“Whoa, now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.” Frankie says, watching the waitress deposit their orders on the table.
The waitress asks if she can “Get you boys anything else?” and left with an order to top up Frankie’s coffee and another glass of o-j for Irwin.
“Thanks for this.” Frankie said and dipped the corner of his toast into one of the sunny-side-ups and tore into it with his teeth.
“Glad to do it,” Irwin said. “Not every day your buddy turns twenty-five.” He salt and peppered his scrambled eggs, forked up a clump and started eating.
“Yeah, about that.“ Frankie said. “I know all about the surprise party Janice is throwing for me tonight.”
Irwin stopped chewing, stared wide-eyed across the table and became pale.
“Doesn’t take a genius to figure it out you know.” Frankie continued. “Kinda strange that my girlfriend had other plans besides spending the day with me on my birthday huh? Besides, I overheard her talking to you on the phone the other day.”
“Sorry Frankie, supposed to be a surprise, so you heard everything huh?”
“Yup, you betcha.” He said – still with a little bit of food in his mouth. “I have to ask though, I know the plan was to take me out golfing today but you think we could do something a little more…exciting? It’s a milestone birthday after all…right?”
“Uh, yeah sure.“ Irwin’s brow furrowed. He thought golf was a solid plan but now is frantically recalculating for a plan ‘B’. “What are you up for, go-karting or something?”
“C’mon Irwin, what am I twelve? Something more ballsy than that. I want to do something I’ll remember the rest of my life. What do you say, you up for something adventurous? C’mon man, I need you to commit to making this the best birthday of my life?”
“Yeah, I guess I can do that.”
“Haha– great. Irwin ol’ pal, you and me are going skydiving.”
“Wha…” some spittle teased his airway so he cleared his throat several times.
“I knew you’d say ‘yes’,” Frankie said, “so three days ago I booked our time slot. First we got to take some sort of safety orientation thing, but after that we’re heading skyward to take our first jump, baby.” Frankie raised his fork slowly while making an airplane noise with his mouth and once it was above head level he used his other hand like a little person had jumped out.
“S-sounds exciting. So this is happening to-day?” Irwin shuffled some food around on his plate without picking it up.
“You betcha.” Frankie stabbed a sausage, bit off a sizable portion and continued speaking in between chews. ”Heading…out there…right after… breakfast.”
Silence fell between them for a moment as Frankie focussed on shovelling more food in his mouth. Irwin was less enthusiastic about the contents of his plate, which suddenly had the appeal of dry sand.
The waitress returned with Irwin’s orange juice and begins topping up Frankie’s coffee. “How’s the food?”
“Everything’s good, thanks.” Frankie said and suddenly had an idea. “Say listen, uh…” he looked for a name tag, “Betty – have you ever been skydiving?”
“Skydiving? Me? No way!” She responded, but much too quickly. Then decided to soften her response by adding: “Had a boyfriend once though that liked that kinda risky stuff; not for me though. Why’d you ask?”
“Well me and Irwin here decided to celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday by going parachutin’. Thought that if you’d gone up yourself you might’ve had advice for a couple of newbies.”
“Oh well happy birthday then. So you’re gonna celebrate by jumping out of a perfectly good plane huh? Takes all kinds I suppose. Hope I don’t hear about you on the news tonight. Can I get you boys anything else?”
They both responded in the negative and resumed eating once Betty left to serve another table.
Frankie noticed his friend wasn’t looking up from his plate. And when he lifted food to his mouth, his hand trembled slightly like the fork had a significant amount of weight to it. Irwin was on autopilot, eating ever slowly while locked in a daydream that sucked the colour from his face.
The booth across the way stole Frankie’s attention; the nails-to-chalkboard voice of a twenty-something brunette telling the older woman across from her about being left on hold for a ghastly amount of time while making a doctor’s appointment. Further back and closer to the kitchen entrance, a gaggle of smartly dressed men hooted and guffawed at a very animated crew-cut guy telling a story but from this distance he sounded like Charlie Brown’s parents.
“So what are you going to tell Janice?” with a forcedly controlled voice, Irwin instigated a break in the coagulating silence. “Don’t think she’ll be too happy once she finds out.”
“Oh, Janice just needs to lighten up.” Frankie said, his eyes darting left and right as they often did when he was about to dish out his own brand of sarcasm. “Besides, I’ll just tell her it was your idea.”
A smile stole over Irwin’s face and he bit into some bacon.
Frankie chuckled and at that moment, he knew Irwin was going to muster up the courage to jump from a plane with his twenty-five year old friend.