Scenes from an American Diner: A Story in 26 Parts
of us have had our lives touched in some way by the disease of
addiction. Be it a loved one, friend, family member or even ourselves
no one is immune to the impact of this devastating illness. This story
is dedicated to all of those people, especially the ones who have found
recovery through the 12 step fellowship.
"What the heck is that?" Stew asked, looking over the pile as if it were a living thing that might attack if spooked.
Eric took the flat end of his fork and poked it, forcing some of the pieces to tumble. As they spread further across the table he start to make out an image in the shards.
"It looks like-" he started.
"A photo," Ted completed the sentence. "Of me and Cole, fishing. When he was 6."
Everyone went silent for a long, awkward moment. Stew watched Ted's face, concern and fear painted onto his. Scott just stared at the pieces and waited for someone to break the silence. Eric started pulling out shards and piecing them together as if suddenly realizing the whole thing were a puzzle and that was the most logical thing to do.
"I think I've got the boat, anyone wanna work on the water?" he asked.
No one moved or responded but instead of noticing that the joke failed Eric got preoccupied with a genuine interest in the activity. His shoulders hunched forward as he lowered his head to more closely examine the tiny pieces and his tongue crept out of the corner of his mouth as he concentrated.
Stew slapped Eric's hand away and gave him a warning look. Eric opened his mouth to protest but stopped as Ted spoke again.
"You know French Creek? Used to be you could fish down there. I remember opening day there'd be a crowd like anything. It was a big deal first time I took him. You know, going and getting the license and all that- he was so excited. We made a big to-do of the whole thing- his mom got him this whole fishing outfit and made him stand for photos," he laughed, "by the time we finally got out on the water there wasn't a fish left in the whole damned creek, I felt terrible about it. But I don't think he even remembered."
Stew watched Ted's expression change as the memory progressed and had to resit the urge to reach across the table and snap his fingers in front of his face before his mind could go back to those dark places again.
"We were gonna do it every weekend- big plans, you know? But then Sue died and... that was the end of it. He tried a few times to get me to take him again, but I was never up for it. Weekend came and I'd be passed out in bed all day. Piece of shit."
"Hey now, that's my friend you're talkin' about there," Eric said, and smiled at him. But Ted didn't see it, his eyes were still staring off into the memory. "Well, you gotta give him this- he's committed."
"He get this stubbornness from you?" Stew asked , but Ted still didn't respond. He banged the table lightly and the jolt startled Ted who shook his head and looked at him. "Don't stay in the past, remember? You're here now, be here."
Ted rose in his seat as the anger fueled him, "What the hell am I supposed to do now?"
"Well, for starters, we get you some food- cause that always helps," Eric said, waiving to the waitress who was placing sodas at another table.
"And then?" Ted asked, bitterness in his voice.
"And then we'll work on the next draft together," Stew offered.
Ted narrowed his eyes at him but Stew stared him down again. Eventually Ted's face softened and he sighed in surrender. "I'm gonna need some fries," he said.