This week’s sentence was taken from ‘American Notes’ by Charles Dickens.
The sentence was:
"He had ordered 'wheat-bread and chicken fixings,' in preference to 'corn-bread and common doings'."
New Providence. Just a wide spot on a dirt road. 'Jo-Beth's Family Diner. No Dogs. No Coloreds.' was a lean-to tar-paper shed hanging off the side of a clapboard wreck that looked for all the world like a tornado had simply dumped it there in disgust.
Mackinson parked up and stared for a while, as if he half-expected it to sprout legs and walk off, eventually reaching the conclusion that he was hungry and this was the only diner he'd seen in the past fifty miles.
He ducked under the lintel and let his eyes adjust to the gloom.
A scrawny woman in a faded shift dress and the filthiest apron he had ever seen stood with one hand on the kitchen doorjamb and hefted her weight from hip to hip.
Mackinson faked southern-polite: "Ma'am, I'm kinda hungry. Any chance of something to eat?"
The woman pointed with her chin.
A child's blackboard that had seen better days leaned on a shelf behind the counter. Chalked between peeling paint was the menu.
It was brief.
He had ordered 'wheat-bread and chicken fixings,' in preference to 'corn-bread and common doings'. There were no other options except the single word, "Koffee."
The woman disappeared into the kitchen and Mackinson amused himself in a vain quest to find a chair or table with four legs the same length.
He found one close enough and sat.
Looking up he saw her leaning in the doorway watching him. Something spattered in a pan behind her.
"Y'ain't local." She drawled.
"Can't say that I'm local to anywhere, ma'am."
Mackinson nodded and smiled.
She was gone for a few moments. Clatter and sizzle from the back as she dished up.
“Smells good." He lied.
The food was passable. There were recognisable traces of chicken. His coffee was as bitter and raw-boned as the woman. He liked it.
Jo-Beth watched him eat. She took off the apron and let her hair fall loose from her barrettes. Streaks of grey in the brown. He guessed around forty-five. For all his first impressions she looked pretty good in the available light.
Mackinson nodded as he ate.
"Coulda guessed. Ain't nobody ever stays."
"Don't blame 'em, neither. New Providence? Ha!"
Her voice suddenly sad. Resentful, like a pouty child.
"Godforsaken flyblown hole. What's to stay fer, anyways?"
He swallowed and grinned. "Well the food's pretty good."
Her laughter seemed to take her by surprise, like she hadn't laughed for a long time and had forgotten what it was like. It subsided only gradually and left her cheeks flushed.
She smiled. It suited her. He told her so.
Finishing his coffee, Mackinson slowly stood and reached for his wallet.
Flustered now. Fiddling with her hair. Suddenly shy.
"Mac." She paused, uncertain. "I …"
He walked over to her, touched her arm and felt her tremble.
His voice soft.
Her voice a cracked whisper.
"Stay a while."