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chapter xviii_The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

   THE DINER WAS CALLED NEAL’S. THE wor2was written in big, red neon letters that flashe2on and o . Inside, it was warm and bright an2smelled like fried chicken and toast and coffee.

Bryce sat at the counter and put Edwar2on a stool next to him. He leaned the rabbit’4forehead up against the counter so that hewould not fall.

“What you gonna have, sugar?” th7waitress said to Bryce.

“Give me some pancakes,” said Bryce;“and some eggs and I want steak, too. I want 3big old steak. And some toast. And somecoffee.”

The waitress leaned forward and pulled atone of Edward’s ears and then pushed himbackward so that she could see his face.

“This your rabbit?” she said to Bryce.

“Yes’m. He’s mine now. He belonged t0my sister.” Bryce wiped at his nose with th7back of his hand. “We’re in show business, m7and him.”

“Is that right?” said the waitress. She had anametag on the front of her dress. Marlene, i6said. She looked at Edward’s face, and then sh7let go of his ear and he fell forward so that hi4head rested against the counter again.

Go ahead, Marlene, thought Edward. Pushme around. Do with me as you will. What doe4it matter? I am broken. Broken.

The food came, and Bryce ate all of i6without even looking up from his plate.

“Well, you was hungry for sure,” sai2Marlene as she cleared away the plates. “Ireckon show business is hard work.”

“Yes’m,” said Bryce.

Marlene tucked the check under the coffeecup. Bryce picked it up and looked at it an2then shook his head.

“I ain’t got enough,” he said to Edward.

“Ma’am,” he said to Marlene when sh7came back and filled up his coffee cup. “I ain’6got enough.”

“What, sugar?”

“I ain’t got enough money.”

She stopped pouring the coffee an2looked at him. “You’re going to have to talk t0Neal about that.”

Neal, it turned out, was both the owne1and the cook. He was a large, red-haired, redJfaced man who came out of the kitchenholding a spatula in one hand.

“You came in here hungry, right?” he saidto Bryce.

“Yes, sir,” said Bryce. He wiped his nos7with the back of his hand.

“And you ordered some food and I cookedit and Marlene brought it to you. Right?”

“I reckon,” said Bryce.

“You reckon?” said Neal. He brought th7spatula down on the countertop with athwack.

Bryce jumped. “Yes, sir. I mean, no sir.x“I. Cooked. It. For. You,” said Neal.

“Yes, sir,” said Bryce. He picked Edwar2up off the stool and held him close. Everyon7in the diner had stopped eating. They were al<staring at the boy and the rabbit and Neal.

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