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I have a short story to tell. It’s about an odd experience I had yesterday. I’m hoping to find someone who has had a similar altercation, or at least some insight into what had happened. It all started yesterday morning at my family’s weekly Sunday brunch. My family consists of me (John), my sister Cassie, my mom, and my dad. We are devoted to our Sunday ritual, which consists of sleeping in before our church’s 9:30 am church service, and then off to brunch at a local spot called Marnie’s Kitchen. We’ve loved Marnie’s for years and we have not missed a Sunday brunch for as long as I can remember. The wait staff is like family, we even called them our aunts and uncles. The Sunday crowd is made up of regulars, so it’s like a family reunion each week.
Marnie’s is set up in a rectangular formation. Each seat is a wooden bar stool that sits at a large rectangular high top bar that spreads across the entire restaurant. In the middle sits a long table that has griddles, ovens, stovetops and other appliances that are always hot and ready to serve Marnie’s brunch staples. The owner, Marnie, takes pride in the uniqueness of the restaurant’s setup and is always the first to mention how it makes the Kitchen special. She is right though, the openness of Marnie’s makes it easy to see and talk to everyone else sitting at the bar. In addition, being able to see your meals being made gives Marnie’s a very cozy feeling.
Another fun part of Marnie’s is the happy, inclusive feeling you get when you step inside. Like I said, the Sunday crowd is made of of regulars, so each of us has a designated seat at the bar. These seats are filled by the thirty people who come to Marnie’s every single Sunday morning at 11 am. Sometimes, a few newbies will show up. Although the Sunday crew (what we call ourselves) cherish our time together at Marnie’s, the second a new person walks in everyone jumps up to accommodate them. Marnie’s son Eric runs to the storage room and pulls out a few extra bar stools, and everyone at the bar shifts their seats over a couple inches to fit the stools. Visitors always get the prime seat that is positioned right in front of the main griddle. Here, they are able to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Marnie’s a bit better than the rest of us.
Typically, when the front door of the restaurant opens, everyone at Marnie’s stands up and smiles to greet whoever is at the door. It’s tradition, and it makes every experience walking into the restaurant special. Everyone looks forward to taking that first step into Marnie’s and being enveloped into its cozy atmosphere. However, yesterday was different.
It started out like any other Sunday for us. My family left the church and piled into my dad’s Chevy Tahoe. We made the trip to Marnie’s in just under ten minutes, pulled into the lot, and parked in the same parking spot that we have every Sunday for the past fifteen years.
As we opened the big wooden front door, we heard the familiar jingling of the bells Marnie keeps to let the bar know someone has arrived. As if the giant gusts of fall wind sweeping through the entire restaurant is not enough notice. We were greeted by hugs, smiles, and the comforting smell of pancakes on the griddle. My stool sits closest to the front door at the near right corner. To my right sits my sister, mother, and father. On my left sits Eric, who always has his back against the door. We said hi to everyone across the bar, and waited for our typical brunch orders to be served up. I always go with blueberry pancakes with a side of breakfast enchiladas and a glass of orange juice. We always arrive around the same time, so our food is always ready for us within minutes. My family is usually the last to arrive, so by this time all thirty seats were filled. We chatted like we usually do, talking about our past week and plans for the following week. Just as I was filling John in about my college applications, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I was so startled by it that I jumped a little in my seat and that caught the attention of the entire restaurant. I turned around to face a man who must have come in through the only door, the one that was located right behind Eric.
Only, the jingle bells didn’t ring. No gust of cool, fall wind swept through Marnie’s. The door didn’t even open. And yet, somehow, this man got in. Everyone in Marnie’s was silent. I would have been surprised at the lack of warm greetings and shaking of hands, had it not been for the eerily-strange presence of the stranger. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He was dressed very well, in a nice, expensive-looking suit and shoes. He was clean shaven and his hair was covered by a black fedora. His outfit was a little odd, but I barely had time to process all of this before he said my name, “John”. His eyes pierced into mine as he spoke, and it was then that I noticed the color of his skin. He was very fair, so fair it almost seemed as though he was glowing. He had this confident aura about him. Not in an arrogant way, but as if he was here with a purpose. I was speechless, I couldn’t even move. Something about him paralyzed me in a way that I could not explain. I could tell Eric felt the same way as I did, because he had not moved an inch off of his own stool to grab the man an extra chair.
Marnie, who seemed to gather her composure the fastest, was the first to speak. Instead of her typical cheery “Hello!” she asked, “Who are you?”. The man did not break eye contact with me when he replied “I am here to speak to John”. In this instant, it was as if my parents had come to and processed what was happening. My dad stood up and asked “Why? Who are you?”. The man ignored him. He finally broke eye contact with me and turned to face Eric, as if he knew Eric was the one who usually got up to grab new chairs. In response to his gaze, Eric stood up instantly and walked to the back room. He returned with a bar stool, and placed it right between mine and my sister’s. The man took off his hat and coat and sat down. He began talking to me, very quickly and without any hesitation. The way he spoke was soft, so soft that it sounded like he was whispering directly into my ears. I looked around the bar, and it seemed as though everyone was struggling to hear what he had to say. Even Cassie looked like she was having trouble hearing, even though the man sat right next to her.
After I got over my initial shock, I began to listen myself to what he was saying. He was telling me that he had a gift for me, a gift that was bestowed to only a few people. He told me not to ask questions, or it would interrupt his “flow of knowledge”. He said he wanted to help me, wanted to give me peace about the tough decisions I would have to make in my future. He started with little bits from my past, almost as if to validate what he was saying. He knew things. Things about my birthday parties as a kid, my school field trips, and my first kiss. Things that a stranger could never know. He then told me that I would be faced with challenges. He told me my decisions would impact many people, and these people would depend on me. He told me that this conversation was not meant to scare me, but to prepare me. He emphasized the importance of feeling confident in these decisions that I would be making. I wanted to ask him about these specific challenges, but I restrained myself. I did not want to upset him because I was still fearful of this odd power he seemed to have. I was also selfish in wanting to absorb as much of my future as he could tell me. After what felt like hours, he stopped. By this time, the whole restaurant was whispering to each other. The man had spoken so quietly that they didn't even notice he stopped talking until he stood up. He grabbed his coat and hat, gave me a nod, and left. He didn’t leave through the door, he just seemed to fade out. I don’t even know how to explain it.
I still do not know what to make of this experience. I don’t feel disturbed or unsettled. When I think about it, I feel calm. Almost like I was gifted the chance to see into my past and future. I have tried to include every detail of this encounter. The man talked with such intent and purpose, that it seems like it would be devastating to let any part of our meeting slipped my memory. I am looking forward to my future. I just hope this information was given freely, and that I won’t have to pay some sort of price for it further on in my life.


Image of Brunchin' Around


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