This was an exercise in dialogue for a class called Writers as Readers, from September 2012.

The Unpaid Bill

“Hello, Jane,” the man said.

It always unnerved her when a stranger called her by name. A side effect of wearing a nametag. She thought that she would get used to it eventually, but she never did.

“What’ll it be?” she asked.

“What do you have?” the man replied.

“There’s a full menu, and even if you can’t find something there, Charlie in the back can fix you almost anything.”

“Oh, no need to bother Charlie.” The man looked around briefly. “I’ll take a slice of that pie there, and a cup of coffee.”

“Here you go,” the waitress said, as she filled a cup of coffee for the man.

“Thank you kindly, ma’am.”

“You know, I thought I was down on my luck,” the waitress said. “But you look like you just escaped from prison. Shirt one size too big, and those pants make you look ready for the oncoming flood.”

“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” the man said. “I did just escape from prison. What do you think about that?”

“You’re pullin’ my leg,” the waitress said. “There’s only one prison within fifty miles of here, and that’s the federal lock-up. No one escapes from there.” the waitress said confidently.

“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” the man replied. “And I’ve already gotten a change of clothes. Maybe I’ve been traveling for days.”

“So I should do my civic duty and call the police on you right now,” she said, mostly in jest. “Or are you plannin’ on keepin’ me quiet somehow?”

The waitress suddenly didn’t like the way this conversation was going.

“Nah, I ain’t gonna do nothin’ to keep you quiet,” the man replied. “I’m sure Charlie in the back wouldn’t let anything happen to you anyway. Not that I’m that kind of a convict. But I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to pay you for the pie. Here’s two dollars that I found in the jeans. All I have at the moment. Have to catch you later for the rest.”

The man got up from the table and walked toward the door.

“Wait!” the waitress said. “You can’t just leave without paying.”

The man opened the door. The waitress heard sirens growing louder in the distance.

“Looks like I’ve got to be going,” the man said, as he walked toward a beat up Chevrolet.

“Okay,” the waitress said.

She looked in awe as the man crossed the parking lot.

“I guess you’ll catch me later.”

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