class,” Linda defended.

She hated disappointing Enrique. He was always there for her, when no one, not even her own father, was. He even closed the diner for a couple hours just to attend her high school graduation two years ago; all the while her father was passed out drunk on the sofa at home. Missing her graduation was the smallest of his offenses towards her, so she moved into her own apartment the day she turned 18 and never looked back. Bottom line, if there was anyone she was willing to call family, it was Enrique.

“Waitresses come and go everyday. But your education comes first, mija,” Enrique started. “I'm actually a little worried that you haven't moved on yet.”

“Well, who says I need to move on anyways?” Linda retorted, knowing she was just asking to get a lecture.

“Don't even joke like that,” Enrique snapped. “You're a smart girl. You need to get an education and do something with your life.”

“I know, I know,” Linda admitted, hoping it would avoid a lecture.

When my parents brought me into this country we had nothing,” Enrique began to lecture, having long forgotten about the money he had just counted. “They told me to go to school, and I was the first in my entire family to graduate high school. And that is counting my family both here in America and in Mexico. Then, I saved up and started this business.”

“See, you did it only with a high school diploma,” Linda countered, digging herself deeper in trouble.

“These days you can't do anything with just a high school diploma. That's why you have to--”

The bells on the front door chimed as a man walked into the diner. Linda looked up to the ceiling and mouthed thank you as she turned to address the customer.

“Hey there,” Linda said cheerily. “Go ahead and sit anywhere you like and I'll be right with you.”

The man simply nodded and walked over to a booth by the sunlit window. Linda walked up with a menu and a glass of ice-water and set them both on the table.

“Would you like anything else to drink besides water?” Linda asked for the millionth time in her short life.

“Coffee, if you will,” the man replied with a polite smile.

“Sure thing,” Linda said, also for the millionth time, and left to brew a fresh pot. Enrique resumed his lecture during the entire process. She swore it never used to take as long to brew coffee as it did that very moment. She poured the coffee the instant it was done and left her boss in mid-sentence.

“Sorry for the wait, I had to brew a fresh pot,” Linda said as she served the coffee.

“It's fine. I didn't even notice,” the man replied with his same polite smile.

Well I sure as hell did, Linda thought.

“Are you ready to order?” she asked.

“I'll just take an order of biscuits and gravy.”

“How do you want your eggs?”

“Sunny side up.”

“Bacon or sausage?”

“Bacon, please.”

“Alright! I'll be back with your order,” Linda said. She grabbed his menu and went back to the kitchen where her boss now was.

“B and G with sunny bacon,” she relayed and stuck the ticket in the rounder.

“Did I ever tell you how my family and I always went to sleep hungry because my parents wanted us kids to go to school?” Enrique asked as he began to gather ingredients.

“Enrique, you know damn well you've told me a hundred times already,” Linda answered.

“You're right,” Enrique said as he continued cooking. He then paused and looked up. “But obviously you have to hear it again since you keep skipping your classes.”

“Oh God,” Linda said and slammed her forehead on the window counter.

“So there were eight of us kids sharing four beds in two rooms...”

“Excuse me, miss?” the man called softly from the background.

“Gotta go!” Linda exclaimed, quickly lifting her head and walked over to the man's table.

“Is there something I can get for you?” Linda asked.

“Not really,” the man replied. “It just looked like you needed some help escaping.”

Linda let out a soft sigh, and smiled.

“Thank you, I did. I know he means well, but sometimes its just too much, you know?”

“Parents can get a little carried away when it comes to their kids,” the man said.

“Oh! No, he's not my dad,” Linda corrected.

“He may not be your father, but that doesn't mean he's not your dad,” the man replied.

Linda blinked in surprise at his directness. Who was this guy?

“My name is Linda by the way. And you are..?” she asked, sticking out her hand.

“Tony,” he finished, shaking her hand.

“Nice to meet you, Tony.”


An awkward silence settled, until Linda's curiosity got the better of her.

“So what brings you to Flagstaff?” she finally asked.

“Vacation,” he answered. “On my way to California.”

“You got family there?”

“No, all my family is back at Carlsbad. I'm going just for the heck of it.”

“That's nice. How long are you on vacation for?”

“Not sure,” Tony answered, sipping his coffee.

Linda tilted her head, not sure if he heard her right, or vice-versa. She opened her mouth to ask again, but then quickly shut it, not wanting to be rude.

“I'll go check on your food,” she blurted, unsure of what else to say.

“Thanks,” Tony said, with his now trademark polite smile.

Linda walked behind the counter to the kitchen window.

“Good timing, the food is almost ready,” Enrique said, having forgotten about his lecture. He pulled a tray of large biscuits from the oven, placed four on a plate, and poured a copious amount of gravy on top. He set the plate next to another one that was stacked with eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast.

“What's with the feast?” Linda asked as she placed the plates onto a serving tray.

“I don't know how to cook in small portions,” Enrique answered, and then moved his gaze over at Tony. “Besides, it looks like he hasn't eaten a good meal in days.”

Linda looked back over at Tony. Now that he mentioned it, he did look rather thin for his height. His clothes were also all wrinkled, and he had a stubbled beard as though he didn't know what a razor was.

“Quit staring its rude,” Enrique said, smacking her lightly on the arm.

“Okay! Okay!” Linda whined and lifted the tray up.

She went back to the sole customer and spread the food out onto the table.

“That's a lot of food,” Tony said, hunger in his eyes.

“Yeah, my boss doesn't know how to cook in small portions,” Linda reiterated.

“Tell him thanks for me,” Tony said, picking up his utensils.

“I'll be sure to tell him,” Linda said and began to turn.

“Oh, one more thing,” Tony blurted.

“Sure thing,” Linda said, turning back around.

“Do you know of any places that are hiring?” he asked, his mouth stuffed with food.

Linda tilted her head, not sure if she heard correctly.

“Come again?”

“I'm sorry,” Tony said, wiping his mouth with a napkin and setting the utensils down. “Do you know of any places that are hiring?”

“I...thought you said were on vacation...”Linda said, confused.

“Its been a long vacation.” Tony said, matter-of-factly.

Linda stared dumbly at him, unsure of what to think of that statement, let alone what to say.

“Its okay if you don’t,” Tony said. “I just thought I would ask before I start randomly looking.”

“Sorry,” Linda said, breaking from her stupor. “Actually, we're a little short staffed right now. I'm sure my boss wouldn't mind having an extra pair of hands again.”

“To do what?” Tony asked, looking around the vacant diner.

Oh this happens once in a blue moon,” Linda said, smirking. “Stick around for another half-hour when it picks up again and then tell me if you're still interested.”

Linda knocked on the table twice and walked back towards the kitchen window, the smirk still on her face. Enrique saw the smile as she walked up, and then he looked back over at Tony.

“Isn't he a little old for you?” Enrique asked, protectively.

“Yes he is,” Linda said, laughing at the suggestion. “He asked me if I knew anyone was hiring, and I told him that we were short handed.”

“You think he can handle it?” Enrique asked, inspecting Tony.

“No, but it'll be fun to watch him try.”

Thirty minutes later, the diner was more than halfway full, and Linda was bouncing from table to table like she was in a pinball machine. Tony watched, amazed at how perfectly she timed everything: bringing drinks, collecting the food from the kitchen, even busing tables. He began to wonder if he would be of any help at all...

“You still want the job?” Enrique yelled from the kitchen window.

“Yeah!” Tony yelled back in reply.

“Come on back and grab an apron! You start right now!”

Tony immediately got up, bused his own table, and rushed into the kitchen.

“Want me to take orders?” Tony asked, tying an apron on.

“Yeah, start with this one: Bus tables and wash dishes.”

“But Linda...”

“...can handle it. Having you stumble around out there would only throw her off.”

“Well, alright then!” Tony said and rushed out as quickly as he came in.


“I'll take the Bacon Lover's Combo, to go,” the trucker said.

“Sure thing,” Tony said, scribbling on a pad. “You want anything to drink with that?”

“A diet coke.”

“But of course...” Tony mumbled.


“Good choice!” Tony smiled, and walked away from the bar to the kitchen window.

“Heart attack in a box!” Tony yelled and stuck the ticket in the rounder.

“Got it!” Enrique yelled back, and scooped up a spoonful of bacon grease and threw it on the griddle.

“Another trucker, huh,” Linda said, loading plates of food on a serving tray.

“Yeah, its weird. That's the third one to order it in an hour.”

“The first one really liked it and radioed it to all the others in the area,” Linda explained.

“So one trucker says something's good and, just like that, the others come running?”

“Yep. Trucker's are nothing but a bunch of gossipy teenage girls,” Linda said and walked off with her tray.

Tony looked back at the overweight, bearded trucker and laughed as he waited by the window for the food to be ready. There were only a few people in the diner; the remnants of the insane lunch rush they just had. Linda came back and waited with him.

“Its time to play our favorite game: twenty questions!” she chimed.

You're favorite game, not mine,” Tony grumbled.

“Well you're new here, so your opinion doesn't count,” Linda said. After a couple weeks of failing to subtly get Tony to talk about himself, she decided to drop any pretense and just ask directly.

“Don't you mean seventeen questions? You've asked three already.”

“Yeah...well...who's counting?”

“I am actu--”

“Question four!” she exclaimed, cutting him off. “Where were you working before this?”

“Well, let's see,” Tony said, his eyes looking upwards as he made a mental list. “I was a mechanic for a couple months before coming here. Before that I painted houses for about a month, before that I did construction for another couple months, and before that I worked as a loan officer at a bank for about 8 years.”

“Really?” Linda asked, surprised. “Just how long is this vacation of yours?”

“How long have I been on it or how long is it going to be?”

“Both,” Linda asked, unconsciously leaning forward in anticipation.

“Well, my vacation time was for three weeks, but I've been on it for a little over a year. As for how much longer, I have no idea. However long it takes for me to get to Cali.”

“But California is, at most, a two day drive...”

“For most people. That's why I said however long it takes me to get to California.”

“Heart attack in a box!” Enrique called out and set a foam container filled with assorted meats wrapped in bacon on the counter.

“Thanks,” Tony said to Enrique as he bagged it. “You have fifteen questions left.”

Tony walked off to serve the food as Linda thought about her next question. She wanted to ask it ever since she noticed his car this morning, but didn't have the nerve to ask it. She was afraid of how he would react to the question; and her the answer.

“Get your mind out of the gutter, mija,” Enrique scolded, smacking her hand lightly with a wooden spoon that came from nowhere.

“Ow!” Linda yelped and broke away from her thoughts. She looked up to realize she had been staring off into space, right where Tony was bent over picking up a bunch of napkins that a customer knocked over.

“Ohh!” she said in understanding and looked back at Enrique. “It wasn't like that, I swear! I was just thinking about something and didn't notice where I was looking.”

“Uh-huh,” Enrique said. “And what were you thinking about?”

“Well, it was about Tony but--”

Enrique laughed heartily.

“Its okay, mija. You just have a little crush is all.”

Linda sighed and once again slammed her forehead on the window counter.

“What did I miss?” Tony asked, rejoining them at the kitchen window.

“Nothing!” Linda blurted, her head shooting back up.

“Nope, nothing at all,” Enrique said with a wink and retreated from the window.

“Well,” Tony said. “At least now I know that whatever you guys weren’t talking about, it had something to do with me.”

“Yeah, he was... helping me come up with another question to ask you,” Linda lied.

“Did you think of one?”

Linda looked at Tony, and then out the window at his car.

“What kind of car is that?”

“Oh, you like it?” Tony said excitedly. “Its a '68 Mustang GT. I've had that car for as long as I can remember. My dad bought it from the junkyard the day he found out my mom was pregnant with me. He and I worked on it and got it running just in time for me to get my license. Everytime I look at it, I think of home.”

“Is that why you're living in your car?” Linda asked, surprised at her own directness.

Tony blinked in surprise as well.

“How could you tell?”

“For one, your clothes are always wrinkled. I thought it was just because you're a guy, but then I saw there was a huge pile of clothes in the backseat. I also saw a bunch of trash and toiletries scattered around the inside too.”

“I guess there's no getting past you is there.”

“Why are you living in your car?” Linda asked, concerned.

“I'm vacationing on a budget,” Tony said with a smile.

“Why do you keep calling it a vacation?!” Linda asked, frustrated. “People don't live in their cars and work as a waiter while on vacation!”

“A vacation is time for people to get away from the stresses of life, right?”

“Yeah, I guess...”

“That's exactly what I'm doing.”

Linda continued to look confused as another wave of customers began to pour into the diner.

“You have thirteen questions left,” Tony said and walked away to help them.

“What's the matter?” Enrique asked from the kitchen window. “Did he shut you down? Want me to beat him up for you?”

“What?! No!” Linda said, turning around to face Enrique.

“Well you look like he dropped some kind of bomb on you.”

“Kind of,” Linda said, distractedly. “Every answer I get from him just leaves me with more questions.”


After closing, Tony and Linda got in their respective cars and drove off like any other night. Only this time, instead of going home, Linda decided to follow Tony to see where he “lived.” After about 20 minutes of wandering the dimly lit streets of Flagstaff, Tony pulled over in front of a movie theater. Linda pulled up behind him, the bright neon sign covering her white car in a soft pink hue.

Tony got out of his car and walked towards Linda, motioning for her to do the same. She complied and got out of her car, the warm night air hitting her at the same time as her unease of the situation.

“What are you doing?” Tony asked, confused.

“Nothing,” Linda stammered.

“Really? Because it seemed like you were following me.”

Tony gave her an exacting look, waiting for her the truth to come out. She avoided his gaze, momentarily feeling guilty. She then looked back at him, and realized she was waiting for the exact same thing from him.

“I just wanted to see...” Linda trailed off.

“See...what?” Tony asked, expectantly.

“I thought I wanted to see where you parked your car to sleep and maybe talk you into finding a real place to stay; but now that I think about it, that's not why I followed you.”

“So why did you follow me?”

“I followed you to finally get a straight answer about this 'vacation' of yours. I mean, you left your home and your job, but why? What are you running from?”

“Well...” Tony trailed off, his brow furrowed as he thought about the answer.

“Well...what?” Linda asked, expectantly.

“Well its less about what I'm running from, and more about what I'm running towards.”

“And what are you running towards?”

“Honestly, I don't really know.”

“Then how do you know you're running towards something if you don't know what it is?”

“Because, it just feels like there is something missing. Something that can't be bought, made, or gifted to me...only experienced. I don't know what it is, but I'll know it when I see it. At least, I hope I will.”

“But I still don't see why!” Linda said, frustrated.

“I suppose you wouldn't,” Tony said, curtly.

“What's that supposed to mean?” Linda asked.

“It means you're too scared to leave home to ever wonder what's out there.”

“Like hell I am! The first thing I did on my 18th birthday was move out of my dad's house.”

“That's not the home I was talking about.”

“What, my apartment?”

“The diner.”

“But I don't live at the diner.”

“You could've fooled me. You're there all the time, even when you're not supposed to be working. You're there because its safe. You know everything there is to know about that place: the menu, the customers; you even know exactly how long it takes for the toaster to finish.”

“Well, so what?” Linda asked, defensively.

“Nothing, if that's what you want to do for the rest of your life. But the fact that you signed up for classes means you want something more. The fact that you don't show up to them means you're too scared to find out what.”

“Just because I'm not some homeless hippie wandering the desert doesn't mean I'm scared to quit the diner. You don't know how hard I have to work to pay the bills and stay out of my dad's house. Or how hard it is to see the closest thing I have to family struggle to keep the doors open and pay me so I can live on my own!”

Linda was glaring at Tony now. Tony met her gaze, and they simply stood in silence.

“You're right, I don't know,” Tony said, breaking the silence. “Maybe I am some crazy hippie wandering the desert, but at least I chose to be. Did you choose to do all that, or did it all just happen to you?”

“You know what? To hell with you!” Linda yelled. “I don't want you at the diner anymore. I'll just tell Enrique you quit.”

Those words hug in the air between them, bringing about a stunned silence. A warm breeze broke the chilling silence and swept the words away along with scattered bits of leaves and trash.

“Fine,” Tony said. “If you don't want me there, then I guess I'll respect that.”

“Great. Good-bye forever, and have a nice life!” Linda said harshly and got into her car, slamming the door in anger. She looked in her mirror as she drove off, and saw Tony get into his own car. She returned her gaze to the road and sighed in frustration; and then immediately after sighed in regret.

What did she just do?

She fired a guy when she had no real authority to do so. More than that, she pushed away the only person who was every really honest with her.

“S**t,” Linda said aloud and quickly did a u-turn.

She drove back to the movie theater, only to find Tony's car was already gone. She drove around the area, looking for his car, but to no avail. An hour and a quarter tank of gas later, she gave up the search, cursing herself under her breath.

She thought about their conversation on the drive home, and began to ask herself: What did she want? Why was she really at the diner all the time? Was it for the money or was she really just comfortable? Would she ever really know the answer unless she left, like he did?

Linda pulled up to her apartment and slowly trudged inside while lost in thought. She then went to her laptop, and typed up an email to her professor, asking if she could still take the exam. She made up some excuse about her dad being hospitalized, figuring with the way he drank it was probably true anyways. She moved the cursor to the send button, and hesitated. What if the professor said no? What if he asked for some kind of proof?

Linda shook her head to clear her mind, and deleted the email. She brought up the school's registration website, and dropped the class entirely.

Maybe next year, she thought.

© 2013 Juan More Story

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Great imagery in this... would of been even better if you had slightly describe the type of diner. than the image would be complete in my head. keep it up!

Posted 8 Years Ago

Your writing style is really quite good. The words flow and the story rolls out nicely. I would like to learn more about all the characters as the story progressed, but then maybe not. The ending was a nice touch and a surprise. It's left unsaid and unsatisfying. The fact that you don't know the characters very well adds to the story as you want more.

Very well done.

Posted 8 Years Ago

This was such a compelling piece - I want to know more about Tony, Linda and Enrique. You can't just leave me hanging! Please tell me there will be a continuation! :)

Posted 8 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Added on November 13, 2013
Last Updated on November 13, 2013
Tags: Existentialism, diner, waitress, drifter, homeless, guy, existential, long, vacation


Juan More Story
Juan More Story


I have a strange perception of the world. I look at it in such a negative light that it tends to exceed my expectations, making the world seem beautiful. As a result some of my writing doesn't have.. more..

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