Tin House

Blog

TwitterFollow Us
Facebook
FacebookFollow Us
Tumblr
TumblrFollow Us
Podcast
PodcastFollow Us
RSS
RSSFollow Us
Sign Up for News, Sales
& Events

Scott_Bourne_tinhouse

 

The New Saint Claire Restaurant

Right after I got out, I worked at a diner. It was called The New Saint Claire Restaurant, though not much about it seemed new. I was a cook. I’d never been a cook before. I’d done other things. I mean, it wasn’t like it was the only job I could do. But it was the best one, all things considered, at the time.

This girl used to come in and sit at the counter. She never ordered anything. And she would sit there and not do anything. No book, no nothing. Eventually she would say something to Maurine, who worked behind the counter, or Maurine would say something to her. But whatever it was that she said, it was never an order because she never got anything. No coffee, even. And eventually she would leave.

She was pretty enough. I mean, I probably wouldn’t have noticed if she wasn’t. Or maybe I would have. Because if it wasn’t busy I just stared outside of the window. The kitchen window, I mean, which looked out on to the counter. Not a window that looked out on the outside. Those were too far away from the kitchen to see out of.

Anyway. Then one day the girl came in while Maurine was out smoking. When I say she was a girl, I mean a girl. I think. At the oldest maybe she was seventeen. Is that when girls stop being girls? She was right on the cusp. So I’m staring at this girl. Not in a rude way. I was staring out the kitchen window anyway, but there was nothing to stare at until the girl got there. And the girl started to fidget, like she needed some assistance, even though I know she never ordered anything.

So I walked out from behind the kitchen and I said, “You want something?”

And she said, “Yeah. Some food.”

“Okay,” I said, “So order some food. Here’s a menu.”

I put a menu in front of her, but she didn’t touch it.

“I can’t order anything,” she said.

“Why not?” I asked her.

“I don’t have any money. Not right now.”

“Well, what do you like?”

“I like anything,” she said. “Just about.”

“If you had to pick one thing,” I said.

“In the whole world?” she asked.

“No, not in the whole world. Just on that menu.”

“If I had to pick one thing on this menu, I would pick a ham sandwich. On white bread.”

“You didn’t look at it,” I said, meaning, the menu.

“Out of all those things, that’s what I would get,” she said, nodding a little bit.

“How do you know we even have that here?” I said.

“Because this is a diner. Diners have everything.”

“Out of everything, that’s what you’d get?” I asked. We had nicer things on the menu. Nothing too fancy, but nicer than a sandwich.

“That’s what my mom used to make me,” she said. “For lunch, sometimes.”

So I made her the sandwich, and she didn’t pay. And she didn’t say thank you, but I didn’t mind exactly. The reason I did it wasn’t so someone would say thank you.

Next day she was back, and before Maurine said whatever it was she said to her, I made that sandwich and put it in the window. The kitchen window.

“I didn’t order that,” Maurine said.

“Just give it to that girl there,” I said.

“You’re gonna pay for her sandwich?”

“Sure Maurine, I’m gonna pay for her sandwich.”

Nobody paid for anything around there. Not the staff I mean. Sirloin steak, on the house. So Maurine gave the girl the sandwich and the girl, she ate it and left. And that happened again and again. For however long. Weeks. Longer.

So me and Billy, who was the other cook, we got off one day and we left out the back exit, which led to the alley where they left the garbage. And the girl was there. Waiting? I don’t know, but she was standing around, fidgety, but pretty out in the natural light.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” she said. Then she started to walk away which was weird because, yeah, maybe part of me figured she was waiting there for me.

“This the girl,” Billy said. You could tell he liked what he saw. We started to walk faster. “This the girl you’ve been talking about?”

“Yeah,” I said. By now we had caught up to her. We were right behind her, but she wasn’t slowing down any. “Yeah.”

“So tell me, what’s she been doing to be worthy of your kindness?” Billy asked, loud, to make sure she heard.

When you’re inside, every day there are three meals for you. They all taste like shit, pretty much. But somebody picks up a plate, puts food on it and hands it to you. It’s yours. You get fed because that person doesn’t stop to think about why you’re inside. They don’t think what kind of things you might have done and what kind of people you might have done them to. They don’t think, maybe this one didn’t do it. Maybe he’s innocent. Maybe he’s only here because of some huge mistake. Maybe this one deserves to eat.

And so you get fed, and you keep on living.

I slowed down. I let her get ahead of us. She turned right on Flatbush, out of sight.

“Maybe something,” I said. “But maybe nothing.”

Julie Sarkissian lives in Brooklyn and waitresses in TriBeCa. She is a graduate of Princeton University and has an MFA from the New School. Her first novel, This Is How To Find Me, will be published by Simon and Schuster next spring.

Share |
Posted in Fiction, Flash Fridays

Comments: 39

(37) Comments

  1. harvey says:

    i feel this story was just magnificent. it touched ,my heart. It makes me want to buy sandwiches from random people. I plan to visit The New Saint Claire restaurant one day. It seems very interesting.

  2. jessie says:

    so intriguing! cannot wait to read her first novel!!!

  3. Diana Light says:

    Julie,
    Your aunt Martha/Marta put me on to your story. I’m in her Thursday morning book group and we LOVE her stories. They are masterpieces. How lucky you are to share genes with her. Well done on your inaugural effort. Efficient, right to the point slice of life with lots of undercurrents. Strong voices, atmosphere and character interest. Loose/spontaneous and tight writing all at once drives the story from start to finish. Good connection to your own inner voice, communicates well and provides instant familiarity of time, place, mood and character to the reader. Bring it on!

    All the best, Diana Light

  4. sally says:

    thoughtful quick read thanks for lettingmeread it.

  5. Marta Sarkissian says:

    The atmosphere ofthe restaurant true to life! Symbol of window interesting. People haunting. Dialogue well done! This litle taste of Julie makes me want more…

  6. janet says:

    Wonderful moody piece, Edward Hopper sees daylight. Terrific ending, just right.

  7. Steve R. says:

    nice pace and sharp focus for so few words. I do want to see what happens next…

  8. Angel says:

    Excellent short story. Can’t wait for your book to come out.

  9. geoff says:

    “And so you get fed, and you keep on living.” Good line, great short story!

  10. Maritza says:

    This is great Julie! Can’t wait for your novel to come out!

  11. Stephanie H says:

    bravo julie! can’t wait for your novel to come out!

  12. heather says:

    so engaging – i immediately read it again and discovered even more complexity.

  13. Sarah says:

    Great narrator

  14. Benjamin says:

    Powerful stuff, been swirling around in my head all day. Hope to read more!

  15. Joanna Simmons says:

    Haunting and hopeful. Loved it.

  16. Emily Conbere says:

    Great writing- can’t wait to read her novel coming out soon!

  17. Jennifer says:

    I’m hooked already! I can’t wait to for more!

  18. Kate says:

    What a wonderful story! I can’t wait for This Is How To Find Me to come out!

  19. Veronique says:

    Love it! Great story. Makes you want to hear more! Can’t wait for Julie’s novel!

  20. Jacque says:

    A good story makes you want more…this is a good story.

  21. laura says:

    loved it.

  22. laura says:

    Loved it!! More please :)

  23. Michael says:

    Please sir, can I have some more?

  24. Juan says:

    More please. Things slowly unraveled. Noir like in a way. The alluring woman and the ex-con who still has his humanity intact. i wish “This is How to Find Me” was being published SOONER. more please.

  25. Lauren says:

    Such a great story. I wish there was a chapter 2. I want to hear more.

  26. Ray says:

    Interesting and engrossing read! Makes me interested in a follow up!

  27. Alissa says:

    That was lovely.

  28. Trish says:

    Fantastic story! I loved it! Only took a few minutes to read, but I’ve been thinking about it for the rest of the day! Can’t wait to read Julie’s novel.

  29. Peter says:

    I love this. With minimal introductions, I feel I know these folks. I was ready to turn the page.

  30. David says:

    This is such a wonderful story. It reminds me of the John Updike story A&P!

  31. Kate Fitzpatrick says:

    After a long day moving from the East Village to Brooklyn — I had dinner at the New Saint Claire Restaurant, across the street from the jailhouse and around the corner from my new apartment. This short piece creates an evocative story that perfectly captures the place. Beautiful work!

  32. Jake G. says:

    Not only is the story well paced and engrossing for such a short piece, but the author is a dime piece to boot!

  33. Caroline says:

    What a treat! Absolutely drawn in and love the simple faith that brings the piece to fruition. Looking forward to “This is How to Find Me”.

  34. i love this so much- thanks for posting it. the writing is wonderful. gives me something to think about on this lovely friday while i serve up 3 meals of mush to my baby.

  35. Jane says:

    Great cadence in this piece- really looking forward to picking up This is How To Find Me next Spring.

  36. stacey says:

    great writing…I love how you know so much about the narrator all through implication…it feels like an interaction that would really take place, especially in New York.
    I’ll definitely look for her novel next spring!

  37. James McKenna says:

    fantastic writing. a short piece to kick off a great Friday. get this julie a ham sandwich, she deserves it!

(2) Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. [...] “The New St. Clair Restaurant” – Tin House Magazine Connect with Julie online: [...]

  2. [...] The New Saint Claire Restaurant, by Julie Sarkissian | Tin House Leave a comment « Pome harbor Comments are closed. [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>