The hot, toasty fragrance of just-baked bread permeated the small restaurant as Papa pulled pans out of the oven. As he was admiring the crusty, well-shaped loaves, the bell over the door jingled, announcing the entrance of one of his lunch regulars.
"Papa! Good afternoon to you! Smells heavenly in here!" A middle-aged, auburn-haired man breathed in the enticing aroma in keen anticipation.
"Redd, it's always a delight to see you!" Papa bustled around the counter, and the men greeted each other with grins, friendly back slapping, and a hearty handshake.
"Come, your favorite table by the window is ready." Papa ushered him to his seat and called to the server, "Angel, bring our friend a dish of hummus and some kalamata olive bread."
Turning back to his customer, Papa asked, "And how is that fine family of yours today?"
Redd slipped out a photo of two teenage girls wearing paper hats and hamming it up for the camera. "It was Dani's birthday, and she and Jeni had lots of fun with their friends at a party Saturday night." Both men chuckled at the comical expressions captured in the image.
Angel brought over the complimentary appetizer, bending down to scrutinize the picture of the grinning girls. "Redd, they are growing more lovely all the time. You must be so proud."
"Busting my buttons! They both made Honor Society and sing in the church youth choir." The father's eyes lingered on the impish faces before placing the picture back in his wallet.
The front bell tinkled again as a casually-dressed young man entered. Papa hurried to welcome him exclaiming, "Luke, we haven't seen you for a couple weeks. I'm so glad you stopped in again. How's your new job coming?"
"Oh, fine, Mr. King. Thanks for asking." Luke plopped down into a booth and began scanning the menu.
Redd called out, "Papa, what's today's special?"
"Ah! A flavorful lentil stew served over basmati rice and guaranteed to nourish and satisfy. Some savory falafel and a green salad topped with feta cheese and my yogurt sauce would go alongside nicely."
"My mouth is watering already. Please bring me an order."
"Of course!" Papa turned to Luke. "Would you like the same?"
"Nah, I don't think so. I'll have my usual Mediterranean wrap with a side of roasted rosemary potatoes."
"Why don't you try something new," Papa suggested. "Don't you get tired of the same old thing?"
"Nope, that's what I want." Luke took out his cell phone and punched in a number, effectively dismissing the proprietor.
"Okay, okay." He hurried back to the stove as Angel filled the men's water glasses and took their drink orders.
A third patron strode in, a smart-suited, impeccably-groomed businessman, who headed straight to a back booth, ignoring everyone else. Setting his briefcase down, he buried himself in "The Wall Street Journal."
Papa rushed to greet him, but the man just grunted, "Bring me coffee and some baklava."
"Certainly, but might I fix you something more substantial, also?"
"No." The clipped reply forestalled any further discussion.
Frowning briefly, Papa moved to leave; but as if remembering something wonderful, a broad smile lit his countenance again. "Gentlemen, I have an invitation for you. Friday evening, I am hosting a feast at my home in honor of my son. There will be a special lamb dish, my son's homemade wine, and an abundance of grilled vegetables and fresh fruit. We'll also enjoy music and dancing. I want you as my guests, and you may bring your family and friends, too." He clasped his hands, looking expectantly at the men.
"I wouldn't miss it for anything." Redd jumped up and shook Papa's hand again gratefully. "What can we bring?"
"Nothing, nothing. All will be provided, and no one will go away hungry." Papa glowed with pleasure.
Luke coughed. "Um, I'll think it over, Mr. King. My schedule's pretty full. I don't want to miss a game on TV that night, and I thought I'd have a couple buddies over. Thanks for the 'invite,' anyway."
Papa focused his appeal on the businessman. "What about you, Friend? I'd be honored to have you."
Without looking up, the man replied in a cool tone, "I don't like lamb, don't know your son, and have other plans."
Later, Papa took out his invitation list, placing a bold checkmark next to "Mr. Redd Hot," and soberly crossing out the names of "Mr. Luke Warm" and "Mr. I.C. Cold."
"I will miss them, " Papa murmured.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
Accept Jesus as Your Lord and Savior Right Now - CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.