|Mrs. Salvia’s News
Teacher: Leonard Hooper
Machias Memorial High School
She woke up to her buzzing alarm clock and thought she could be on time for work for a change. She hated, yet loved summertime. She was out of school, but she had a waitressing job this summer. It was the last summer that she would have in her little town of Westbrook before she went to college to study journalism.
When Adriene arrived at work, the cook said, “You’re late!” in his usual grumpy tone. She thought to herself, “How could this happen again? I thought for sure I read the numbers right this time.”
The usual customers of the Red Wagon Restaurant came in just as they did every morning. There was one in particular that she looked for, Mrs. Salvia, who came in every day for lunch. Adriene had waited on her every day for the entire summer. She wasn’t quite sure why, but something about Mrs. Salvia reminded her of her grandmother, Sophia. Maybe it was the tiny rose tattoo on her arm. Her grandmother had a little butterfly on her left arm.
Mrs. Salvia put down her newspaper as Adriene brought her another cup of tea. “So, Mrs. Salvia how does the news look today?”
“Adriene, you know what I always say when you ask that.”
“No news is good news.” Adriene replied.
“Yes, that’s what I say.” Mrs. Salvia said as she went to take a sip of her tea.
Adriene was called to another table. Not much later, she called to Mrs. Salvia, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yes you will.” She said to Adriene caringly.
As Adriene cleared tables she thought of her grandmother who had died ten years ago, when Adriene was seven. Then she thought about how true Mrs. Salvia’s saying about the news was. Adriene remembered hearing the news from her mother when they were leaving town, going to see her sick grandmother.
“Why do we have to go right now?” Adriene asked her mother as they left the school.
“Because your Grandma needs us now,” her mother replied calmly, but the expression on her face read as nervous.
“Grandma is sick and in the hospital.”
Adriene started to wonder, “When I am sick, why don’t I have to go to the hospital?”
“How is Grandma Sophia sick, Mom?” she asked, as she grew concerned.
Her mother waited a little longer than she normally did to answer her daughter’s question. “She has cancer,” she answered finally.
Before she knew it her shift was over. When she spent time remembering things from long ago, she found that she always lost track of time. A few minutes later as she was walking out the door she caught the smell of the fake boxed potatoes that were a regular side dish at the Red Wagon. It brought her back to the memory of her sick grandmother. It was the horrible smell of her hospital room. She thought it to be very depressing that one of the biggest memories of her grandmother’s last few months was how her room in the hospital smelled. But she also remembered that no matter how sick her grandmother was she always found a way to share with Adriene. One time when she was visiting her in the hospital, she pointed to an arrangement of flowers and said, “I think you like those roses, Adriene. Why don’t you take one for yourself?” Just like Mrs. Salvia, she always left Adriene with some sort of wisdom each day. “Maybe that’s why she reminds me of Grandma Sophia so much,” she thought.
The next week as usual Adriene had her shift through lunch, when she always had her little visit with Mrs. Salvia. As always, Mrs. Salvia read the newspaper, and Adriene brought her a second cup of tea. Then they would talk about the news, and the conversation would end with the usual “no news is good news.” Adriene had become accustomed to their chats, and knew that Mrs. Salvia had too.
Just seconds after her conversation with Mrs. Salvia, Adriene was snapped back into reality. The chef rang the bell and called out in a fairly grumpy tone “order up!” It was Adriene’s order.
The rest of her day seemed as if it would never end, but then she remembered that it would be okay. She would be able to see Mrs. Salvia tomorrow. She knew they would talk about the new teacups at the restaurant, Adriene’s new puppy Sage, and, of course, the news.
The next day before her Sunday lunch shift, Adriene was looking through the newspaper while eating her breakfast. Suddenly she saw on the obituary page the worst thing that she ever could have imagined. Cecilia Salvia! As her eyes blurred with tears, Sage snatched the newspaper from her and ran through the house, ripping the paper to shreds.
As her mother drove her to work, Adriene realized that today would seem much longer than yesterday had seemed. She wondered how the sun could be shining after something so terrible had just happened. She thought to herself as she cleared a table, “Shouldn’t it be raining like it does in the movies when something like this happens?” Mrs. Salvia had always told Adriene that no news was good news, and Adriene knew now that she was right.
The next couple of weeks passed. As school drew closer Adriene tried not to think of the “news.” She went to work day after day with nothing to look forward to. No daily chats, no second cup of tea to bring to the only customer she ever wanted to see. She needed Mrs. Salvia. It seemed as if, without her, Adriene couldn’t function at the Red Wagon. She couldn’t get any orders right, she dropped plates, she just couldn’t focus. She couldn’t say why, but she kept thinking about the fact that her mother would not let her go to the hospital in the last week before Adriene’s grandmother died. She remembered how she thought that, as long as she was there, her grandmother would not die.
On what seemed to be like another dreary day at work, Adriene, picking up menus from a table of three, saw a car pull into the parking lot. She thought that she was imagining it, but even when she blinked it was still there. She heard a familiar voice then, Mrs. Salvia’s. Adriene wondered if she was hallucinating.
Adriene looked over at Mrs. Salvia’s usual table and there sat Mrs. Salvia holding one newspaper in her right hand and resting her left arm on a mound of other newspapers. “No,” Adriene thought. “It can’t be.”
She walked over to the table with a cup of tea and sat down across from her favorite customer. She took a deep breath as Mrs. Salvia put down her newspaper.
“Why, hello. I haven’t seen you for a while. How have you been?” asked Mrs. Salvia.
It took Adriene a second to reply, but when she did, all she could say was, “Fine.” She knew that she sounded sort of frightened.
“What’s the matter, Adriene? You seem like you’ve just seen a ghost or something.”
“Sorry, Mrs. Salvia. It’s just…where have you been for the last two weeks?”
“I went to see my granddaughter in Hartford.”
“Oh,” said Adriene, sounding relieved. Adriene looked across the table at the newspaper that Mrs. Salvia had been holding. It was the very page that had brought the tears to Adriene’s eyes two weeks ago. She looked closely at the obituary that she had only seen for a split second. It read “Cecil Slavia.” A small smile appeared on her lips as she recalled that the school counselor wanted her to start a new program to work on her “learning disability (dyslexia).”
“Adriene, this is going to sound sort of strange, but you remind me a lot of my granddaughter.”
There was a pause. “Thank you, I guess. You remind me of someone too.”
“Oh really? Who?”
“You remind me of my grandmother, Sophia.”
“Well thank you. You can call me your grandmother any day if you would like,” Mrs. Salvia said to her new granddaughter.
“Thank you…Grandma,” Adriene said. As Adriene worked the rest of the day, she thought to herself “not all news is bad news.”