And a Side O’ Fries

8 comments
A Story, country life, humor, living

I have a thing about germs and door handles so I try to push open the brown glass door with my rump, but it won’t budge. I swing hard and heave-ho my hip into the door time and again before I notice a flash of red-checkered flannel on the other side. My son tugs on my sleeve and says, “Mom, those men want out and you keep pushing the door in.”

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Ga-reat. I shove my sunglasses to the top of my head, gallantly step aside, and flip my outstretched hand in a motion for them to pass through. They don’t. The old-timer among them opens the door, touches his hat rim, and says, “Mornin’ ma’am.” He stands there, his arms wide and body outstretched at an odd angle whilst he holds the door open from the inside. I feel as if I am stepping into a hug as I pass close enough to smell his aftershave.

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Two men, several years my junior, also were trapped with him in the foyer and they grin-nod at me as I push my son ahead, right into their midst. One of the fellas stuffs his lip pocket with a wad of chew and the other tries real hard not to laugh. His snickers finally give way and laughter trails us all the way to the counter.

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Grandma Jo, according to her name tag, wears a hairnet and false fingernails. She stands with a slouch and fiddles with a glittery pink heart necklace. It looks like candy against her wrinkled neck. “Whaddaya want honey?”

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“We’ll take a glass of orange juice, one of apple juice, and an order of thick-cut, waffle fries. And hold the sauce, please.” My son nods in happy agreement.

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Except for the outer façade and the painted-over neon sign, this repurposed, rural restaurant has been turned into something more fanciful than the standard fast food chain that is depicted by the hard-to-cover yellow hues. Real plates and glasses replace styrofoam and paper, and actual-factual servers bring food and beverages to the tables. After the meal, patrons stack their own dirty dishes inside labeled plastic bins on a cart between the counter and trash can. Locals are used to the set-up and today’s big draw is the inclusion of a breakfast menu and earlier start-up hours.

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I reckon the introduction of the morning menu was timed to coincide with the opening of fishing season. Yep, I reckon so.

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Around here, lesser streams trickle down from the many mountains, the Columbia River snakes along the edge of town, and its vast waters pool into Lake Roosevelt. All in all, fishermen rule. And it’s not unlike the community where I grew-up, just over the mountain range and across the state line.

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We slide across shiny red bench seats, I sanitize my hands, and look around. In the booth behind me four men-folk eat their breakfast and I see that the shortest one wears a grin big enough to park his daddy’s truck in. Once our waffle fries arrive, we squirt globs of mustard on the platter edge, pray, and start dippin’-n-eatin’ our catch. We don’t talk. Our mouths are too full for that, but we listen.

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“Nope, no. I just don’t think we’ll see him today.”

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“See who? See who? Daddy, see who?”

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“You’re right. He never comes out this early in the season.”

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“Yeah, hardly anyone ever sees him the first week.”

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“You got that right. Well, except for old man Stevie. That dern fool swears he seen him already. And that he’s been feeding him at the dock every morning.”

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“Stevie who? Stevie who? Hey, who does Stevie feed?”

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“Oh, it’s just them spicy Rueben sandwiches and that half rack of beer that he’s seeing.”

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“I reckon you’re right about that.”

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“And what kind of fish eats corn chips anyway?”

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“We can feed corn chips to fish? Hey, daddy, got any corn chips?”

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“Nope, I don’t think we’ll see him today. It’s too early in the season and too late in the day.”

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“Hey, a guy can hope. Maybe we’ll see just his tail –  if we’re lucky.”

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“Are you girls about ready? We don’t wanna be the last boat on the lake.”

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“Hey, we’re not girls! And whose tail are we gonna see anyways? Daddy, are you listening to me?”

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Three grown men and one boy, probably about five years old, climb out of the booth. I swivel on the vinyl seat and get a better view. The boy riddles his elders with questions and the whole lot of ‘em make their way out the first set of doors. The little one hops with newbie fisherman electricity. Just before the inner doors close on the group, the white-haired man bends low and speaks into the boy’s ear.

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“No way! A real merman?! In my lake?! He squeals loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear.

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The old man nods and scratches his head. He comes back to their booth, grabs his camouflage ball cap from the bench, and winks at me as he says, “Honey, there’s always a learning curve in knowing when to push open the door.”

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I wipe salt off my lips, say “you betcha,” and let myself believe he’s talking about the doors of my imagination.

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As my son and I watch the fishing crew pile into a gray Dodge Cummins diesel, a much newer model than our own, he leans across the table and whispers, “Hey mom, what’s a merman?”

merman w.

* The above actual-factual piece of fiction first appeared on the interwebs last June when I wrote it and posted it on this here blog site of mine. I hope you at least smiled… and just maybe, for a minute or two, thought it was really real. ‘Cause it coulda be, ya know.

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8 thoughts on “And a Side O’ Fries”

    • Goody, miss Patricia! I’m glad you got to read it this time ’round too.

      Even though it wasn’t real in its fish tale entirety, the snippets were real, but spread over a couple of different restaurants and conversations.

      Blessings.

  1. S. Etole says:

    It certainly reads real. And the wisdom about the door …

    • Miss Susie, that door bit has happened. I’m known far and wide as a door-dork since I never can tell which way they open. 😉

      Blessings.

  2. I have to say that you went up a notch or two on my admiration scale for eating fries. Not only for eating them but admitting to eating them. You are my kind of woman. [I have too many itty, bitty friends who hardly eat, and if they did eat, they’d order bird seed]

    Now. Wait. What was the story about?

    • Ha! Miss Harriett, I’ve been called a lot of things, but “itty, bitty” ain’t never been one of them. I come from sturdy Montana ranching stock: low center of gravity (short) & big-boned (strong levers). In fact, one of my old-timer MT kin once compared me to a brick outhouse… said I wasn’t gonna blow away in the breeze anytime soon. Some woulda been offended, me? It was a compliment.

      BLessings.

  3. Darlene, I commented on your article on Bible Dude which led me here. So glad I found you! I live this space, the writing the pictures, your stance . . .

    • Miss Stephanie, thanks so much for reading both of my articles and for your kind words. I’ve visited your site and it seems we have a similar bent, not only in simple site styles, but in other pursuits (Christ, outdoors, photography, etc) as well.

      And that bow fishing story with images? iLike it. A. Lot.

      Blessings.

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