Archive for October, 2007

High on the Hog

In which the Underground Diner, The Friend and The Mother, go upscale at the Lucky Pierre Truck Stop and Dining Room….

The Mother was certainly relishing her salad by this juncture of the evening and was leaned over her tray with both hands moving like lightning, which is truly a sight to behold if you have never seen it, but she did say that she was off the beans after what had happened earlier, and besides the air at our table didn’t need any more perfuming, and she just did not care to even have them on her plate at all as they were spoiling her appetite, but she couldn’t see anyplace to put them as The Diner refused to have them added to his Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail Pierre, until she espied that the woman at the next table, who had been laughing the hardest of anybody, had left her purse sitting open on the floor by her chair leg. So The Mother rolled what was left of the beans up neatly in some slices of the deli ham, and pointed across the room and shouted, “I see what you are doing over there under that table,” and when the lady stretched her neck to see, The Mother deftly slipped the ham and beans into the woman’s purse and snapped it shut, which she had disposed of the problem neatly, she said, and ordered herself another Jack to celebrate her own cleverness, as she put it.

There was a bit of a brouhaha between courses when the manageress, Miss Macilhenny, showed up to complain that The Mother had disabused the salad bar, which wasn’t meant to be partaken of on waiters’ trays, and there was now a rather large crowd of diners milling about and poking at those wilted cucumber slices, which was all that was left.

The Diner could see that the manageress did indeed have a point about the waiter’s tray, but as The Mother pointed out, our server, Maybelle June, had assured her that she could make as many trips as she liked to the salad bar, and as she was in a wheelchair and it was inconvenient for her to be scurrying back and forth every few minutes, which would have been a lot easier if they had placed the salad bar somewhere closer to our table and not halfway across town, and what difference did it make if she got it all at once and saved herself the trouble? Anyhow, as she put it, she thought the salad bar had abused itself, as the cucumbers were wilted, which The Friend was willing to attest to, and the deviled eggs had been so long out of the nest that they wouldn’t have recognized their own mother’s patootie.

Which Miss Macilhenny replied to with a rude suggestion that concerned her patootie, and The Mother retorted that Miss Macilhenny was so dumb she wouldn’t know the south end of a chicken going north, and there is no telling where this conversation would have gotten to, but it was culminated when The Mother accidentally rolled the wheel of her chair over Miss Macilhenny’s toes, this being the danger of wearing open-toed shoes in a job as physical as hers was, and when Miss Macilhenny began to shriek and flail about with her arms, The Mother got disconcerted and ran back and forth several more times over the toes before she got her senses back, and by this time considerable damage had been done, including dumping The Diner’s Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail Pierre into his lap which necessitated his eating the rest of it from there, and which caused some other diners to give him peculiar looks, but at a dollar ninety eight before seven P.M, he was not about to waste a good shrimp cocktail and besides the levis had just been washed and ironed, including a pleat.

The busboys rushed up to help Miss Macilhenny away, and since she was of an ample size, they hoisted her onto the leather horsey and carried it through the dining room, which The Mother said was the first time she had ever seen a horse with two hind-ends, and she further opined that Miss Macilhenny was the only thing there older than the macaroni salad, and the woman at the next table got to laughing so hard at The Mother’s witticisms that she reached in her purse for a hankie and now she was wiping her eyes with a slice of deli him.

The Mother however, pronounced herself “downright ticked off” at being treated like a second class citizen, and out of spite she scraped the rest of her salad onto the floor under the table, the pickled eggs of which landed on one of The Diner’s white snakeskin boots and stained the toe bright pink, which he tried to get off with the corner of the tablecloth, but to no avail, and The Friend said probably he would just have to dye the other one to match, but The Diner said he could not very well go around wearing pink boots because what would people think, and The Friend said that was a laugh coming from a man who liked to wear women’s panties, and The Diner said she didn’t have to trumpet everything she knew for all the world to hear, since the woman at the next table was now all bent over laughing and was trying to blow her nose on a string bean, and anyway, he only wore the panties when he and The Friend were engaged in some romantic interludes, and The Friend said she didn’t see anything romantic about a man in pink panties with Love Will Come embroidered across the front of them, and that was the only thing that did most times anyway.

The Mother, who is nothing if not fastidious, said she had had enough of this kind of gutter talk, and she drove herself back to the salad bar with her tray, which was now being hastily restocked by a half dozen busboys.

Well, it seems Miss Macilhenney’s foot was being treated at the hostess counter with bacon grease on her toe, because some people say that is good for an open wound like hers, and the grease was being applied to the wound by one of the chefs, which The Diner must admit was pretty ugly, and Miss Macilhenny saw The Mother aiming for the salad bar again, and she had barely gotten a fork into the pickled tomatoes, though as she said afterward, she’d have gotten there in plenty of time if she hadn’t “out of the kindness of my heart” stopped on her way past one of the tables when a woman complained that there was a bug in her potato salad and The Mother said, “if you think that’s bad, you ought to see the mess on the floor under our table,” and from the way she described it, three people got up to come and see for themselves, and they were shocked, but none of them had any suggestions for getting the pickled egg stain off the snakeskin boot, so I guess that will just be a loss, and also by this time the woman at the next table had gotten herself into such a lather that she had slid right off her saddle chair and which she was laughing so hard she couldn’t get up to make it to the bathroom so this was another mess on that floor, which the visitors took note of, and the fact that the woman was wearing beans all down the front of her dress, which all agreed was an unusual fashion statement.

But I have gotten off the sidetrack here, and to recapitulate, however, when Miss Macilhenney saw The Mother making her comeback at the salad bar, she snatched a fire extinguisher off the wall and came charging across the room after her, and The Diner has to say, she was moving pretty good for a hefty woman hopping on one foot which if you have never done it is not easy to do and shoot someone in the face with a fire extinguisher while you are at it.

Needless to say, The Mother did not take kindly to a face full of foam, which she said left such a bad taste in her mouth that she was off her feed for a week, and she snatched a crutch right out from under an old codger who had the misfortune to pass by at that very moment, and who in his unbalance toppled across a table full of people who were just dishing around their All-You-Can-Eat-Spaghetti-Platter-For-A-Family-Of Six, which sent spaghetti flying everywhere and they thought that he had been stricken of a coronary, and there was lots of screaming, and someone dialed 911 and reported a man had just died at the restaurant, and the 911 woman said, “Oh, not there again,” and told them someone would be there by and by, and never to order the Tunafish Special Surprise at that place, if she had only known ahead of time, she would have been sure to warn them, and the health department ought to put up a sign about that, if you asked her.

Meanwhile, The Mother was stabbing Miss Macilhenny in the belly with the tip end of the crutch to keep her at bay, and one of the ladies at the table across which the old codger had toppled, thinking that he needed reviving, was attempting to give him mouth breathing, and he thought, as he explained later, that she had simply been overcome with a fit of passion and was trying to have her way with him, though why he should have thought that The Diner had no idea, since he wasn’t but a scrawny stick of a thing anyway, but it is always those fellows who think they are God’s gift, as The Friend points out, and he was trying to fend her off and his wife, who had taken good notice of those young ladies at the bar and thought that perhaps this one had started her evening at that location, was whacking at her with his other crutch, which she had outfought The Mother for, and he had just attained to his hands and knees in the spaghetti sauce when Miss Macilhenny, who had managed by now to hoist herself up atop the salad bar to get a better shot at The Mother, stepped into the new container of cottage cheese which the busboys had just replaced, with her good foot and went sailing, and lighted right astride the same poor fellow’s back, and he was so overwhelmed by being assaulted with not one but two amorous females, as he thought it, that he fainted dead away, and the mouth breather was at him again, to the additional dismay of the wife, who took off a high heeled shoe to replace the crutch which Miss Macilhenny’s spectacular descent had knocked to the floor and which The Mother was now wielding two of, which gave her a good advantage in the weaponry, the fire extinguisher having stayed behind amongst the pickled beets.

Now, The Diner is not one to point fingers, because as it says in the Good Book, let him who is without rocks cast the first stone, but he does hold of the opinion that what happened subsequently belongs right at the foot of that 911 operator, because she admitted when everything came out later that she had her mind just full up with that Tunafish Special Surprise, which she said was surely a surprise all right, and which had caused her three calls in the last month alone and she was just plain aggravated about, and she had just gotten a call as well of an illegal bingo game at Saint Alfonso of the Valley Church, and she got the addresses mixed up, so instead of the paramedics, we got the raiding party and the paramedics went to the church, which worked out just fine for them, because two of them came out winners, and the Pastor said he had never seen newcomers with such luck and he hoped that they put at least a little something into the poor box before they left, which only one of them did so.

When the raiding party came in, The Mother showed how fast she could move when she wanted to, and she abandoned her wheelchair, which was covered by now in fire extinguisher foam anyway and she put in a claim the next day for a new one, and where it asked the cause of the damage, she said she had met up with a cow which the agency said had never happened before in that neck of the woods, and she hightailed it back to our table, and the police officers, seeing three women on top of a table in what looked like a gang assault upon the person of an unconscious and helpless man, they arrested Miss Macilhenny and the mouth breather and the wife all three, and they took the codger with them for good measure, because as the Vice Captain, Vernon Melon, said to The Diner when he identified himself as a Gentleman of the Press, he might have been feigning unconsciousness to egg them on. “Some of these old coots can be pretty cagey,” as he put it in a nutshell, and also arrested was the woman from the table next to ours as well, even though Captain Melon admitted as to how he wasn’t sure what she had been up to, but as he put it, there was something awful suspicious about a person lying in a puddle of pee on the floor of a restaurant that has a string bean sticking out of her nose and can’t stop laughing long enough to give you any kind of explanation for things.


Excerpted from Life and Other Passing Moments, due fall/winter 2007 from Wildside Press

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The Underground Diner

An excerpt from Life and Other Passing Moments, in which The Underground Diner, reporter for the Waltonsberg West Panhandle Express, takes The Friend and The Friend’s Mother, out for a romantic dinner. 


Fred and June’s Dew Drop Inn Live Bait Shop and Luncheonette is a casual dining experience, and the three of us had dressed accordingly, The Mother of course in that blouse that wouldn’t stay put and her brown mohair Capri pants which when she walked looked like two groundhogs wrestling, and the rest of us were in sundresses and tee shirts, the former of which The Friend had donned and The Diner was in the latter, in case you might have had a peculiar picture in your minds, as The Diner would not want anyone to get the wrong idea, especially after some certain remarks that someone had made publicly to one and all on our last outing, and The Friend wore her Peek-a-Boo blouse, of which she said laughing that she hoped somebody might peek, and I said I just hoped they didn’t say boo, and she did not talk to him on the journey either, which The Diner privately thanked the Lord for small blessings.

We were greeted at the door by a perky Almondine Crumpet, who both of them recognized one another as she and The Mother had gone to school together, but Almondine is years older, as The Mother is ever at pains to point out, the reason being that she was one of fifteen Crumpets and when she was a child, Almondine decided her first day of school that she wasn’t interested in any more of it and so when the other Crumpets trooped off to school each day she hid in the cow barn and it wasn’t until she was twelve that her mother caught sight of her one day in the chicken yard and immediately recognized her for who she was, and Almondine was carted off to school that very day and kept there, but she was already old for her age, and she was twenty four by the time she graduated, though of course she got older as the years passed, and the two of them never were friendly.

Almondine asked if we were there to fish or dine, and The Mother said the only thing she fished for anymore was compliments, and Almondine said that she might want to think about changing her bait, which it was not until later that The Mother decided that was on the snippy side, and The Diner could have warned the person that it was not the best business to get on the wrong side of The Mother, but then he thought, each to his own, as the man said when he kissed the cow, and anyhow, once The Mother got it into her head that she was not pleased with Almondine, she forgot that she was ticked off at The Diner, which the repast to ensue would surely be more pleasant for it.

Unbeknownst to the ladies, The Diner had called ahead and arranged for a surprise, and we were reserved for Fred and June’s Special Romantic Moonlight Dinner Cruise and Musicale, which consisted of we got into Fred’s outboard, which includes a one hundred horsepower Mercury engine, and we were paraded up and down the river while Fred’s nephew Dickie, who learned music at the community college and is locally recognized as an authentic real singer except he does walk somewhat funny, which we wouldn’t notice however in the boat, serenades you with befitting operatic music like Blow The Man Down and Indian Love Call, but sadly it turned out that Dickie had been stricken with some errant crockery a week earlier at a pancake supper, and it had left his windpipe out of commission for singing, which The Diner did wonder where the crockery had caught him, and he was not available for the evening, and The Diner said he ought to have been informed of that when he made his reservation, which he had guaranteed with his Chevron card which you have to do in advance to arrange for the Special Romantic Moonlight Dinner Cruise and Musicale, and if we were not getting the whole package, there ought to be an allowance made on the price, and we were at a stalemate for a bit, until June said she had found somebody to sing in Dickie’s place, being one of the other patrons there for the evening.

Well, it turned out to be our old friend, Zoe Pinkerwell, who said it was just making her feet itch all that good music playing on the jukebox and her not able to dance on account of her crutches, and especially Jailhouse Rock, which she said reminded her of her first beau, and The Friend said out of the corner of her mouth that she would have bet on The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which got The Mother laughing so hard that she had been drinking a beer which came from the cooler, and the beer came out her nose and three people got up from the lunch counter, which was two long boards which Fred had placed across his rear end on sawhorses, and they left and Fred had to go after them because one of them hadn’t paid for his Catfish and Hominy Plate, and Zoe said she might as leave go sit on the front end of the boat and sing for us, as she did in church on Sundays anyway, and at least she wouldn’t have to wear a choir robe, which she always does in church even when it is hotter than blazes, because as she said, the Lord apparently didn’t believe in air-conditioning for the New Albany Baptist Assembly, which The Mother, who is as devout as the next one, reminded her of Daniel in the lions’ den after the blowing of her nose, and Zoe said Daniel didn’t have to wear a choir robe and if he had, those lions might have had something to get their teeth into, and The Mother served her opinion that such a testament was blasphemous, and Zoe said if The Mother thought she was so blasphemous, maybe she would just stay right inside by the jukebox and listen to Elvis and The Mother could sing for her own self, and it looked as if the River Cruise might be spoiled for the Musicale portion of it, but Almondine Crumpet came by at just that fortuitous moment to take our orders. Well, The Mother ordered The Bumble Bee Tuna Spaghetti Bucket, of which she hoped Miss Strumpet could keep her fingers out of the bucket, and Almondine said that who was she calling a strumpet, and The Mother said that she didn’t understand why she was looking so huffy as she had plainly and clearly said Miss Crumpet, and maybe somebody’s hearing was going, which Zoe Pinkerwell said, that happens sometimes when a body gets on in years, and the two of them got to laughing so hard that the beer came out of The Mother’s nose again and Zoe said she was in danger of leaking and if they didn’t stop she’d have to go drape herself over the edge of the houseboat and there would just be an early moon above the river, and the two of them once again embraced the sacred bonds of friendship, though Almondine Crumpet wasn’t so very tickled, and went off to the kitchen in a high dudgeon.

Fred has a sign posted next to the boat that says, “You must be twenty one to ride this boat, or under an adult,” which is because of the romantic nature of the cruise, which The Diner thought the romantics would be curtailed a bit with The Mother along, but the ride would be nice anyway.

The Way Fred and June’s Special Moonlight Dinner Cruise And Musicale works, you place your dinner order before your boat sails, but you take your beverages along. As The Diner can attest, who is an old salt from way back, it can get plenty dry out there on the main, and then you come back to the dock to get your dinners, because there would not be room in the outboard to set up a table properly, as it was barely room enough for us as it was, with Fred at the back manning the engine, and Zoe at the front end with her crutches laid out long ways, and the cooler with our drinks, and Fred had bought his fishing pole along in the chance that he might catch something for the kitchen, and also on board were The Diner and The Friend and The Mother, who laughed gaily and said maybe she should just sit on Fred’s lap, which he said he needed his hands and his feet both to manipulate the controls, and which The Diner watched for all evening but never did see him use his feet until that unfortunate incident towards the end of things, and June, who was casting us off, said anyway the motor wouldn’t work if it was completely underwater from too much weight at one end, which is certainly the case, as except for submarines, boats weren’t designed to work underwater and you couldn’t do a moonlight dinner cruise in a submarine, since you wouldn’t get much moonlight. The Mother said it was a good thing June wasn’t going along or the whole boat would be under. And June said something in reply, but Fred gunned the motor at that moment which we couldn’t hear what was said and we set sail without further ado.

If The Diner may be permitted to back up here, there is a generous selection of beverages to choose from before setting sail, including coffee and tea and just about any kind of soda pop you could think of. The Friend selected the Hot Tea Your Way as it is described on the wall menu (which is the clean side of the back of a cardboard box with the selections written in red nail polish, which The Friend, who is of an artistic nature, described as completely clever), which consists of a little metal pot of warm water (“all the refills from the thermos that you want”) and your choice of tea bags, the selection including Lipton black tea and Bigelow green tea and Celestial Seasons Mandarin Orange; which is served with any one of three elegant plastic cups, the choices being Wile Coyote, Snoopy, or Sylvester The Cat. The Friend chose the Wile Coyote with The Mandarin Orange teabag, which she pronounced produced an oriental tea experience appropriate to a cruise and made her feel that she had traveled to some exotic location, which was enhanced by the river view with The Holiday Inn across the way, and the coal barges.

The Diner chose a Pepsi, which normally is imbibed directly from the can, but which he persuaded Almondine to let him have the Snoopy cup, which regardless of The Mother’s disdain, showed that the staff in this fine establishment was there to please their customers, and you don’t find service like that just any old place these days, as The Diner is well acquainted.

Also available for those on a budget is plain water, which some people apparently feared that Fred just hauled directly out of the river, so that there was a big sign as you came in that assured them that the management had personally passed all the water that was served in the establishment.

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