The table was turned 45˚ too far clockwise, hardly the optimum angle for maximising space. There was really no reason for Sheldon to be crushed into the corner. And yet. Thanks to the incompetent café staff, here he was.
“Alright, what do you want?”
Sheldon gaped at the woman. “You’re not my waitress!”
“I guess your usual waitress took the day off,” she said, tapping a pen against her notepad.
The pen stilled. “Why is it impossible?”
”Because she’s my waitress. She has to be here to wait on me, otherwise she wouldn’t be my waitress, would she? Honestly, I would have thought that was obvious.”
“Well, maybe she couldn’t make it.”
“ ‘Maybe’? You mean you don’t know?”
“No, of course I know!”
“Well?” Clearly this woman was a little dense.
Her eyes darted back and forth. “She’s. Uh. Dead.”
Sheldon stared at her. “Dead?”
“Er. Yep, she’s dead. She had a tragic accident, and now she’s dead.”
“But that’s terrible!” Sheldon said. “How can she be my waitress if she’s dead?”
His world had been turned upside down. It was like Missy hiding his limited edition Star Trek: The Next Generation blanky; he hadn’t been able to sleep for three whole nights until his mother caved and forced Missy to give it back (his sister had never been properly punished for that, an injustice which had left behind lasting trauma). In his horror, Sheldon had forgotten about the waitress bringing him these distressing tidings, until she clutched at her ear and said “Sophie, help!”
Sheldon stopped snivelling.
“Well, I didn’t mean to tell him his waitress had just died!” she said. There was a pause. “I don’t know, it just happened!” There was another pause, and then she scrunched up her nose. “Are you sure?” After a moment, she pulled up a chair beside him.
“There, there,” she said, in a monotone. She patted him lightly on the shoulder, with as little contact as she could manage. Sheldon watched, bemused.
“Are you attempting to offer me comfort?” he asked.
“I guess?” she said. “Is it working?”
“No, not really,” Sheldon said. “I find physical contact to be very disconcerting.”
“Oh, thank God,” she said. Her chair screeched as she skidded away from him.
This woman was very curious, Sheldon thought. “I find your attitude towards human interaction to be very sensible,” he informed her.
“I think so too,” she said.
“It’s far superior to that of any of the other commoners I’m forced to mingle with on a daily basis. Do you know, as reasonable a human being as Penny can be at times, I will never understand her penchant for physical displays of affection.”
“Sophie’s like that,” she said. “Or she was. Until I told her I was a carrier for a disfiguring skin disease.”
Sheldon was impressed. He wondered if it would work on Penny.
“I’m not entirely sure she believed me, though.”
“There are just some people in the world who will never understand our genius,” Sheldon said. “Well, mine more-so than yours, obviously, although contrary to my initial assessment, you do seem slightly less dim-witted than the average person.”
“Thank you!” she said, brightly. “I guess I was wrong about thinking you were a massively psycho, pathetic freak, too.”
Sheldon spluttered, and the woman began to laugh.
“You look really funny when you’re angry!”
This made Sheldon splutter even more. “I’m not angry,” he said, “I’m righteously indignant. How dare you talk to Doctor Sheldon Cooper like that?”
“Oh, right,” she said. “I’m Parker. Does that mean we’re friends now?”
Sheldon blinked. “I hardly think so. In my experience, a ‘friend’ is someone who lulls you into a false sense of security by attending your Thursday Lunch Café with you every week, and then one day, with no warning whatsoever, abandons you on a whim and refuses to eat at your Thursday Lunch Café with you.”
“I used to think that too,” Parker said, and then frowned. “Although I never had a Thursday Lunch Café.”
”Not many people do.”
“Well,” she said eventually, “Could we be something like friends? But without the false sense of security and abandoning each other?”
“That doesn’t sound like friends at all.”
“We could be not-at-all friends, then.”
After a moment’s consideration, Sheldon said “I think I’d like that.”
“So, where do you live?” Parker asked.
“In an apartment.”
“Hey, cool, me too!”
“I fail to see what’s so ‘cool’ about it. It was a statistical probability.”
Surprisingly, Parker didn’t give him the ‘Oh God, Sheldon’s Talking Again’ look. (It was extraordinary how near-universal that look was. Sheldon supposed it was because almost everyone was astounded by the depths of his knowledge.) Instead, she threw back her head and laughed. “Statistical probability,” she repeated, stressing each syllable, as if it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard.
“I was just stating a fact,” Sheldon said, affronted.
“It’s a weird word,” she said.
Despite her enlightened views on personal space, she clearly had a long way to go in matters of intellect.
“Technically, it’s a phrase,” he said.
“Whatever,” said Parker. “So how do you get there?”
“Oh,” he said. “I usually get Leonard to drive me.”
Parker nodded. “How would I get there?”
She asked the strangest questions.
“Did you want to?”
Sheldon thought about it.
“I don’t think Leonard would drive you,” he said.
“That’s OK. Does your apartment have windows?”
“What? Yes, it does, although I don’t see how that’s relevant at this juncture…”
“I can too visit people if I want to!” she said abruptly. There was a pause. “What’s off-putting about coming in through a window?”
“I’m sorry, are you alright?” Sheldon said, because Penny said it was polite to ask, even if he didn’t care. Parker straightened.
“Yes, fine,” she said, her face going stiff and pinched.
“Oh,” said Sheldon. “OK, then.”
Parker’s nose twitched. “Apparently I’m supposed to be a waitress.” She stood up, cleared her throat, and in a different voice said, “May I take your order?”
“You’re not my waitress. How could you possibly take my order?”
“Could I be your other waitress?”
“That’s highly unlikely. Empirical evidence suggests only a small percentage of people working in the hospitality industry have any real aptitude for it.”
Parker was silent for a while. “If I took your order and brought you your food, I would you waiting on you, so I could be your waitress,” she said.
“My other waitress?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, I can only have one waitress.”
“Well, your waitress is at home watching day time TV or whatever waitresses do with their time off, so maybe-”
“Hold on, I thought my waitress was dead!”
“Oh. Well.” Parker shrugged, her face pulled tight somewhere between a frown and a smile. “I kinda lied about that.”
“You lied to me?”
“Yeah. I do that a lot.”
“You really lied to me? I can’t believe you would do that!” Sheldon stopped. “Are you sure we’re not friends? This sounds an awful lot like-”
“I mean, seriously a lot,” she was saying. “Like, you wouldn’t believe how…”
She stopped, staring across the road. A yellow van had pulled up opposite the café.
“Gotta go!” she said. With that, she leapt up onto the table, pushed open a vent in the ceiling, and pulled herself inside it.
“You could increase you efficiency if you adjusted your angle of trajectory!” he called after her.
Parker’s head reappeared. “Your calculations are flawed. You forgot to allow for the different distribution of weight in a female body,” she said, and left.
“Huh,” said Sheldon.
“Leonard! What are you doing here?”
Leonard shuffled his feet. “Well, I felt bad, leaving you all alone to eat lunch, so, you know, here I am!” He sat down.
“Penny ditched you, again, didn’t she?”
“No!” he protested. Sheldon continued to stare at him. “OK, fine, yes. I don’t understand it! All I said was that the dress wasn’t as flattering as the two hundred she’d already tried on, and could we please get something to eat now?”
“The ways of the Penny are indeed mysterious,” Sheldon agreed. That was only because he didn’t have the time or inclination to study her, of course. No mystery was unsolvable for Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Merely, some were of no significance.
“-but then she’d just said that and I don’t even know what she wants.” Leonard finished.
“Absolutely,” Sheldon said.
Leonard sighed. “So anyway- Hey, why haven’t you ordered yet?”
“The table was at the wrong angle.”
“The table was at the wrong angle and so you couldn’t order?”
“No, the table was at the wrong angle and then my waitress died and then my other waitress lied to me and vanished by climbing out through a vent in the ceiling,” Sheldon said. “Leonard, I think I’m going to have to find another Thursday Lunch Café!”
Two days later, Sheldon was working on mathematic equations far beyond the scope of an ordinary human being, when Leonard started yelling at him from the living room.
“Sheldon, why did a blonde woman just climb into the apartment through our window?”
“How should I know?”
“Well, she asked to see you!”
“Why didn’t you say so?”
"I thought it could be infer- never mind."
Leonard could be so illogical at times, Sheldon thought, making his way down to the living room.
"Your ears are funny looking," Parker was telling Leonard. "And your voice is really whiny."
Sheldon thought maybe they could be not-at-all friends after all.