TITLE: Stagger Inn
GENRE: Women's Fiction
At Dawn's Early Light, Molly greeted the early morning customers, the wintry air still trapped in their coats. Dawn's was just a little restaurant squeezed into the first floor of a tall St. Louis office building. It was a hopelessly hokey place, its walls plastered with signs like Come In and Get Fed Up, and Customers who find Our Waitresses Rude Ought to See the Manager. Fake diner interior, everything tinged by the smell of fried eggs and hashed brown potatoes.
This was Molly's twenty-ninth job in the eleven years since she'd quit high school. And she was itchy again. Five months ago she'd worked at St. Louis's prestigious Chase Park Plaza serving elegant banquets, but she felt invisible there, dressed in black, instructed to be inconspicious. She walked off the job one night, before the dessert course, before she suffocated to death. She handed her apron to the maitre d'. "My name is Molly Russell," she said, "and I used to work here." She exited through the luxurious lobby instead of the mandated kitchen door, laughing. Despite her determination to settle down, her twitchy feet were always taking her someplace else.
Molly didn't actually witness Vinnie's unwelcome entrance into the restaurant that morning. She was taking an order from two nurses when he spun her around and forced her into a dance, loudly singing a snatch of Alice Cooper's lyrics, "I can't do right when all I want to do is wrong."
Customers stared, forks in midair.