“That jukebox doesn't work, honey,” the man said.
“You open?” James said, as the girl came and sat down beside him.
“I guess maybe I am.”
“Place is kind of empty.”
“What do you want to eat?”
“You got a menu?”
“You want a menu?”
“Sure,” James said. “Why not.”
“Truth is,” the big man said, “I’m selling this place. I don’t have menus anymore. I make hamburgers and breakfast stuff. Some french fries and cold drinks. I’m not keeping track.”
“Let’s go somewhere else,” the girl said.
“Yeah,” the big man said, “why don’t you do that.”
“Hold on,” James said, “what’s the story here? You open or not?”
The other man shrugged. “You came in at the end of a run, you know what I mean?” I’m going out of business. Sit down and I’ll make you a hamburger, on the house.”
James looked at the girl.
“Okay,” she said, in a tone that made it clear that she would've been happier to leave.
The big man put his hands on the bar and leaned toward her. “Miss, if I were you, I wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“I don’t like hamburger,” she said.
“You want a hot dog?” the man said. “I got a hot dog for you. Guaranteed to please.”
“I’ll have some french fries,” she said.
The big man turned to the grill and opened the metal drawer under it. He was very wide at the hip, and his legs were like tree trunks. “I got out of the Army after twenty years,” he said, “and I got a little money put aside. The wife and I decided we want to get into the restaurant business. The government’s going to be paying me a nice pension, and we got the savings, so we sink it all in this Goddamn diner. Six and a half miles from the interstate. You get the picture? The guy’s selling us this diner at a great price, you know? A terrific price. For a song, I’m in the restaurant business. The wife will cook the food and I’ll wait tables, you know, until we start to make a little extra, and then we’ll hire somebody--a high school kid, or somebody like that. We might even open another restaurant., if the going gets good enough for that. But, of course, this is New Mexico. This is six and a half miles from the interstate. You know what’s up the road? Nothing.” He had put the hamburger on, and a blanket of frozen french fries. “Now the wife decides she’s had enough of like on the border, and off she goes to Seattle to sit in the rain with her mother, and here I am trying to sell a place nobody else is dumb enough to buy. You know what I mean?”
“That’s rough,” James said.
“You’re the second customer I’ve had all week
The girl said, “I guess that cash register’s empty, then, huh.”
“It ain’t full, honey.”
She got up and wandered across the room. For a while she stood gazing out the windows over the booths, her hands invisible under the wooden shawl. When she came back to sit next to James again, the hamburger and french fries were ready.
“On the house,” the big man said.
And the girl brought a gun out from under the shawl--a pistol that looked like a toy. “Suppose you open up that register, Mr. Pooh Mouth,” she said.
The big man looked at her, then at James, who had taken a large bite of his hamburger and had it bulging from his cheeks.
“This thing is loaded, and I’ll use it.”
“Well, for Christ’s sake,” the big man said.
James started to get off the stool. “Hold on a minute,” he said to them both, his words garbled by the mouthful of food, and then everything started happening at once. The girl aimed the pistol. There was a popping sound--a single small pop, not much louder than the sound of a firecracker--and the big man took a step back, into the dishes and pans. He stared at the girl, wide eyed, for what seemed like a long time, and then went down, pulling dishes with him in a tremendous shattering.
Originally Posted by Red Panda
To Be Continued...