a short order cook named april

I use to spend my summers in the John Rylands Library writing (about something else) or networking with friends from Casablanca and Russia (get in good, spend a holiday abroad). Some days I’d go to the beach. Others I’d just end up at O’Neills with one of those designer drinks that taste like fermented Kool-Aid and come in cool urban packaging.

Nowadays I visit the mountains. When my friends jet off to Marrakesh and Cape Town, I head over the Atlantic to a place no travel agent has ever heard of. I spend six weeks in Iaeger, West Virginia.

Iaeger is where Pa’s at, and where I use to be. It swelters in the summer. Visitors puddle in their own sweat and vomit from the heat. It’s not like the rest of WV. Something about the way the air cant get down in the hole you’re in. The one-time-mining-town sits at the bottom of a big bowl of mountains. A valley full of topland. There may be life on the other side. But you’d not know it from there; and you wouldn’t really care.

The Dairy Bar offers some relief from the atmosphere. Functioning air condition. Pac-man arcade. Good beans. And April. April is a short order cook who whips up burgers and fries for blind uncles and interesting aunts. She does it with a smile and then delivers it to their door. Most people wouldn’t trek through the mountains for a blind uncle and an interesting aunt. Not for 5 bucks an hour. But April does. You always feel lazy when you’re around her. Last summer she worked through her vacation and then went home every evening to build a wall. A wall. How do you even do that?

She doesn’t talk much. She’s too busy. When she has time to stop and think she laughs. The way my grandfather does when he’s just come out of the field. When he’s too tired to break his back any more. Its the realest sound you’ll ever hear. It makes you want to be a better person…….because some people already are.

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  • Lynn
    Mar 16, 2006 at 20:35

    This is a sweet observation. I feel it with a few people I hardly know, too–people I pass on the street. It makes me feel a little guilty.