Old School Lessons
I wouldn’t usually have stopped here, but after seven hours on the road I desperately needed to stop, if you know what I mean. Still, I the urge driven decision was regretted before I was even inside.
Despite being part of a national chain this was obviously a poorly run business. Half of the road sign was dark, which should have been my first clue to continue driving, but it only worsened from there. The glass doors were covered with greasy finger prints, the floor was sticky beneath my boots, and a woman with a fat ass was bent over the front counter literally screaming at the poor, dazed moron standing behind it.
“I told you no fucking onions! There are onions on this hamburger, you shit-for-brains!” She held the bottom half of a hamburger out toward his face as she screamed. “How the fuck am I supposed to eat this shit? I don’t eat fucking onions!”
Behind the woman who was bent over the counter, standing beside an over-flowing trash can, another woman of equivalent age and incivility was holding a phone up to film, her face plastered with a malicious grin.
In the kitchen behind the dazed kid lurked a shadow figure whom I assumed to be whoever was in charge of this shit restaurant, and who was hiding back there allowing the kid up front to take the heat because they were too chicken-shit to come help their minimum wage worker out.
”Lady, I’m sorry. I only placed the order. I didn’t make the hamburger.” The kid seemed legitimately sorry, but that didn’t seem to matter. Sorry, apparently, was not the point.
”Well you poured this Coke didn’t you? I asked for a diet fucking Coke. This is regular fucking Coke, you fucking idiot!” The woman threw what was left of the Coke at the kid who deftly side-stepped so that it missed it’s mark, which only infuriated the woman more, so that she really started laying into him.
Having no skin in the game and not wanting to get involved in something that didn’t concern me, I by-passed them all for a men’s room which was every bit as ticky-tacky as the lobby floor was. Once there I stood relieved before the stained urinal, gazing at the typically infantile permanant-marker renderings of penises with the also typically mis-spelled homo-erotic threats beneath them. The situation at the counter and the drawings taken together took me back to the 2nd grade, and more specifically to the day Mrs. Layman called Julie Hodson and me into the hallway and said to us, “I saw what she did to you on the playground, Hank. I want you to hit her back.”
I, of course, did no such thing. This was surely a test of some sort, and I have never been a dummy when it comes to tests. Even back at the tender age of nine I was fully aware that had I done it (hit Julie that is), my respectfully southern father would have found out and would have murdered me, even if Mrs. Layman didn’t.
”I mean it, Hank. Hit her! Go ahead! Hit her as hard as you can.”
”No Mam, I don’t want to.”
”Listen, Hank,” Mrs. Layman was speaking sternly to me at the same time her eyes were staring down Julie, “I understand that you should never hit a lady, but when one isn’t behaving like a lady you are free to knock hell out of her, at least in my classroom you are. Do you understand me?”
I did understand. To this very day I stand quietly and patiently in lines because I remember the time Mrs. Layman grabbed a hyperactive Danny Wilson by the earlobe and pulled his screaming ass clear to the office by it. With Mrs. Layman it was always about the collective, not the individual. While it was important that her class succeed, it was not so important that everyone in it did. If one or two must be left behind because they endangered the success of those who did the things they were supposed to do, then so be it. Get in line, or get out. It wasn’t just Little Danny who learned that lesson, it was all of us. But neither did I hit Julie Hodson. You should understand that I loved Mrs. Layman, and so did Danny and Julie. We all did, even while suffering her scoldings, which we were all subject to from time to time. Mrs. Layman was a sure-enough disciplinarian, but we didn’t mind that because she was also kind (when you were well behaved), and fair, and easily the best teacher any of us ever had. We wanted to please Mrs. Layman more than we wanted to please God, and the thing about a great teacher is that their lessons never, ever leave you. Mrs. Layman’s threat of violence had been enough to deter any future misdeeds from Julie Hodson or her like, just as Mrs. Layman knew that it would. You see, Mrs. Layman knew that I was not the boy to hit a girl (and so did Julie, which was undoubtedly why she chose me to hit in the first place), so I was the perfect remedy for Mrs. Layman’s problem, and as always, she knew just the right dosage of that remedy to administer to keep this classroom malady in check.
I stopped upon exiting the restroom. The woman was still at the counter yelling as the kid, who was diligent to the end, and was wiping up the thrown Coke even as she carried on. The woman’s loud rage surely reached every point in the small building, but still no supervisor had come to help the poor boy out. I hadn‘t meant to get involved, but as I stood there contemplating the sorry-assed state of mankind the angry woman took notice of me.
”What are you looking at?”
It was a full second before I registered that she was speaking to me. “What?”
The woman beside the trash can re-aimed her outstretched phone in my direction.
”I said, what the fuck are you looking at?” The angry woman backed away from the counter, shoved her hands down upon ample, yoga-panted hips, and started in towards me.
Now, here’s the thing about hitting a woman, or rather not hitting them. Boys learn at a young age, during normal play with other boys, that if you say something, anything really, that might piss another boy off there is likely to be a physical altercation which you may lose, or which could easily prove painful even if you win. The ever present threat of having your ass kicked teaches a boy to watch what he says, even when things get heated. Girls seldom face that threat, at least the ones who don’t have an older brother. This woman had obviously never learned that lesson, as she made no move what-so-ever to block my jab, nor even to duck it. It seemed so unexpected that it was almost as though she never even saw it coming, while she was looking directly at me. In fact her eyes barely had time to close before the knuckle aimed for the back of her head crunched into her nose, dropping her to a pile on the sticky brown tiles.
The other woman was still video-taping, although her jaw had gone slack.
“Go ahead,” I said as I walked past her. “Post that on your fucking Tic-Toc.”
That is the thing about a really good teacher. Mrs. Layman is dead some forty years now, but her lessons live on. I have no doubt that the woman sprawled across the sticky floor back there will think next time before showing her ass like that, and I‘m also sure that my friend Julie Hodson never had to take a viral punch to the nose in a fast food lobby because of those lessons, so you can see how at least two good things came out of one, five minute hallway conversation with Julie and me.
Yes, good-old Mrs. Layman would have been proud.
4:27 AM and I'm feeling grand slammed
weary bleary buzz-eyed the menu swims before me
to my left at the counter a couple does the breaststroke
to my right a dude dunks and dives into raw runny eggs
the color of sun rising sky will blossom in an hour or so
sizzle and stink of whiskey breath kisses linger in the air
as the gal slings a plate in front of me with flaccid pale sausages
black and white potatoes brunt frozen drowning in puddled grease
a maze of luminescent yuck scramble that turns me over uneasy
neon glare turns everything a queasy sickish slime green
in the lysol piss confessional I pray into poop clogged porcelain
still steaming layers of butt wipes not bothering to even try
jiggling the faulty handle's smeared shit rusted crusted glint
faucets run dry so I wipe my palms on towelettes from the floor
that's why I won't go down to the Dennys no more
I No Longer Go to Dennys
I can see it so clearly, the late night into October. We had just both met or started talking, my curiosity hungered for more information about you. When the topic of "Favorite restaurant you ate at for your sport?" came home, we both had the same answer; Dennys. As you bewitched me with your convincing lies, I feigned ignorance because acknowledging how we were doomed from start was worse than anything in the world. The walls feel stained with the memories of our first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, ectcera time eating together. The time we spent ordering together, laughing together, and me---loving you all amounted to you leaving me when the number of the year change. That's why I no longer go to Dennys because your ghost is there sitting at the same table we ate at, waving at me. I no longer go to Dennys as I see you there with another. I no longer go to Dennys for I know while I had all my firsts with you, you had already had your firsts with another. I guess, this this why I longer go to Dennys.
That’s why I no longer go to Denny’s
Because of the bacon.
Yeah, it looks good on the menu, sitting there at the rim of the plate. Glistening. Archetypally ridged and ruffled. Positioned perfectly next to the eggs over easy, the pancakes, buxom and buttered, the sausage links, dwarfed but respectable.
Net, the Grand Slam holds its own. At $5.99 ($7.99 in select areas), it's still a bargain. The eggs are fine. The pancakes are as good as any. The sausage links are, you know, OK.
But the bacon... The bacon b-a-con. A swindle, a masquerade, a false promise, a double-cross, tissue-thin, gossamer, anorexic, nervous (nervosa in Spanish), frail, skittish, fragile, and afraid. Overcooked, ipso brittle, short crust, and crumbling. Try to cut a slice, and "snap-chink!" Chips fly everywhere. The knife blade smacks the porcelain. The fork is stunned, helpless, its tines useless as the spoon.
"Crack!" Oh, I'm sorry ma'am. I didn't mean to do that. Do you want me to brush it off your plate? Hey, a little piece went in your salad, a bacon bit. Do you like bacon bits? I think they're good. And there're not usually made of real bacon."
What are you gonna do with your eggs now? The Grand Slam doesn't come with toast. Everybody's looking at you, waiting to see your next move. "Yeah, I like to mix eggs with my pancakes. You don't do that sometimes? Really? It's good. You want a bite? No? OK..."
It's not the cook's fault. What's he supposed to do? He can barely see the goddamn things on the grill. Can't blame the waitress or the shift manager. The pigs are probably regular size. You can't expect the stock holders to take up pitchforks. What do you want for $5.99 ($7.99 in select areas)?
It'll never change. That's why I no longer go to Denny's.
I’m Still Waiting
It’s 5:30 am. I’m waiting, my foot tapping nervously in beat to the music playing in the background. I’m sitting in an orange booth, the leather seat ripped in at least two places beneath me. My menu has been spread on the table for well over twenty minutes.
Five minutes later, I’m still waiting. It would at least be nice to have a cup of coffee while I wait. I remind myself that it’s early – even though Denny’s is open around the clock and I’m only one of two people being served. There are only a couple of people working, after all: the waitress and the cook. “Be patient,” I chastise myself as I watch the waitress scrolling on her phone behind the register.
Finally! A hot cup of black coffee and an actual person standing by my table, taking my order. It won’t be long now before I’ve got hot food in my belly. I’m starving.
I’ve given her most of my order, when I quickly add, “Oh, can I also have a side of grits please?”
Still chomping her chewing gum, the waitress looks at me and without saying a word, points at the menu. Squinting, I read the fine print: “No grits served until 6:00 am.”
I steal a glance at my watch and see it’s 5:52 am – nearly 6:00 am. I give her my best smile and say, “I’m happy to wait for the grits. Just bring them after 6:00.”
Am I hallucinating from starvation or did she really just roll her eyes at me? She makes a major point of sighing while doing so. “Sorry, no grits. He has to cook them.” She gestures with another eye roll toward the cook.
I’m perplexed. My watch now says it’s 5:56 am. I point out to the waitress that it’s within minutes of 6:00 am. She's clearly exasperated now. “Like I said, he has to cook them. No grits.”
Without waiting for a response, she turns and heads back to the kitchen to give the cook my order - sans the grits. I shake my head and try to console myself by laughing at the absurdity of the situation. It's Georgia. It's the South for God's sake! Since when did cooking grits become so complex?
Thirty minutes later, coffee mug’s empty, and I’m waiting - yes, I'm still waiting. Resigned to my unwelcome hungry state, I stand, throw my baseball cap on my head, and shrug into my coat.
"Don't worry about the grits, " I yell sarcastically to the two employees who momentarily glance up at me from where they stand. As if.....
No damn grits. And that is why I no longer go to Denny's.
Deal at Dennys
I check my watch. 9:36. He was supposed to be here a half hour ago. Shit. He's probably being tailed.
I should probably explain. I won't though. It's much too complicated, and I wouldn't even know where to start. I'm not one of those sappy "here's my life story" types. If there's anything life's taught me, I'm aware you couldn't give a shit about me.
He's our client. I don't know his name, and I have no desire to find out. We've been switching areas to avoid suspicion because I can't deal with cops on my ass. He must be good too. He never drops any hints. So I'm sitting in a shithole Denny's way earlier than I'd want to be. Like who meets at 9? But he always pays up.
He's not clean. Almost everyone is a mess. Twitching eyes, constantly licking their lips. Those are the signs the true addicts have given up on hiding. He calls too often to be a cop. If he did would've been brought to the Sugar Distributer Penitentiary.
King Kandy is known for his generosity. Except to normies. If he knew I was selling off my special acid trip licorice I would be dead. I know, so cliche. Yeah.
My name is Raymond Licorice. Never did forgive Ma for that one. Of course. The bad guy, getting poor innocent souls hooked on sugar.
Come on. I live in a cave. I'm not exactly rolling in dough here.
The client sits down. As always, clad in long brown trench coat, double rows of black buttons gleam like diamonds. A mask obscures his face, a hood covers his hair. Good grief, he looks like a third-grader's idea of a secret agent. He comes with a briefcase. Grey, cheap. Good. We both know it must be untraceable. He's just some rich asshole hooked on the taffy. Oh well.
"One pack RedVines, 15 grams of the black swirls" He says.
Of course I am more than supplied. A whole pack of RedVines? For a normie that could knock him out for a week. I wonder if he suspects where I get the merchandise. I wonder if he knows that I am the Lord of Licorice himself. I doubt he even knows about Candyland.
"1800" I price
He looks equally nonchalant
He drives a hard bargain. It costs me about 10 bucks but whatever he'll fall for.
Surprised? What else would I be dealing in? Gumdrops? King Kandy changed our currency after the Gumdrop Revolution III. Whoever he can fuck over he will. Especially his dear uncle Raymond and his Gran.
"1600 take it or leave it" I reply
He nods and passes over the briefcase.
I open it. Gotta check. I watch his expression. Then I notice. He's moving halfway through him. It's like his lower body is fighting with his top half. Addicts do strange things, but this shouldn't be possible for anyone but... Gloppy.
Fuck. I'm getting busted.
And by Gloppy? He wouldn't be able to find his Chocolate Swamp and he's attached to it. (Or maybe it's him?)(Honestly, I don't care enough to ask)
"Alright fine Gloppy. You caught me." I mutter, hoping to gain the brown blobs' mercy.
"What's gloppy?" asks Gloppy, in a strangely high nervous voice that doesn't resemble Gloppy's deep, mascotish, dumb chortle.
"Take off the coat!" I yell
Slowly he takes it off. What the fuck is happening? It's two kids , no older than 10, sitting on top of eachother. He- or should I say they, shrugs guiltily.
Fuck this. And that, dear reader, is why I no longer go to Dennys.
(Hey thanks for reading. This is my first attempt at doing an actual short story. It may get continued, it may not. )
Fill Your Cup
A little bald man sat in the corner with his coffee and strawberry stuffed French toast. A mother and her two blonde-haired daughters step out of the bathroom and stand in line at the counter. I waited in line at the fountain machine wanting to re-fill my cup.
Just then one of the employees steps out from behind the counter and asks me if I needed help. I politely declined, thinking the mother would be better served by him as her daughters were becoming impatient waiting for their Jr pancakes. The man persisted. I raised my glass and shook it at him, “just a refill,” I smile. He began with a shaking of his head, down turned lips and then a pointing of his finger, “not here,” he replies. “Excuse me?” I asked. “NOT here!” he responded, “you can’t fill your cup here.”
And that is why I no longer go to Denny’s.
My fiancé and I had spent the entire day together. We were in between being friends and committed to a serious relationship. At the time we went to Denny’s. As it was, our conversations, laughter and time together got us to 2 a.m., neither of us were ready to call it a night. We are both avid coffee hounds, so we decided to go to Denny’s for coffee.
We walked in and the restaurant was busy, and the server closed off the bigger section. She led us to a booth, and we got in and told her what we wanted, and she left.
Moments later, she returned and asked if we were ready to order. My fiancé and I looked at one another and then he responded we had already given her our order. Two cups of coffee with creamer and two slices of strawberry rhubarb pie. She turned and walked away.
I watched her, and she didn’t get our order and instead went around and took the order from another table. That table had four patrons.
Half an hour later, she showed up at our table with two Pepsi and chili cheese fries. Before she set the plates down, I told her we ordered coffee and pies. I was upset and ready to leave.
A woman from the four-seat table walked over and told the server those were for their table, not ours. The server didn’t apologize or make any effort to be polite. She took the items off our table and over to the other one.
As she walked to the kitchen, my fiancé asked her how much longer it would take for the coffee and pie. She stared at us most strangely; she creeped me out. I didn’t know her; I had never seen her, and she behaved wickedly.
We got up and decided to leave. The time was 3:30 a.m. and we didn't receive any water throughout the entire time. As we stepped outside, the server came running, yelling that we hadn’t paid our ticket or left a tip.
I moved forward a few steps and asked her what was wrong with her; she was out of control and finally, we called the phone number posted on the window and demanded we speak with a manager. My fiancé spoke with a male who assured us we would have our coffee and pies compensated.
We turned around and went back in and thankfully the nightmare server was terminated on the spot by the manager. We brought in the next day with coffee and strawberry rhubarb pie, compensated by the manager.
“That is why I no longer go to Dennys”