“I’m going to try the Souvlaki . . .”
“What? Nobody eats that stuff, have something normal like a grilled cheese.”
“But it’s on the menu. It’s always been on the menu. It’s a Greek diner, why not have something authentic?”
“Because nobody has ever ordered it, I guarantee you. They have some souvlaki back there in the freezer. It’s been there since 1972 because nobody has ever ordered it. You want 40 year old eggplant?”
“I guess not . . . ”
She shifted in her seat, the bear suit was getting warm under the artificial Tiffany chandelier in the booth. She took off the bear paws and laid them on top of the little juke box. The waitress came and leaned over the table to straighten the little bowl of candy corns, “Hi honey, nice bear suit. I wouldn't eat those candy corns, they're just for decoration ya know.”
“Thanks . . . ”
“What are you two in the mood for tonight?” The waitress smoothed her red hair, and brought the end of her long pony tail over her shoulder. She readied her pumpkin topped pen at the top of her order pad.
“Well, not the Souvlaki,” he said and winked at his bear.
“No? I just had some in the kitchen on my break, good stuff, but no one ever orders it.”
“The bear and I will have the grilled cheese plate - and can you put a slice of ham in mine?”
“Sure honey. I’ll be back with your drinks, Coke right? You two always get Cokes.”
The waitress returned to set the Cokes down and put two straws on the table, “So she’s a bear, but what are you dressed as?” she asked.
“I don’t wear Halloween costumes.” He said this while carefully tearing the paper away from the straw, he pushed the straw through the ice at the top of his glass and simultaneously handed the other straw to the bear, who waved it away and just started drinking her Coke from the glass through her bear muzzle, “You should use a straw you know,” he said to her.
“Oh, so your costume is The Serious Guy, right?” Said the waitress.
“What?” he looked slightly pained at the waitress.
“It was just joke honey, right little bear?” The waitress winked at the bear and spun away to take more orders.
The two of them sat there quietly for a while, and she could hear Billy Joel softly singing she’s always a woman to me in the next booth. She liked what the waitress said, she thought it was funny, The Serious Guy and the Bear go out to the diner for Halloween. What kind of Serious Guy takes a bear to a Greek diner anyway she thought. A diner where no one orders the Souvlaki. And why shouldn’t she drink her Coke straight from the glass? She felt beads of sweat running down her rib cage, it wasn’t so hot at the party, but the party was outside, in the dark, and near the beach, there was a breeze. It was a nice place to be a bear, under the weeping willows with the pumpkins all aglow and the silly crowd of friends who she hadn’t seen since graduation. Most of them went to college, but she stayed behind to work in the seafood restaurant with her father. Some day, some day she would go to college, but right now her father needed her to make clams on the half shell.
“So Samantha, I’ve been thinking . . . ”
“I wanted to ask you why you dressed up as a bear tonight.”
“It’s my homage to John Irving, I thought you knew that.”
“Oh yeah, you mean Natasha Kinski.”
“Yeah, in Hotel New Hampshire. . . she’s the bear.”
"You mean the lesbian bear.”
“Yes, if that’s how you want to think of her, the lesbian bear.”
“But you could have dressed up as Jodie Foster you know . . . in the school uniform, with the short kilt and the knee socks.”
“But nobody would have known it was Jodie Foster. They would have just thought I was wearing a Greens Farms Academy uniform.”
“Yeah, but it would have been sexier. Oh wait, I know, you could have dressed up as Natasha Kinski in a snake.”
“That was a Vanity Fair photo silly, it had nothing to do with John Irving. And anyway, where am I going to find a snake that big?”
“It’s just . . .”
“I know Sam, you wanted me to dress like the other girls do on Halloween - like a French Maid, or Cat Woman, or Marilyn Monroe. Something so sexy that you want to rip off my costume at the end of the night right?”
“This is almost as bad as last year. You went too far you know, you cut off all your hair and went as Joan of Arc Burning at the Stake.”
“Hey! That was my best costume ever.”
“You looked ridiculous tied to that post all night.”
“But I thought men wanted their girls all tied up?”
The red headed waitress returned with grilled cheeses, “Grilled cheese with ham for the Serious Guy and a plain grilled cheese for the bear, with a little sample of Souvlaki on the side honey, maybe you’ll like it.”
“Thank you so much,” Samantha picked up her fork and her big hairy elbow knocked her Coke over and it spilled across Sam’s plate dousing his grilled cheese in ice and soda.
“That’s it! Samantha you’re just too weird for me.”
“Wait -- one night a year I don’t dress the way you like and that’s it?”
“No it’s not just Halloween, it’s everything. You know what your problem is?”
“Gosh Sam, what is my problem?”
“You don’t want to be like anyone else, you go straight out of your way to be infuriatingly counter clockwise. And besides, you always smell slightly like your father’s fish house” The redheaded waitress stooped with a small towel to stop the ice and soda from running off the table and into Sam’s lap.
“Honey, I don’t mean to butt in here, but you two been coming here since junior high and well . . . ”
“Would you PLEASE leave me alone!” Sam stood up and tore his overcoat from the coat hook on the side of the booth, “I’m sorry, I gotta get outta here.”
“It was the nurse wasn’t it?” Samantha grabbed the waitress’ arm, “Please stay, I want you to hear him answer me.”
“Okay honey, I’m right here for you.”
“The nurse at the party, the one who told you to listen to her heart with the pink stethoscope. She gave you her number. You’re going back there to pick her up. And you’re going to leave me here to walk home in a bear suit.”
“It’s not that far of a walk, you live on Long Lots Road.” Sam put his coat over his shoulders, “I’ll pay the check. Don’t call me anymore.” Sam spun around and walked straight into the little Hungarian hostess with the silver bee hive teetering on high heels, she was carrying two Manhattans on a tray and the tray flew from her hands, the amber liquor drenching her little blue grey Chanel knockoff. The diner froze and Sam never stopped, didn't even pay the cashier.
The redheaded waitress sat down in the booth with Samantha, “Honey, do you need a ride home?”
"You know what? I don't think he even knows that Jodie Foster's a lesbian . . . "
"What's that honey?"
"Oh nothing . . . don't worry, I can walk home.”
“Really? In a bear suit?”
“Yes, in a bear suit, who’s going to bother a bear on Long Lots Road on Halloween?”
“Nobody I guess. But eat the souvlaki before you go, that way it don't go to waste.”