Art by Mackenzie Holman, 2021
The streets were much slower on Earth. Back on Fulisia, everyone was racing around at high speeds trying to get to the next big thing. They’d hop in their boosted cars and race at hundreds of miles an hour just to save a couple of minutes on their commute. Everyday, there was something new and exciting. Well, it was supposed to be exciting. Usually it just stimulated an empty thrill as constant speed turned into constant monotony.
Everything was slower on Earth. It was simpler. It was comforting, really.
I stood in front of one of these slow streets, waiting for the traffic light to allow me to cross. Rob’s Diner was just on the other side of the street, a place I went often. So often, in fact, that the staff knew my name.
I crossed the street and paused for a moment to check my watch; I was early. I always liked to be. My old friend Filos had asked me to meet for lunch. So, naturally I suggested that we eat at Rob’s: the best waffles on Earth.
I walked through the glass doors of the establishment and was immediately hit with the smell of bacon and maple syrup. The place was always clean. The red booths were comfy and spacious. Soft music always played from the outdated speaker system. Most of all, the service was great.
Nellie Stanton was running the hostess’s desk and she immediately greeted me with a smile. There was something about her presence that always reminded me of a warm fire. The freckles on her face matched her dark brown hair. Her smile lit up the room. My heart skipped a beat as I walked towards her.
“Mike! It’s good to see you,” Nellie handed me a menu. “You want your table in the back?”
“I’ll take a booth actually,” I took the menu. “I’m meeting someone.”
“Oh,” Nellie frowned for a fraction of a second then smiled. “A friend of yours?”
“Yeah,” I said. “A friend from back home. He’s in town for a bit.”
“Oh!” Nellie’s blue eyes suddenly lit up, “Make sure he tries our cinnamon roll waffles!”
I chuckled, “I’ll give him the suggestion.”
I sat down at a corner booth and looked through the menu for a brief moment even though I knew I wanted a waffle. The song coming from the speakers changed and I listened for a moment, realizing it was a song I hadn’t heard before.
“What’s the song?” I asked Nellie as she came by to hand me a couple sets of silverware.
“Oh it’s an oldie. Gary likes playing stuff from the 80’s,” she laughed. “I think it reminds him of the ‘good ol’ days.’”
“I like it.”
Nellie laughed, “You’ve never heard 80’s music?”
“Not really,” I listened for a moment more, then looked back at Nellie. She was looking at me with a confused expression. “I’m only joking,” I said quickly.
Nellie laughed, “I was gonna say…”
She walked away, leaving me sitting in my own embarrassment. There’d always been something about Nellie. I never said the right things around her; I always ended up feeling like an idiot.
“A diner. Really?”
I looked up from my table and saw Filos, looking around the diner with a sour look on his face. He was dressed in his usual long trench coat. They were the peak of fashion on Fulisisa, but here on Earth it just made him look shady.
“It’s good to see you!” I got up and shook his hand. “What’s it been? Three rotations?”
Filos gave a small smile and sat across from me, “Four actually.”
“That long, huh?” I laughed.
“Yeah,” Filos squirmed in his seat. “I came here to talk about that, actually.”
He was looking at me in a way I haven’t seen him do in a while. Not since I first joined the academy.
“Um, what is it?”
Filos fiddled with a fork, “Well… the short answer is, we need you. Something’s come up in the fourth sector and, I know you said you’re done fighting in the corp but… this isn’t something normal.”
“Filos, you know I can’t. I’ve started a new life here. I–I have a job, an apartment.”
“You can’t be serious. You’re the best soldier in the corp. This isn’t a place for you–for us.”
“You know very well that humans here are just like humans back home. There’s no real difference.”
“What’s keeping you here then?” Filos gestured with his hands around him, “If it’s the same here, then why are you staying?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nellie at another table. She was smiling as she jotted down orders. She caught my eye for a moment, and I quickly looked back at Filos.
“I’ve gotten used to it here. The people here are just so…so–”
“–simple?” Filos finished.
“Actually, yes,” I smiled, “but that’s what’s nice about them. They don’t need craziness and extravagance to entertain them. They live for the simple things. This diner, music, waffles… it’s all so simple yet so…” I glanced quickly at Nellie across the room, “…beautiful.”
“You’re acting like a deranged jakrith,” Filos shook his head. “An elite soldier, the best soldier in the academy, wants to run off and live on Earth.”
“Yeah,” I leaned back. “So what?”
Filos chuckled, “Mikas, we need you back in the corp. You’re young yet experienced–compassionate yet aggressive. Are you going to give up all of your honor, all that you’ve worked for, for some… some stupid escapade?”
“Yes,” I replied, “but I don’t think it’s stupid.”
Filos frowned, “I’m sorry to hear that, Mikas. Your planet needs you. Your people need you.”
“There are other people for the job,” I smiled. “I think you can afford to lose just one of your men.”
Filos grumbled and shook his head for a bit.
“Alright, fine,” he finally said. “I see how much this means to you. You’re–you’re a good friend Mikas, I’d hate to see you unhappy.” He stood up, ready to leave, “The council won’t like this, you know.”
“Oh they’re always angry about something,” I waved my hand. “I’ll be a small speck of dust in their pile of problems.”
Filos grunted. “Well, I’ll see you later?” He offered me his hand.
“Yep. I’ll see you later,” I smiled and gave him a firm handshake. “You sure you don’t want something before you go? This place makes a mean cinnamon roll waffle.”
“Maybe some other time,” Filos waved his hand. “I’ll be in touch.”
“Bye,” I waved back at him as he walked out the door of the diner, looked both ways, and crossed the slow moving street.
Nellie came over with a pitcher and filled up my glass. She smelled like cinnamon.
“Why’d your friend leave so soon?” she asked.
“Oh, he’s always in a hurry.”
“Well, let me know if you need anything,” Nellie said.
“I’m fine for right now, thanks,” I took a sip of my water.
Nellie gave a soft smile and started to walk away.
“Actually, Nellie,” I stood up and took a step towards her.
“Yes?” she turned around, a bit flustered.
“When do you get off work?”
“Um… in about an hour, why?”
“Do you want to have dinner later tonight? I mean, if you don’t have plans… if–”
“Yes,” Nellie said immediately.
“Great! How’s 6:30?”
“Alright,” I said. “It’s a date then.”
Nellie smiled, “It’s a date.”