The waitress sets down a tall skinny glass on the table in front of me. As the adults talk about boring things, I take small sips of my fancy pink drink though both skinny black straws. The sweet, tingly and unmistakable cherry flavor fills my mouth.
This is a good one, as it’s a darker shade of pink, bordering red. Some Shirley Temples are baby pink in color, and once the ice melts, have hardly any flavor at all. I got a lucky one and my first sip confirms my theory.
My shoes are off now, under the table, hidden by the hanging white tablecloth. Sitting with my legs folded beneath me in the cushiony booth I’m higher up. A better sipping position.
The adult voices drone on. My dad tells a joke and the grown-ups laugh. Smoke from their cigarettes swirl around the table and get mixed up with the glow of the candles. It’s all very fancy.
Waiters with enormous round trays, partially balanced on their shoulders, walk by carrying thick, white plates with steaks, fish or chicken smothered in sauces. It smells good and I’m happy I’ve already had two rolls with butter, so the wait for my food won’t be as bad.
I brush the crumbs into a pile a little to the side, making a nice, clean spot for my drink directly in front of me. From this angle, I can see the bright red cherry beginning to sink through the square cubes of ice. It settles at the bottom of the carbonated ocean.
I focus, moving the glass in one complete circle, never taking my eyes off the maraschino cherry, my sunken treasure. My left hand holds the wet, cold glass, while my right hand maneuvers one of the plastic straws, as I attempt to spear the slippery orb.
I make contact, but can’t seem to get the leverage required to puncture and secure it. I now try both straws in a chopsticks fashion, which is even less successful than my spear.
All this work makes me thirsty. I take long sips through both straws, and then pause to marvel how low the drink is now. Proud of myself, as if setting some kind of new record, I continue to take a couple more strong sips. I sit back and admire my progress. The drink is near the bottom and my straws make a gargling, wet vacuum cleaner sound, which I know is not good manners, so I only do it for a second longer.
There’s only one thing left to do. I take one of the silver spoons off the table and navigate straight to the cherry, which I pin against the side of the glass and pull up to the surface, like my prize catch. Leaning my head back, I open my mouth and plop it in, promptly closing it, still holding the stem. I give it a good pull, severing it. The cherry is rubbery and sweet in my mouth and I wash it down with one last gargle-vacuum sip of my Shirley Temple.
I hand the stem to Dad and ask him to do his magic trick of tying it in a knot with his tongue. The other adults join me in watching as his head bobs and his jaw moves, emphasizing the difficult task before him.
He takes it out, and holds up the knotted stem. Everyone claps and he hands it to me.
My dad is the best.
Our waitress stops by and asks, “Would you like another Shirley Temple?”
And I say, “Yes, please.”