Monday, September 12, 2016

One More Cup Of Coffee ... Part 1

One More Cup Of Coffee ... Part 1

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Double sleazy over easy, XL hash, and sides of swine and Texas trash ...

Maggie Fontainebleau yelped my order through the pass-through in Lonnegan's American Roadside Diner. A curious looking Chinese cook popped his head up and shouted back, "Two eggs over, buncha hash, extra bacon, and double the toast."

"You got it, Sammy, and double time," Maggie replied, and then added for emphasis, "double time, Sammy, double time."

I sipped on a cup of black coffee. It had a bite to it, something bitter, something that almost caught in your throat. I couldn't put the cup down on the counter without Maggie cruising by and filling it right back up to the brim. "Bottoms up," she'd croon, "bottoms up, big guy, you ain't gonna get right on air. One more cup of coffee, huh? Yes-sir, dis'll gas you up."

I smiled at her complacently, and each time she gassed me up, I offered a "Thank you kindly, ma'am." Even as I spoke, the words sounded strange, foreign to me. For some reason, I added a bit of southern drawl. It was pretentious, but Maggie never gave me so much as a second look. She would just nod her head and bustle down the length of the counter. Despite her brash manner, she was also demure, and what I supposed one would call a "Southern Belle." I admired the curvy lines of her figure as she hustled by. She smelled of rosewater.

I wasn't from the South. In fact, I had never been south of the Mason-Dixon line before now. The tall looping trees with Spanish moss dripping from their branches gave the whole area a surreal look to it.

"What brings ya to these parts?" Maggie asked on one of her passes.

These parts was just outside Thomasville, Georgia.

"I'm on my way to Pensacola," I told her. "My brother's funeral, I'm afraid. Cancer. Pancreatic cancer. A month ago, I spoke with him on the telephone, and he seemed fine. Sometimes, death arrives at your door without much warning."

"Sorry for yer loss, mistah," she offered, "the Lord surely works in mysterious ways."

I had driven most of the night, and by my calculations, Pensacola seemed within a half day's drive. The Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways. I never figured into the equation that young Billy Bottenfield would arrive at the diner that morning. I never figured in that he'd be as high as a kite and as crazy as crazy comes.

Billy Bottenfield was a high school senior with a rubber arm. He played quarterback for the Jefferson Jaguars, and he had been scouted by a number of major league football teams. When hard luck hit his family and his father checked out for California, he left home to live with his girlfriend, Amanda Rajonski. That's when the trouble began. He and Amanda fought with the fury of two pit bulls. When he clobbered her silly one night, Amanda's father sent him packing. Billy lived more or less on the street for a time, most often sleeping in his red Ford pickup, and that's when he started his drug habit. His life crumbled from that point forward.

When Billy Bottenfield entered Lonngegan's, he hadn't come for the breakfast special. He swayed through the door and immediately shouted, "Y'all stop right where youse at. I don't wanna do nobody no harm, but I will if I have to."

Billy brandished a beat-up Colt .45 revolver in his left hand. He swung it from left to right and back again, then bleated almost incoherently to Maggie, "I'll be needing all yer cash from the register there lady, and I do mean all of it."

Maggie looked at the boy with a kind of revulsion. "Oh, Jesus Christ Almighty," she shouted back, "Billy put that damn gun away. Youse ain't a-gonna shoot nobody."

I looked at the boy carefully. There was a dead blankness in his dark eyes. I wasn't so sure Maggie had got it right.

My luck, the kid caught my stare. I turned my head away and gazed into my coffee cup, but he was already hypnotized by the moment, and he turned all his attention my way.

"You, mistah," he yelped with a laugh I would never forget, "you think this is some kinda funny. You think I ain't about to shoot nobody. Well, maybe mistah, you be the first I shoot. What d'ya think 'bout that?"

I looked up at him. His body seemed to melt in the backlight of the sun streaming through the front windows of the diner, and for a moment, he all but disappeared. Then he came into focus as he began to move toward me, the .45 pointed at my face. I didn't hear the gun explode, but I did see the spit of fire as the barrel of Billy's .45 recoiled, and in the next instant I felt a burning pain rippling down my arm. The shot had caught me in my right shoulder. I fell backwards against the counter stool behind me. That much I remember. Then the room closed in, smaller and smaller, like the way the ending of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon spirals to black.

Then nothing.

... To be continued ...




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