The West Hazleton Pennsylvania Perkins is a lot like the Harrisonburg Virginia Denny’s. Both are just off the freeway, both sell cakes, cookies, and pies, and both greet you effusively.

While Perkins is a mite more upscale, it does not, like Denny’s, offer internet access.

Les UDs were seated at a comfy booth, where Mr UD ordered steak (very rare) and eggs, and UD had the grilled chicken salad.


During the ride from DC, UD had religion on her mind (probably the death of Hitchens got her thinking about it), so Les UDs talked about that.

When they drove near Fort Dietrich, UD interrupted the conversation with a little nostalgia. “I went to high school with kids whose parents worked on poison gas there.”


At the next booth, a woman wore a knitted cap made to resemble a pile of vanilla ice cream with a cherry on top.

As Les UDs batted around their well-established Thing on religion (He: Mystical experience suggests the existence of a personal god. She: The mystery of the cosmos is so immense that I’m not comfortable with anything except maybe deism.), a priest sat down alone at an adjacent booth and took out a book. “Let’s ask that guy,” said UD, but she was kidding.

UD acknowledged that religion gave her something to do with, gave her a way to think about, the odd love and heartache she felt for people generally — specifically, at the moment, for the vaguely physically and mentally damaged young man who seated them, and for the coffee-, whiskey-, and cigarette-voiced woman who took their order.

After dinner, while UD waited in line to pay, she talked to a little boy about the baked goods at which they were both staring.

“What’ll it be?” UD asked him.

“My sister likes the chocolate chip cookies. I’m getting a sugar cookie.”

“I’m thinking about buying a sticky bun for breakfast tomorrow.”

The man who seated them took her card and rang her up and asked if everything had been okay and UD said it had been.

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2 Responses to “Perkins v. Denny’s”

  1. Take a Pew « Log24 Says:

    […] From Margaret Soltan, a brief Xmas story. […]

  2. dmf Says:

    merry xmas UD, you might enjoy Rebecca Goldstein (who I think sadly is married to that pompous as$ Steven Pinker) on religion and writing fiction.

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