Diet Root Beer

Short Story Day 94 of 365

Not many soda dispensers have root beer as a selection or its sister, diet root beer, but this burger joint did and Ted wasn’t happy about it.

“What would you like, Dear?” he asked his wife. He knew the answer long before he asked it – because she only came to this restaurant because of it.

“Diet root beer. You know that, Ted. Thanks, Hon.”

Ted tried for the better part of an hour to talk her out it, bribed her, promised lifetime household chores, and swore off his seven known vices, so he wouldn’t have to get her that drink. He explained to her the redemptive qualities of real cola, uncola, non-cola, water, and other diet colas.

“No, Hon. I’m in a mood for diet root beer. Oh, and here’s my large cup so you only have to do it once.”

Ted was already feeling the pressure. He knew what a large diet root beer meant and he had to gear up mentally for it.

The machine was around the corner from their table, which shielded Ted from having to watch his family grow up while he clicked the lever of the machine to make the sugarless brown water come out of the fountain.

His first press yielded an ounce of soda and the rest foam.

Ted once calculated that there was a direct correlation between the length of time it takes to fill up a large diet root beer and the number of gray hairs he had because of it.

Why was it only diet root beer? Was there a conspiracy in the root beer industry to age middle-aged parents every time they get a drink?

Ted checked on his family and already his sons had wives and one of them was about eight months pregnant.

“How will I ever see my grandkids?” Ted said under his breath.

He pressed the lever again. This time 2 full ounces came out and 22 ounces of foam filled the cup. Ted then checked his family at the booth again. They had now commandeered half the restaurant because his daughter was married and already had two toddlers running around in addition to his other four grandkids from his other two sons. His wife was aging gracefully because she was enjoying the grandkids.

Pressing the lever a third time, 5 ounces of soda dropped down and foamed up. Ted dipped his finger in the foam and the salt from his fingertip caused the foam to recede a bit. He was now afraid to look over at his family because by now the grandkids would certainly have gotten married and were popping out their own kids.

The final time he pressed the lever, the soda splurted out all over his hand and some into the cup. He did it again and the same thing happened.

Once again he pushed the lever and held it there until the cup filled. He shook the brown water off his hand, found a lid, and wiped the outside of the cup with a napkin.

          “Finally,” he said out loud.

          “Here you go, Dear. Just as you like it. And who are all these kids?”

          “They’re our kids, Silly,” she said as she took a sip.

          “Hmm. You sure this is diet root beer? It tastes a little…watery.”

          Ted smiled and said, “You’re more than welcome to get some yourself because I’d like to see my great grandkids while I get the chance.”

          “You feeling ok, Honey?” she said.

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