He’d take a seat at the counter every morning ’round five. Ordered the same breakfast; two fried eggs, extra crispy bacon, hash browns, buttered wheat toast, and coffee with cream and sugar. The National Anthem played in the background as people came and went, ate and drank, slurred their words and read the morning’s news. But, not him. He stood at allegiance until it was over, hand over heart, looking out at the American flag that flapped in the wind across the street, thinking of those who’d gone before him; his grand dad who fought in WWII, his father who fought in Korea, an uncle who had gone off to Vietnam, and a son that lost his life in Afghanistan. He was turned away from service, flat feet. Cursed em everyday. The trumpet sounded the last note. And, like clockwork, breakfast was served.
Irene placed the greasy plate down in front of him. He said a quick prayer and crossed himself; reached over and grabbed the plastic salt and pepper shakers.
That wind looks strong out there this morning, Mike the owner said. Just gonna spit snow though. It won’t stick, he poured a cup of coffee and topped off a few customers. What’dya think Jack? Gonna stick? The old man with lines in his face and greased back blonde hair shook his head. Got up to 62 yesterday. Grounds still too warm, flat feet said. Wait till the nights keep at 28 or so. Hell, maybe the teens. Won’t be too long, he munched on crispy bacon and took a swig of coffee. Sounds ’bout right, Mike said. Sounds ’bout right.
Did’ya hear ’bout that shooting last night out at Brandy’s? Jack shook his head no. Two men got into it over some dancer in the parking lot. One of em wound up dead, Mike said. Just a matter of time I guess when you hang out at those joints at two in the morning, Jack nodded. Young folks too. Black, both of em. Arguin’ over who was gonna take her home, Jack shook his head. Said there was more to it than that. I bet you’re right. I’ll bet you’re right, Mike said as he lit up a Viceroy.
Girl get away OK? Was she harmed in any way? Mike said she was the one who called the cops. Her dancing days are over I’ll bet. White girl? Mike said, probably. Wouldn’t be surprised.
These girls get mixed up in this. Always on the verge of gettin’ killed or bein’ left dead in some hotel room out on 30. Damn shame, Jack said. Damn shame.
Probably came from a good home.
Naw. She came from trash like all of em, Jack said. Probably Waynedale or some neighborhood on the Southeast side. Betcha she never knew her dad. Betcha she never did.
Jack went back to eating his breakfast while Mike continued reading the paper.
They sat there in silence.