Rowan settled on a corner booth, way in the back, after pondering a wide expanse of empty tables.

"Service is always better in the back," he said. "The waitresses have to pass you every time they go to the kitchen. So they see you every time. You want water, the glass gets filled. A little more ketchup or syrup, and it's done. And the waitresses like it when you go back there, too, cause it's on their way and they know they'll get a better tip just for giving out good service, but I don't tip them better than twenty percent, because that's the kind of service I ought to be getting."

Christa, red-faced from the wind, jutted her head out like an angry giraffe, walking behind her dad with her arms crossed. The eyes of two farmer types, with red and yellow seed caps perched on their bald heads, followed her and her shimmy top all the way back to the booth, and she tried to ignore it along with everything else about Burt's Indiana Oasis - the diner hungry truckers and farmers prefer for their extra-sized portions, or so the sign said, right above the glass menu in the entryway. Christa tuned out her father's symposium on tipping as they sat down, but Rowan continued.

"See I set my highest tip rate at twenty-five percent; that's a benchmark above standard," he said. "I work down from there if the service gets bad. But I try to stay right up here" - Rowan's hand was level with his forehead - "by getting right in the line of fire with the waitress. To get good service you gotta ask, a little."

"I'm going to the bathroom," Christa said.

"Wait till we order."

"I don't want anything. So I'm going now."

"You're gonna have something."

"I sweat to God -"

Rowan flipped his backhand at her. "Fine, go. Go. Don't get anything."

In the bathroom, Christa stood and puttered her lips. She tested the dry-air machine. She washed her hands, twice. Then she pocketed them. She gave it a good two-minute wait, deciding. She kicked open one of the blue stall doors and held it open with her platform. She'd eaten eleven barbecue chips, and a Milky Way, but the toilet seat was old, wooden, and probably diseased. Grime was on the tile below the fixture. At the very least, her hair and her knees would be a little grossed up, and that would require at least ten extra minutes in the shower that night.

Christa's foot was getting tired holding the door. She certainly didn't want to touch it with her hand.

"I'm a little pissed, Rowan said. "They don't want to serve breakfast after the morning. That's kinda the point of a place like this."

Rowan had placed a menu in front of Christa. She fiddled with her sugar packets.

"I was wanting eggs. Maybe some burnt hash browns. That's why you choose a place like this. To get that kind of stuff, and get it greasier than you can down the road at some chain. I'm just a little pissed."

"You talk a lot about food," Christa said.

Rowan still scanned his menu. "I guess."

"Maybe that's why you're a little fat."

Rowan looked at his daughter. Had she been grinning, he would have loved her as he used to when they played at the beach or ate Cheeto puffs. But she meant it, just so. "Probably," he said, trying to smile.

"I mean, there's a million things on here," she said.
"Yep."

"And you gotta get eggs."

"Look," Rowan said, "that's the -"

"Point, yeah. Well, maybe we should get up and go where the eggs are."

"Oh God, I can find something," Rowan said.

"Sure about that? Only four pages."

"What are you getting?" Rowan said.

Christa folded the menu closed. "I want a Diet Coke and that's it."

"I already got you an apple juice."

"I don't want any apple juice."

"You used to go crazy for it. It's good for you."

"No it isn't. Juice monsters are the fattest kids there are."

"Juice monsters?"

Christa nodded. "Our doctor said that juices just make you want to eat food. Every fat person, he said, is a juice monster."

"Which doctor's that? Jenny Craig?"

"Dr. Powell is a guy."

"Whatever. I'll bet the real reason you don't want it was some dumbass friend of yours told you it looked like piss," Rowan said.

Christa scrunched up. "Piss?"