Sunday, December 6, 2009

Breakfast at the Flyswatter Diner

I passed purple clematis flowering in weed-free beds as I walked to the door. The screen door caught on the ground as I opened it and the wooden door needed a shove to open. No one was sitting at the tables in the dark and chilly lean-to, but walking up two steps I found the main part of the diner cozy and light.

Three locals in Wranglers and big hats went silent as I crossed to a stool at the counter. The proprietor, a woman of no few years or pounds, poured me a cup of coffee and conversation. I ordered a Denver omelet.

I looked across the galley way behind the counter to blue sky through the upper corner of a window behind a coffee maker, a malt machine, stacks of dishes, piles of to go cartons and bags, a brace of toasters, and a mixed herd of ketchup and mustard bottles in various stages of completeness. Calendars on the walls, refrigerators and cupboards announced several different years.

The big-hatted locals in the corner discussed baling hay, debated the merits of several trucks and also those of Karen. “You know, she built most of that pole barn by herself”! They agreed that she was quite a worker and that her husband had made quite a catch.

The proprietor brought me a plate mounded with hash browns, toast, butter, jelly and a Denver omelet nearly hidden under a slab of a cheese-like substance. She cleaned up spilled coffee grounds next to me with a wad of sticky gray dishrag.

The breakfasting Big Hats finished eating and cleared their dishes. They wiped off their table with the gray dishrag, got out a deck of cards and started their first card game of the day. I finished my hash browns and continued the struggle with my omelet-with-cheese-substitute.

Another Wranglers wearer came in, poured himself a cup of coffee and topped off mine. As he talked with the card players a fly darted around his face. He took a fly swatter from behind the counter, sent the fly to meet his maker, then brushed its mortal remains from the swatter into the trash. The owner came out from the kitchen in back, her face twisted in disgust. “Give it to me,” she said, reaching for the flyswatter “I’ll wash it.” Holding the object at arm's length, she returned to the kitchen.

I gave up and scraped the remaining cheesy material off to the side and worked on my now naked omelet. I tried, unsuccessfully, not to picture the woman spraying the fly swatter off with the dish washing sprayer over a sink full of dishes. She returned after an absence that suggested great attention to detail, buffing the flyswatter with a wad of paper towels the size of a poodle.

I surrendered to my naked omelet and paid my bill. As I left the diner I noticed that the purple clematis had recently been watered.

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