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Sometimes plates as well, old-fashioned common crockery, off-white and thick with an edge that sloped in so the soy gravy would stay there. People at Salty’s tended to order the same thing they’d had before, the banana custard, say, or the big mac casserole that was actually just big elbow macaroni with cheese and veggies stirred in. In the evenings we hung up our aprons, took the last pie or apple cake out of the oven, and tidied up, sashaying around the tables and chairs with our rags and brooms to blues on the record player. River Road was where we shared a house a ways outside town, but in the winter if the snow was light enough on the ice we could skate the river itself to the diner, gliding along beneath the leafless oaks that loomed above us, making lace of the sky. And sometimes if it wasn’t our shift we’d walk the other direction, into the next town, where there was a diner that served meat. Lord help us if a Salty’s regular strolled past the window and caught us with beef on our forks, but we had never pretended to be vegetarian ourselves. Gradually we came to miss California, which despite myriad crimes against its people had at least never held witch trials. A minor gas explosion in the kitchen also seemed like an omen. Lately the boss had been losing money on the place and was one day so distracted he left a pie in the oven overnight—we hung the charred remains on a nail and not long after packed our bags. A blizzard was threatening and two couples were on the brink of break-up the day we left Northampton, but even so we set out with more enthusiasm than regret. X eventually marked a different place on the map for each of us. Yes, this was a long time ago, in the last century when we were young.