Bubbles floated up and settled around the side of the thick edged coffee mug. John watched the steam float up and dissipate.
“Thanks,” he said.
“And I was beginning to think I wouldn’t see you today,” the waitress replied before making rounds to fill coffee at her other tables.
John slipped his superhero comic from beneath the menu where he had shoved it before Maggie took his order.
As he flipped to his place in the comic he mentally made his 1,819th mark on his attendance list and his 763rd mark on Maggie’s witty retort list. He was getting close to his five year anniversary. Sitting in the same booth, drinking the same coffee and enjoying his brief and repetitive conversations with the only waitress he ever had. Only the comic was different each day.
He promised himself he’d splurge and get eggs and a muffin on his quinquennial. John dreamed of Maggie bringing it to him with a candle, but she probably had no clue of the approaching day’s significance.
He gazed back at the few remaining bubbles and watched them pop leaving a perfect black mirror in an off-white frame.
The mirror rippled first before the thin metal silverware and his empty muffin plate bounced around the speckled Formica table. John grabbed the shiny metal edge expecting to stop the shaking but it had no affect. His eyes darted about the diner. The trays of mugs behind the counter rattled toward a destructive fall. The pendant lights swayed above the other surprised patrons. Even the glass in the front picture windows shimmered with the increasing vibrations.
With a boom the front door disintegrated and the shaking stopped. A whoosh pulled all sound from the room which was replaced by slow and deliberate boot steps, each one ending with a distinct “ting” of a metal toe tapping the tile floor.
Black cargo pants stretched tight against the intruder’s powerful legs. His white t-shirt revealed every upper body muscle including some John didn’t know existed.
He tossed a duffle on the counter.
“Valuables and cash!”
No one moved.
Maggie reached the cash register first, but couldn’t seem to get it to open. John could see other patrons fumbling for their wallets and removing jewelry.
John wrapped his hand around his mug and drained it in one swig.
He breathed in expanding his chest to twice its size. The muscles on his arms bulged with veins throbbing.
The intruder tore one of the counter stools from its bolts in the floor and tossed it into the kitchen. He stepped forward and slammed his fist through the counter breaking it in two. He snatched the duffle before the counter collapsed and flung it to a nearby table of four.
“You don’t want me to ask again!”
John slid from his booth and rose.
The intruder pointed at John and said, “Now, there’s a smart guy.”
John rose to full height and still breathing in grew another foot. He strode toward the intruder.
The intruder flipped an empty four-top over his shoulder like a piece of trash where it smashed against the men’s room door.
John stopped within arm’s reach of the monstrous figure who still towered over him. He sucked in one more breath growing enough to look him eye to eye.
“I think I’ve been more than patient,” the intruder bellowed.
Behind him, the few patrons still capable to moving began tossing their cash, jewelry and electronics toward the duffle bag. The intruder ignored the noise of most items bouncing off the table and skidding across the floor. Straightening his posture, the intruder rose an inch above John’s eye line.
John sucked in air through his nose and grew to meet the intruder’s change in height.
The intruder dropped his open hand on John’s shoulder and squeezed the skin and muscles into his fist. He stared deep into John’s eyes. “We don’t want any trouble, now, do we?”
With a sweep of his arm, John lobbed the enormous man across the room where he landed where the counter once had been. In the blink of an eye, John sped to where the intruder lay, grabbed him by the collar and dumped him outside on the sidewalk against a “No Parking” sign. He twisted the pole around the intruder like the stripe on a barber pole.
“Here ya go.” Maggie slipped the check onto the table.
John jerked his head up, snapping him away from his hard stare into the coffee.
“See you tomorrow? Enjoy your superhero comic.” She winked and moved on to her next table.
John flipped over the paper and considered the $7.50 check. He pulled out three twenties, tucked them and the check beneath his mug.
Maggie wiped off the pristine counter as John strolled past. He half raised his hand to wave but Maggie didn’t see him.
Outside, John could see Maggie clearing the booth he had just left. He watched her pick up the two twenties and a huge smile crossed her face. She looked up in time to see John looking in and mouthed “thank you”.
John smiled back. Everyone has a superpower, maybe this was his.