Eggs, bacon, hash browns, wheat toast, and coffee; it seems simple enough, and in the little franchise greasy spoon diners that dot the Interstate like ticks, you can get a decent breakfast at a decent price in a decent amount of time. I like to go about three in the morning because it’s almost too late for any drunks to be out, not that we have that many on the Interstate, but at three there is more of the dead serious type of traveler who wants to get in and get out of the place, and there are the people who are drifting, oh, and there’s me, too.
I don’t need the coffee but I want to feel it. I want to feel the rush, the buzz, the electric flow for just a few more hours before exhaustion takes over totally. It’s horrible stuff here but the refills are free, along with white sugar, I might as well be shooting up, but this is what it is.
The waitress is a war scarred veteran of one too many promises not kept. She is well past her prime and still on her feet this late in the day, still smiling, still calling men “Honey” and still smiling and still smiling. I almost order a human heart omelet just to see how long it would take for the smile to come unhinged. It’s like the stick on Mrs. Potato Head smile that you can turn upside down to make a frown, but I refuse to torment this woman. Life has not been kind to her.
The cook is a mouthy young man who has an opinion on every subject and is bouncing words back and forth with a man at the counter who looks like he might fall asleep in midsentence. There ‘s a couple of Wal-Martians in the booth behind me. The man is wearing a tee short three sizes too small to cover his girth, and it reads, “Sex Machine…” but the rest of it is hidden under a roll. The woman across from him has two gigantic loop earrings with Elvis silhouettes inside each. They make the same noises my mutts make when they eat. It’s a frantic gulping sound, and they complain they haven’t enough syrup, and it has to be warm, too. More butter too, dammit, while you’re over there, dammit. The overtired waitress smiles and brings them more.
There is someone in a booth. He/She is wearing a hoodie even though it’s damn hot outside. He/She is also wearing brown cotton gloves, and mirrored sunglasses. This person isn’t eating or drinking but staring straight ahead. Great. The one night someone goes off the deep in I have to be in here too. The Wal-Martians are between me and the hooded stranger, and I hope I see the gun before the hooded stranger opens up with a very large handgun.
I wonder what it would look like, what it would feel like, what it would be like if one of these caffeine induced story lines came to life. The hooded stranger opens up and the two Wal-Martians block the door with their massive dead bodies as the rest of us try to flee. I’m taken hostage and the place gets surrounded by cops as the…
“You’re bleeding Honey.”
The waitress is talking to the Hooded One, and she offers to get a band-aid and leaves coffee. Blood, in the reality of a restaurant isn’t funny. I don’t want blood near me. The Hooded One accepts the offer of a band-aid and takes off a glove to reveal blood. Great, I’m having breakfast with a leper.
The Hermit in me demands that I get the hell out of the small restaurant with the bleeding person and the Wal-Martians. The writer in me wants to know more. No, not about the Wal-Martians, I want to know why there is a hooded bleeding leper here. The waitress brings more coffee and the female Wal-Martian asks loud enough for people in Pretoria to hear, “WHY IS THAT BOY BLEEDING?”
“Boy” is one of those Southern Things. I know people incapable of having a conversation without ending each sentence with “Boy”. Generally speaking, it’s used as a slight pejorative but there are some people who just do not get it. Personally, this late at night I wouldn’t try to draw attention to myself or anyone around me. The Leper is trying to plug a hole is his (her?) left hand, and I have the feeling this is not going to end well for the Wal-Martians. You know, I’ve had enough coffee, and the eggs were good, but it’s time to go now, really.
The female Wal-Martians almost tips the restaurant over trying to wiggle out of her seat. It’s an odd sound, the noise rubber and plastic make when they are squeezed together. She lumbers out of her seat and heads toward the Leper. This might be… But no, The female Wal-Martian instead veers off to the bathroom. The Leper waits a few seconds then gets up and follows her. I can see the edge of the Women’s bathroom door, and that’s where the Leper goes.
Really? Leper is a woman?
Wal-Martian man grumbles aloud that his syrup is not warm enough. He’s one of those people who wants someone to agree with him before he starts to fuss. I ignore him, and I’m more interested in what’s going to happen in the bathroom. Wal- wo-Martian comes out of the bathroom walking a lot faster than she’s accustomed to going. When she sits down it’s like someone just dropped three hundred pounds from the ceiling.
“ DAMN KEVIN THAT DAMN WOMAN HAS DONE BEEN CUT…” but she doesn’t finish because the Leper comes out of the bathroom and walks towards us. She does walk like a woman, with that sense of grace most women have, but she’s in a hurry, and she isn’t smiling. She leaves a couple of dollars on the counter and the waitress parrots a goodbye see you later thanks for dropping by hope to see you soon type message and goes back to the debate between the cook and the nearly asleep man.