Friday Night Story

Strange Candy

He must have started coming to the restaurant in its first few weeks, because I remember the "Now Open" sign was still up. He was cute back then, young and handsome, and I suppose I was, too, and he smiled at me, shyly, every time I appeared at his table. He had tangy orange chicken, because that's what he always ate. He left a nice tip, and folded an extra napkin over, and placed a small, square chocolate on it. It seemed sweet, if odd, but I didn't eat it; those were, after all, the days of anthrax letters and HIV syringe phone booths. But he came back. He came back every week the same time, and every time he left the chocolate, and neither of us made mention of it.

Until one day near the end of summer. He always paid with a debit card, which meant his name and information was on record. And the chocolate looked so delicious, just a little because it was an exceptionally hot day. It was a truffle; I later found out it was dark chocolate chip from See's. It was the best thing I'd ever eaten.

By fall, business picked up enough that we hired on another waitress, and soon he was coming in twice a week, once on my shift, and once on hers. One day, near Christmas, the other waitress asked him where he purchased the wonderful chocolates. He was reluctant to even acknowledge them, but she was energetic and sweet, and playfully refused his attempts to deflect her. So that night after work, we went to the mall and bought ourselves a bag. We were disappointed, and whether it was because he had penetrated his secret, or because we had bought them ourselves, the truffles didn't taste the same.

Years passed. The restaurant grew, and our customer grew old. His hair turned white, and thinned, but so did mine. With every new waitress we hired, he added another meal to his week, so that each of us had him once, and his day was always the best day of our week. He was quiet, and shy, but he smiled, and he laughed. He always ate alone, and always left the table clean, with a nice tip, and a chocolate. And he always left me with a glow, just from his smile, and that twinkle in his blue eyes.

Last month we hired a new man to bus the tables, and without thinking he threw away one of the girl's truffles. She yelled at him, and then sobbed on my shoulder. The next day, I took my truffle to my brother, who is a chemist at the local college. He told me there were trace amounts of opium in the chocolate, less than a third of the effective threshold. We stopped eating the chocolates after that, but the next week I sat down, introduced myself, and ate with him.

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