Alex walked into the diner, which had no name, looking to soak up some local ambiance. After two weeks he was still trying to adjust to small town ways - without much success. The diner represented his first lesson. He had noticed this place right away as he hauled all his worldly possessions to his new home. At first he thought it was shut down, because there was no signage, but at noon the parking lot filled up and it was obvious that it was the local eatery.
Now Alex sat at the bar in what was simply known to the locals as “Myrna’s place” for the first time, looking over a menu that was printed out like a flyer, on a regular sheet of paper, trying to decide what to have for dinner. It was a little late and the crowd was down to just a few, including an older gentleman ,who looked like a farmer, sitting at the counter a few seats down, reading the paper.
“What can I get for you?” Myrna, he presumed.
“Well, I was thinking about having some of this pot roast.”
“Sorry, that’s been gone for about an hour.”
“Okay, well how about some of the chicken and dumplings?” There was a tiny shake of Myrna’s head. “Meatloaf? Salisbury steak? Vegetable stew?” Each was met with a negative.
Finally Myrna sighed. “Look, around here I make up so much food for lunch and so much food for dinner. When it’s gone it’s gone and we all go home. People are welcome to hang out and have coffee and pie while I clean up, but when I’m done, that’s it.”
Alex put the menu down then and said simply, “I’ll just have some coffee and pie.”
Myrna smiled. “Good choice. What kind of pie?”
“How about this Paradise Pie? Why is it listed under ‘side items‘”?
“Because folks have been known to remark that it’s the best thing this side of paradise. It’s kind of an inside joke.”
“I get it. Well, I’ll have a side of paradise then.”
“Sorry,” Myrna jerked a thumb at the farmer reading his paper, “old Tom got the last one.”
“Watch who you’re calling old there, Myrna.” Tom never took his eyes off his paper.
Myrna winked at Alex. “Maybe you can talk him out of it. I’ll get your coffee.” And she was gone.
Alex couldn’t be sure, but it felt as if all the ears in the place had suddenly perked up. He got the strange feeling that somehow a challenge had been laid.
“So, you want my Paradise, do you?” Still no looking away from the paper.
“Ummm…no, not really,” Alex stammered.
“That’s funny. Could’ve sworn I heard you say you wanted a side of Paradise.”
“Well, I did, but I don’t want yours.’
Tom put down the paper and turned to Alex. “You saying there’s something wrong with my Paradise?”
“No, not at all. I’m just not in the habit of taking food from other people.”
“Then why’d you come into a restaurant?”
Flustered, Alex wisely chose to remain silent.
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll sell you this side of Paradise.”
Curious, Alex decided to play along. “Okay. How much?”
“Five dollars? It says on the menu here that it’s only $2.50.”
“True. But wouldn’t you agree that things increase in value when there is a short supply?”
“And since I have the only piece left, it doesn’t get any shorter than that. Plus, I’ll wager that the two-fifty I paid for it cost me more than the five dollars will cost you.”
Alex was getting confused by the man’s logic.
“Let me tell you about this side of Paradise,” Tom went on. “This here side of Paradise is flawless. Look how it’s crust is completely intact. The chocolate mousse is just the right thickness to melt in your mouth, but not run off your fork. The chocolate chips are soft and chewy, not hard and crumbly and the whipped cream is cold and firm. The almond shavings add just the perfect balance of flavor to the most perfect pie you will ever find. Paradise like this should cost a lot.”
Alex grinned as he reached for his wallet. “Okay, you sold me old-timer,”
Tom smiled back and pushed the plate of Paradise over in front of Alex. “Don’t worry about it son. Your Paradise has already been paid for.”
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