by Jerry Guarino
Sam didnt start out
angry. He didnt start out as a vegetarian.
This was the culmination of repeated frustration
over a long period of time. It wasnt even
Sams fault; virtually all of the conditions
he had were genetically passed on from his father.
You cant pick your name or your genetics.
But no one would have guessed how he would react
when faced with the final, insurmountable
After school, Sam would work in the diner that
his father had bought back in the 1950s. Burgers,
fries, sandwiches, blue-plate specials and the
coldest, thickest, most delicious milk shake in
town, nicknamed, the iceberg. If a customer could
drink one with a straw, the shake was free. At
the end of the day, Sam would sit with his father
in a corner booth; his pop would challenge him to
drink a strawberry shake with a straw. One day,
this ritual was interrupted when a lovely teenage
girl came over to them and questioned Sams
Excuse me sir, do you need any waitresses
after school? Sam kept one eye on her while
continuing his milk shake, hoping to impress this
angel and praying that his pop would give her a
job. Her name was Veronica (very popular back
then). She was 59 with long, light
brown hair, horned rimmed glasses and a beautiful
smile. It was the 15-year old Sams first
They worked together for two years until Sam left
for college upstate. Veronica went to a local
college and continued to work part time in the
diner; Sam would come back to the diner every
holiday and break, in order to see her. For the
next three years, he tried to maintain a
connection with her. Then just before
Thanksgiving, Sams world changed; his
He left college and returned to run the diner.
College life seemed like a vacation now compared
to 12- hour days, 7 days a week. At least
Veronica was still working there. He vowed to
find the right time to ask for a date.
It was an unusually busy morning. Veronica was
scurrying around, trying to keep up. Sam,
we need more pastries out front. Theyre
selling like hotcakes. And table three just
ordered four servings of hotcakes she said
smiling at him.
He warmed up now to the object of his affection.
Right away Ronnie. Joe, get more pastry
from the back and give them to Ronnie.
Meanwhile Sam hurriedly made more batter.
Since he had taken over, business had increased.
He could tell from the inventory and receipts.
But what was the reason? He had maintained his
fathers menu, cooking techniques and
advertising, even the staff was largely the same.
Could it be that his presence gave customers the
feeling that the business was continuing? His
father was well liked, but people could tell he
was slowing down before the heart attack. Such
little things can effect peoples
perceptions. Maybe this was a sign that he should
finally pursue his feelings for Veronica?
On a cold day in February, Sam gave her more
attention than usual; Veronica flirted back.
Could all the stars be aligned? Sam knew that if
he was going to ask her out, it should be now. As
they were closing down that night, he made sure
to let the rest of the staff off first.
He made two milk shakes and set them in a corner
booth, and then went back to wash his hands.
Ronnie, why dont you join me for an
iceberg? She winked, took Sams hand
and walked him back to the booth. Sam knew what
he had to do now. What is this? he
said, seeing a candle in a heart shaped muffin
between the milk shakes.
Its Valentines Day Sam. Dont
you know that Ive wanted you to ask me out
Sam couldnt believe it. Ive
felt the same way. I was always too scared.
Holding hands in the booth, this was the
beginning of a lifetime of happiness for both of
them. They were married in the summer; Veronica
finished college and then joined Sam full time in
But years of diner food took its toll as Sam
developed the same ailments that his father had
succumbed to: high cholesterol at 40, diabetes at
50 and a kidney stone at 60. Each diagnosis meant
another restriction on his diet. First cut out
fat, then sugar and finally protein. Sam had
become the angry vegetarian.
Sam thanked God that Ronnie never had such health
problems. Although she picked up the slack when
Sams health declined, keeping up with
supply purchases was always difficult.
It was Valentines Day again. Ronnie put out two
milk shakes and a heart shaped muffin with candle,
just as she had done each year for 40 years. She
took Sams hand and led him to the booth,
kissed him on the cheek and sat him down. She
could tell something was wrong. Make a wish
sweetheart. Anything you want.
He boiled over like Yosemite Sam would when
confronted with Bugs Bunny. A slow burn is
putting it mildly. What would I like? Ill
tell you what Id like. Id like some
food, plain old American food. Nothing fancy,
nothing extreme. Just some wholesome, everyday
food. Sam thought about how his father died.
Trying to cheer him up, Veronica pushed the cold,
thick strawberry milk shake in front of Sam. He
looked down. Sweetheart. This is dirty.
Would you mind getting me another one please?
Veronica gave her best pouty face, put her hand
on Sams shoulder and gave him the bad news.
Im so sorry dear. That was the last
straw. Sam laughed.