Some moments in certain places lend themselves to become a story. The cosmic timing of a situation links itself to become something greater. Some would call this happenstance. Others may label it coincidence. A select few would call this magic. For the next eight weeks, Creative Writing Club proudly presents eight tales from the Ram’s Horn Diner, a venture into the magic of coincidence, a serial of circumstance.
It’s been at least six minutes; she’s sure the big hand has gone around at least six times on the dusty clock on the wall. Fumbling absently with the envelope in her hands that granted her her acceptance to the counseling master’s program, torn at the fold, already opened. He had said he wanted to be there whens he opened it.
When he comes back, she offers a forced smile. His is broad, almost fake, in the sort of excitement any father would have over his daughter being accepted into the program of her dreams.
“Today’s a big day.” He leans forward as he speaks. With a pressed smile, she nods in agreement, leaning away as she pinches the corner of the envelope between her fingers.
“Tell me more about it. What kind of program is it?”
“Counseling,” she mutters, glancing away briefly. “A three-year program.” He grins as she talks, his voice loud enough to be heard over the excited chatter of the diner.
“That’s fantastic news! I raised a smart girl from the start, didn’t I?” Pushing a real smile out of her, as she pulls back hesitantly. “I knew you could do it!”
For once, she’s grateful that the diner is noisy, giving her a good excuse to look around with a start when somebody trips and stumbles next to their table.
“Yeah. It’s a good program.”
“You’re darn right it’s a good program — hey, waitress!” He waves down the waitress as she winces beside him, gritting her teeth as she passes him an uneasy glance.
Catching his wave, the waitress hurries over the table, offering the two a smile as she hands over the laminated menus. “Welcome to the Ram’s Horn Diner. Is this your first time?”
“Yes. What do you recommend for a celebration?” He grins wide.
“What are you celebrating?”
“My daughter’s been accepted into West Chester’s counseling masters program!” He wraps his arm around her shoulders. “I had no idea she was even interested. Guess how I had to find out – her Facebook update.”
She sinks into the plush booth, shrugging her father’s arm off of her shoulders.
The waitress glances at the growing distance between the two of them. “That’s exciting! I’d recommend our shakes. They’re the best around.”
“Perfect! Two black and white shakes and a slice of chocolate cake for the table,” he says.
After the waitress leaves, he turns back to his daughter. “You’ve always been such a good student. I remember you used to make flashcards for spelling tests in second grade. You were so serious about it.” He chuckles. “Almost as serious as when you gave the valedictorian speech at graduation…”
A half-second passes as she processes what he says. She remembers looking into the crowd for his face while she spoke. They had had a friendly phone call the day before. He had promised to come. She brings her hand down on the table, the sound causing a hush of silence from the three tables across from them. “You don’t remember my speech. You weren’t there.”
Startled, he blinks in surprise, glancing around nervously before clearing his throat.
“It was complicated,” he says quickly, voice strained.” He blinks slowly, brow furrowing as he tries to form words. “I loved your mother, you know that, but things don’t always work out the way we –”
“They way that you want,” she finishes for him, staring straight at him. “Things don’t always work out the way that you want them to. It was never about you and mom when you started seeing that other girl. That was about you.”
He sighs. “I’m…sorry. I am. I didn’t want you to get wrapped up in it.”
“Well, I did. It’s fine. I don’t care. I don’t want to talk about it.”
The waitress comes bustling over with their food. She places everything in the middle of the table. “Here you are – our world-famous shakes!”
For a long time, neither one of them say anything. She twists the milkshake straw between her fingers, occasionally taking a sip.
“Well. It’s just me and the dog nowadays. The apartment’s plenty big if you ever needed a place to stay during the school year. I heard housing is very expensive, especially when –”
“It’s fine,” she says quickly. “I’m fine. I have a place to stay.”
He nods. Another, long pause.
“The Turks Head Music Festival is coming up in a few weeks. I was thinking maybe we could all go together. I don’t really know what’s playing. Probably something good.”
“All?” she says.
“You and your mom,” he says quietly.
“Oh. Yeah, maybe we could.”
“You’d like to go?”
For a moment, the chatter of the diner is all she can think about. It’s loud, though her father’s voice is quieter than before. The festival will be around the start of the semester, she knows. Right when things are starting to get busy again.
“I’d have to see what my schedule looks like.” Maybe it’s too dismissive.
But he seems satisfied with her answer.
Samantha Walsh is a third-year student majoring in English and special education, and minoring in autisum studies. ✉SW850037@wcupa.edu.
Siobhan Gleason is a fourth-year English major. ✉SG828482@wcupa.edu.