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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)

TITLE: Beauty and the Beast
By Robyn Burke


She was half way through her morning shift before Traci realized this was the second day in a row that Gil and Alice hadn’t been in. She asked Ted, the shift manager about them.

From his position at the till, Ted cocked his head thoughtfully. "Haven’t seen ‘em.”

Gil and Alice were such regular customers you could set your watch by them. Their absence was cause for speculation. Traci chose to blame it on the January weather.

Gil and Alice had been coming to McDonald’s everyday for over two years. A couple in their early eighties, they were an amusing pair. Gil would sip his coffee, and read the morning paper, occasionally throwing quips to the wait staff. Alice walked two loops around the restaurant scouting for dropped coins before coming inside to join Gil at their customary booth. Alice had recently shared she’d accumulated over eighty dollars in loose change and had laughed heartily over the suggestion that she and Gil take a trip to Las Vegas to try and double it.

They placed the same breakfast order every day. Gil would order one cup of coffee plus an empty cup. The staff had long since figured out that Gil would pour a small amount of his own coffee into the empty cup topping it off with hot water from the dispenser, for Alice.

Besides coffee they ordered one breakfast McMuffin. Alice ate the egg side because Gil had high cholesterol. Gil ate the side with the cheese because Alice was lactose intolerant. They shared the sausage.

Long retired from farming, Gil loved to talk and no one was a stranger to him. The first time Traci heard him sharing about his love for Jesus, she was a little taken back, but there was nothing pushy about the way Gil was in his faith. It was just who he was.

Alice was quieter vocally but more than made up for it in her clothing styles. The first time she wore the yellow flannel pajama bottoms bedecked with sock monkey figures, Traci had wondered if Alice was losing it. But she learned that Alice viewed them as akin to sweatpants. Later Alice brought Traci a sock monkey she had made. Soon everyone on the morning staff was clamoring for their own sock monkey. Alice happily obliged.

Sure hope they’re okay. Traci thought as she restocked the coffee bar.

Across town, later that day, Tony and Monica, working the deli counter at the Safeway store, had similar thoughts.

“Tony, have you noticed Gil and Alice haven’t been in this week?” Monica, single and pregnant, had a soft spot in her heart for Alice who had recently made her a sweet little baby blanket.

Tony, a thin, nervous fellow, adjusted the sturdy apron that Alice had made for him. “You’re right, wonder what’s up.”

Gil, (black coffee, extra room for cream) and Alice, (tall-soy-sugar-free-vanilla-decaf latte) spent leisurely afternoons in the café area every day. Sometimes they brought their Tile Rummy game and would play while sipping their beverages. Most days they just enjoyed conversing with other patrons. They seemed to really relish their time being social.

Monica knew the couple had recently celebrated their sixty-first anniversary. She knew they had never spent a night apart other than Alice’s hospital stays for childbirth (six times) and Gil’s heart attack twelve years ago. She had seen every picture of their grandchildren including the one in the Marines, who was her age ‘and single’, Alice liked to remind her, much to Monica’s chagrin.

She loved that Alice adorned her sweater with several decorative buttons. One, a glamour shot of Alice, bore the title ‘beauty’ while another button featured Gil, in some sort of Halloween garb with the word ‘beast’ under it. She wondered if someday she would be blessed with a beast of her own who would adore her the way that Gil obviously adored Alice. A smile tugged at her lips at the thought.

There were others who noticed the couple’s absence. The store clerk whose ear was often bent by Gil while Alice debated between soy cheese or tofu; the disabled man who sometimes joined them in Tile Rummy, the bakery assistant, also a recipient of one of Alice’s aprons.

The obituary notice the next day of Gil’s passing brought sincere grief, along with deep concern for Alice. So many people whose lives were touched by the ordinary existence of one couple enjoying their twilight years.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Anita van der Elst07/09/09
I enjoyed this story very much! What an interesting unique couple Gil & Alice are. I can picture Alice in her monkey pajama pants looking for loose change & Gil bending a store clerk's ear. You've done an excellent job with this characterization study!
Margaret Gass07/09/09
I liked every bit of this, and I couldn't stop reading even though I knew how it would end. Your descriptions are wonderful! I want to eat in that McDonald's, to live in a place where a little bit of love still changes lives. Well done!
Ruth Ann Moore07/09/09
I greatly enjoyed the reading of this story. It brings into light the fact that we touch people's lives each day. May we too do it with grace and love. So very well written. :)
Jim McWhinnie 07/10/09
A most beautiful rendition of an experience that plays out over and over again before our eyes, that is, if we are taking the time to look.
Mona Purvis07/11/09
Just about perfect! You wove such an interesting tale of two ordinary oldsters living a simple life and touching others. When I leave this planet and join Jesus, I wonder how many will feel the loss. I'm going to consider this awhile.