Granny’s Apple Pie
The highway stretched out in front of them as inky blobs of night fell over the horizon. The only light ahead was the soft blue glow of dusk.
Gloria sighed; Stuart’s stomach grumbled and sounded throughout the silent car.
“Sorry, I must’ve swallowed a wolf,” Stuart joked.
Gloria laughed, “I’m hungry too.”
“Let’s keep an eye out for someplace along the highway, we still have a couple of hours ahead of us.”
Gloria nodded and gazed out the window; nothing but flatland and a crackled highway like a long serpent snaking nowhere. She leaned forward and turned on the stereo. White noise hissed from the speakers, and Gloria turned the dial station by station, but found only radio static all the way.
She sat back and turned to Stuart, who stifled a yawn.
“Stu, I could drive for a while,” Gloria offered, but Stuart refused.
“Better keep your eye out for somewhere to eat,” he said.
Glory leaned her cheek against the window as the first stars twinkled in the dark expanse overhead.
Stuart braked hard and turned on the blinker, signaling he meant to pull over, but pulled into a small dirt path leading towards a wooden cabin.
“I told you to keep a lookout, we almost missed it,” Stuart chided, though a joking smile peered from his lips.
As they neared the building, she noticed a glowing sign that read “EAT” in neon letters.
“I didn’t I didn’t even see it,” Gloria stammered.
“No worries,” Stuart said, “I only caught sight of it just in time. “
Stuart pulled up to the building and parked the car.
The cabin lights blazed in the moonless night with an inviting and warm glow. Gloria opened the door as Stuart walked around the car. He held the door open for her as she stepped out of it.
The scorching desert had cooled since the blazing sunset, and Gloria reached into the backseat for her denim jacket. She handed Stuart his own jacket, who took it and slung it over the crook of his arm. He closed the door and locked the car, then caught up to Gloria and put his arm around her. Together, they walked to the entrance. The smell of cooking food and the sound of mirth from within the building broke the desert silence.
“Stu, I wonder where the other cars are?”
Stuart glanced at their lone car in the parking lot, “Maybe they all parked around the back.”
Gloria shrugged. She was starving, and the diner’s lively hubbub beckoned her to enter.
Inside, the place buzzed with customers and waiters darted back and forth between the booths and tables. A waitress with a beaming smile greeted them and led them to a booth at the far corner of the room. Gloria preferred a different table, but there was no other vacancy. The waitress handed them the menus, introduced herself, and left them to decide.
Everything made Gloria’s mouth water, and Stuart declared as much. She settled for the chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach; to hell with the low-calorie, low-fat diet. Stuart chose the livers and onions.
The meal passed in a delicious haze of pleasant gaiety; the diner’s atmosphere was like an eternal party.
As the waitress cleared the table, she asked if they wanted dessert.
“It’s Granny’s Apple Pie,” she said with an impish smile, “there’s no other like it. One bite and you’re hooked for life,”
Gloria and Stuart’s eyes met. Then Gloria cast her gaze around the room. Most customers were enjoying Granny’s Apple Pie, and Gloria’s mouth watered, but her stomach groaned, stuffed to the gills.
“Glo? D’you want to split a slice?” Stuart gave her an encouraging smile.
Gloria knew that smile. It said, “Go ahead honey, order it. I’ll only take the teeniest bite and let you stuff yourself with it until you roll out of here.” Gloria resented that smile and the thought of finishing the dessert by herself made her queasy.
“No, thanks,” she said to the waitress, “it sounds delicious, but I’m afraid we’re very satisfied.”
The waitress’ smile faded just a tad, but she nodded and said she would bring the check.
The cool night air stung their cheeks as they left the building.
“Why didn’t you order the apple pie,” Stuart asked as they headed towards the car.
“Because I know you, you’ll take one bite and leave me hanging.”
Stuart kept quiet, she knew him as well as he knew her, and he wasn’t poking that bear. He started the car.
“Stu, where are all the cars?”
“What do you mean?”
“We were in there at least two hours, and no one else parked beside us,” Gloria wondered, “and there’s no road leading behind the building.”
“Huh, you’re right,” Stuart said, and put the car in reverse, “Come to think of it Glo, no one came or left but us.”
They gave each other bewildered glances; Stuart’s arm rested across Gloria’s headrest and the car hummed. Stuart shrugged and looked through the rear windshield as he backed out of the parking spot and turned towards the highway. Gloria gasped. He slammed on the brakes and she pointed towards the restaurant, but only the empty desert sprawled in its place.