My heartbeat ticked in my head. Both eardrums thumped, and the vein on the side of my neck pulsed in unison with each beat. Every part of my body resonated with the quick, dynamic rhythm. I became the pounding bomb and prepared to explode.  

I glanced at the person across from me. Small, metal-banned Formica tables with vinyl bench seats lined the main section of the restaurant. Most remained empty, except the second booth closest to the kitchen. An old woman, squeezed in the space, stared back with a nervous smile.  

I followed her eyes to what had once been a BLT sandwich in my hands. I had devoured the thing in three enormous bites, and the unchewed bulk filled out both cheeks. I returned her smile with an awkward one and let pieces of overcooked bacon fall from my mouth. If I stared at her long enough, inevitably, her heightened anxiety would cause a blood vessel to rupture.  

My attention shifted to a man at the table off to my left. He scarfed an unrecognizable mound of beige. Most likely mashed potatoes with gravy— part of the diner’s Turkey Manhattan Special, which wasn’t special at all. The longer he shoveled food into his face, the louder each smack and slurp became, and my irritation intensified. My eyes settled on a dangling thread hung from one of the cut sleeves on his red plaid flannel. This man, I would choke with my bare hands. I smiled at him. 

The waitress dropped a slice of peach pie on the floor behind the counter. The loud thunk stilled as the filling thickened around the shattered dish. I don’t know if she was more annoyed by breaking the plate or the rude comments the owner made under his breath about her clumsiness. She looked at her wristwatch and gave an audible sigh.  

In three, two, one— yes, she glanced up. At that moment, I witnessed her soul’s sadness. She didn’t make eye contact with me, but we were one, her and I. The similarities between us beyond coincidence and this confirmed in my heart and mind, I would kill her too. Last, perhaps because of our newly-formed bond, but today, she would die.  

None, spare the old lady, noticed me. And although she showed enormous interest in my eating habits, she didn’t pay any attention to the stodgy middle-aged man who approached from the side. I tracked his movement in my peripheral and realized I intended to gouge out one of his eyes with my fork if he got any closer. His pace slowed as my energy— my anger shot out in jagged emotional waves of hatred directed at his core.  

I imagined pitching my plate toward him, and I found myself hopeful the cheap ceramic object would smash against his head. A win-win because the cheery flowers around the edge really pissed me off. I enjoyed throwing knives so much more— particularly when aimed at something vital, well, at least to men. The thought made me smile again. 

My heart-bomb ticked faster, and excitement welled. I could stop him before he reached my table— drop him where he stood. The beats grew louder. The timebomb was me, and I would kill this man in the middle of the Stoney Creek Café.  
The bell rang, offering a momentary distraction as the entry door swung open. Out of instinct, I cut my focus to observe the new arrivers. A businessman with a young woman not much older than me waltzed in. My stomach gave a gurgling growl, and my throat burned.  


I turned to the fat man, the one who approached from my right and stared at his shirt stretched over his hard belly. He slid on the bench and stopped mere inches next to me. The butter knife I clasped was not designed for slicing, yet, I had faith damage could be inflicted if I were to jam the blade deeply into his thigh.  

“I know you can hear me.” 

I hated my name from his thick, greasy lips because he said it like he ordered dessert. I glared at him knowing he would die first. I scanned the diner. Then, I would kill the man in plaid, the old woman, the couple pretending not to be a couple, and finally, my twin— the waitress like me. 

“Darlene! Your lunch break is over. Now, fetch me a coffee and get back to work.” 

I scooted out the other side of the booth. One day I would do it if working here didn’t kill me first. 


  1. OMG! every moment more.. and more. brilliantly written! thank you Julie Kusma for writing and sharing ALL of your words and works are true pieces of art……and scary and suspenseful and .. ALL THE THINGS! ::

  2. Whoa. Now that’s hating one’s job. Well done…. standing ovation on this one, my dear friend. LOVE it. It should scare Mitch quite efficiently, don’t you think? Hehe.

      1. You’re a character, Mitch…and the Queen feeds off of our shock and awe. Lol. But, we can’t keep our eyes and minds off of her scary writing thingies.

  3. I love this! Again, your attention to detail is fantastic! I can picture it as though I am right there, and believe me I don’t want to be in that cafe right now, LOL!

  4. Wow! That is some serious rage. I liked how it was drawn out, never being certain if the bomb would go off. I missed the foreshadowed connection between the waitress and Darlene, but that was pretty slick, too.

  5. First story of yours I’ve read and I’ve got to say that was a very intense experience. Your use of detail created a wonderfully vivid scene, and I love how the tension was constantly building with every new person Darlene saw. The last line was absolutely genius, not what I was expecting at all but excellently implemented; it finished the story but still left the bomb ticking. Loved it.

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