October 24, 2010
Today’s special is sour cherry pancakes with link sausage. It’s grey and chilly outside, but so far no rain. It is my birthday and I’m forty four years old. I felt too lazy to do the math in my head so I figured that out on the register. I punched in $20.10 and subtracted $19.66 and got my answer: 44 cents.
This has been a good year. I’m going to have my novel published in my forty fourth year, and I’m going to work with an editor on another book, a young adult novel I wrote quite a few years ago. To be a working, publishing writer has been my intention since I
was ten years old. It feels amazing and satisfying to achieve this. Maybe the best part of it is that I don’t have to constantly grapple with the lurking suspicion that I’m deluded and ought to just concentrate on knitting and walking the dog in my spare time, a couple of other things I love to do, instead of writing.
The bell rings and an order appears on the pass-through. It is house fries—potatoes sautéed with mushrooms and onions and peppers and broccoli, green beans and asparagus and tomato—and inch-thick slices of cracked wheat toast. Meghan comes and takes the plate away. It’s quiet today, very quiet. Gary sits at the counter staring out the front window at Lake Superior. He goes back home to Cincinnati tomorrow after his annual autumn month here, and I imagine he feels wistful. He’ll be back in February in time for the dog sled races, only a short time off really, but for some people leaving Grand Marais is hard. Wrenching. It would be for me.
I can hear Meghan spraying off a plate in the dish room. There is a sizzle as Rick puts something on the grill, sausage I would guess by the sound. I’ve been hearing the sounds of our work for twenty years, and they’ve become a second language. If I hear a plate come off the stack with its small Corelle-lite clack, I automatically head for the pass-through because when the plate moves, the order’s almost ready. The putty knife makes a chopping noise on the grill: pancakes being shaped. This means another four minutes or so and they’ll be done. They will be done and they’ll be beautiful: they’ll look good and smell good and be good. That’s part of what I like about our work here. It is tangible. It’s real and immediate. Someone’s face will likely light up in just a few minutes, and it will be an uncomplicated thing: their breakfast delights them. The work is plain in many ways, and it is repetitive and sometimes monotonous and often frustrating, but it’s good, honest work, and it is fundamental: it is food.