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He put the straw against his lips and took a small drink before letting out a soft, pained groan.

“Are you okay sugar?” the waitress asked.

Long brown bangs rustled across the man’s forehead when he shook it. “I have a sore in my mouth. Everything hurts.”

“Oh honey, that’s horrible.” She leaned over to rest her elbows on the counter beside his glass. Her hair was pulled into a pony tail that kept it from dunking into the water, but it hung there like a pendulum, swaying back and forth. “I was wondering why you were making those horrible faces while you were eating.”

He grinned and nodded.

“You know what my grandmother always told me to do? She told me to rub salt in them. Burns like Hell’s fire, but the sores go away within a day.”

He looked at her as his grin melted off his face. “I think I’ve had enough Hell’s fire to last me a lifetime. Thanks though.”

She looked at him with a weird, twisted, little smirk on her face as she stood straight. “Only trying to help sugar.”


The bathroom mirror was dirty and streaked. He didn’t expect anything more from the old diner, but despite everything he had seen, he still always had hope.

He pulled his lip away from his teeth and a soft orange light lit his face like an old scout master on a camping trip. The smoldering glow of burning coals got brighter as the man examined his mouth. The sound of meat frying got louder and the smell of barbecue drowned out the old urine from the un-flushed toilet.

“Hell’s fire,” he mumbled. “She has no idea.”

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