OPINION: The owner of a diner in North Carolina in the United States got a surprise on Saturday when Tom Hanks showed up for an early breakfast.
Tammy Hagensen says she was stunned when Hanks, his wife, Rita Wilson, and their two sons walked through the door. Hagensen says Hanks and his family ate breakfast and left.
"I can't go into detail," said a beaming Ms Hagensen. "My agent is talking with publishers as we speak and I don't want to screw things up. But I can reveal that the book is to be called, Blessings Can Fall From The Darkest Sky. One Ordinary Woman's Sensational and Inspirational Account of an Inspirational and Sensational Encounter with the Extraordinary."
As the reporters made notes, they sighed with wonder.
"It will be sensational and inspirational," continued Ms Hagensen. "In these terrible times I want to sound a note of optimism. I want to put it out there that you must never give up hope. You just don't know what may be around the corner. If a glory like this can descend on me here in no- account North Carolina, it could descend on anyone anywhere, and when I mean anyone anywhere, I mean you."
An abnormal hush fell over the crowd of reporters. In every cynical breast a nestling hope had raised its little beak.
"Taylor Cummings of the Carolina Inquisitor," said a reporter, breaking the silence. "Is it really true, Ms Hagensen, that they . . ."
"Tammy, please," said Ms Hagensen, "I may be the most blessed woman on the planet but I'm still just Tammy, whose hash browns can't be beat this side of the Tallahassee.
"As the sage once said, 'Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.' In other words Tammy'll still be frying hash browns tomorrow morning, same as always.
"Everything's changed and nothing. Miss Head-in-the- clouds is still Miss Feet-on the-ground. But you were saying?"
"I just wanted to confirm, Tammy, the earlier report that, and I quote, 'they just walked in'."
"I know it's hard to credit," said Ms Hagensen. "I didn't believe it myself at first. I forced myself to look away, and count to three. But when I looked back, there they were just walking in regular, like it was the simplest thing in the world. The whole family of Tom Hanks, or, as I like to think of them, the THanks family. What's more they walked in, get this, through the door. "
There was a faint whistling noise as the reporters collectively sucked in their breath at the revelation.
"Look at it," said Ms Hagensen, and the reporters turned to look. On either side of the door jamb stood flowers in vases, a scatter of coins of low denomination, and dozens of votive candles, lacing the air of the diner with their smoky fragrance.
On the wall beside the door four unwashed plates had been mounted behind glass in a silver frame, along with four sets of cheap cutlery.
"The folks have been coming since it was on the NBC last night," said Ms Hagensen. "Just ordinary folks. They don't say much. Some of them just look and start blubbing. Others kneel and kiss the door handle and mutter a prayer or two. One guy tried to lick the plates so we had to put up the glass on account of health and safety.
"It's the humbleness that gets to them, I reckon, the ordinariness, you know, like Jesus being born in an everyday manger. That this little diner should be visited out of the blue by the entire THanks family, that's a mighty powerful message for these troubled times.
"I've had calls from newspapers as far away as New Zealand. This is a message of hope for the whole world. And the beauty of it lies in its simplicity. As I said at the time, they 'just ate breakfast and left'. No fuss, no fanfare. Tom and Rita and those two adorable boys, they just ate as you and me eat, and they paid as you and me pay, and they left as we shall all one day leave, quietly but with joy."
Ms Hagensen drew a hanky from the pocket of her apron and wiped at an eye.
"So get out there you good people and spread the happy news. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to church to give thanks for the THanks. You all be having a nice day, now, do you hear me?"
- © Fairfax NZ News