Play # 47: Jam.

The play is set in an endearingly old-fashioned restaurant in a small town in Eastern Ontario.   The restaurant has chrome bar stools, booths upholstered in naugahyde, and a big hand-painted mural running along one side of the room, depicting cows and goats grazing happily on a riverside meadow. 

The restaurant is run by an octogenarian Greek man named John who, though he owns a prosperous sheep farm a few miles east of town, regards the restaurant both as a way of keeping busy—a form of exercise—and as a place of warm social interaction.  He also prides himself on making a great breakfast.

Like a lot of Greeks, John is nothing if not hospitable.  To everybody who enters the place, he sings out, from his grill at the back, either a hearty “Welcome Home!” or, if the customer is a single man—one of his breakfast regulars—his best greeting of all: “Good morning, Mr. President!”

On this particular morning, there are only two people in the restaurant: John and his waitress, a big strapping woman who doesn’t have much to do since John usually brings out the food himself and also collects the money for it from the customers.  

As the play opens, a heavy, middle-aged woman with puffy bleached blonde hair, and wearing a wildly patterned green and yellow shirt and long beige shorts, enters the restaurant and makes slowly and with great deliberation for a booth.  On her left arm is a bandage which looks new and which she presses steadily with her right hand.   John can’t greet her with his usual “Welcome Home!” because he has never seen her before.

WOMAN (addressing anyone who hears her):  Doctors!  Always taking blood!

JOHN: Tests?

WOMAN:  They just take blood!

JOHN: Where are you from?

WOMAN:  A farm up north of here.  I don’t own it.  I just rent it.

JOHN (nodding encouragingly):  Fresh air.

WOMAN:  Yeh.  And when it rains, the sky opens up.  If you hold up a bucket, the rain fills it in a couple of seconds.

Unlike any of John’s regulars, the woman picks up the menu and peruses it with great care.  John stands at her table, patiently waiting for her order.

WOMAN (carefully, precisely):  I’ll have one egg, some bacon and toast.

JOHN: White or whole wheat?

WOMAN:  Whole wheat.

JOHN:  Do you want potatoes?

WOMAN (looking blank): Potatoes?

JOHN (patiently):  Home fries.

WOMAN (brightening):  Oh sure, okay.

John shuffles back to his grill and in a few moments, while the waitress stands disconsolately at the front window, brings the woman her breakfast.  She falls upon it gratefully and eats heartily.

WOMAN (looking up happily):  Your bacon is just the way I like it!

JOHN (smiling):  Not too greasy, not too hard.  Would you like some jam?

WOMAN (with touching enthusiasm):  I would love some jam!

John goes to fetch it and, on the way back to her booth, drops the little plastic coffin of red jam on the floor.  The woman looks at it.  John looks at it.  The waitress turns to look at it.

JOHN (embarrassed):  I can’t pick it up.  If I do, I’ll fall.  I’ll get you another one.

WAITRESS (relieved to have a task to perform):  I’ll pick it up!

John fetches a new, second jam and brings it back to the woman.  The waitress scoops up the fallen jam and is about to carry it over to a refuse container near the counter.

WOMAN (addressing the waitress):  I’ll take that one too!

WAITRESS (turning to face her):  You really want it?

WOMAN:  Yes.  Yes.