Friday, 13 May 2016

Two Grumpy Old Men Cafe - a short story by Allan Hudson

If you don't like being insulted then don't go through the door.






This story was inspired by an afternoon sharing some drinks with a few buddies. Someone suggested that when we retired we could move south and open up a restaurant only serving breakfast and have the afternoons off. Most of us thought that wouldn't be a good idea because the person that made the suggestion was too grumpy in the mornings.


Two Grumpy Old Men Café was born.

The following is Part 1. If you would like to read Part 2, leave your email address in the comment box below and I'll send you a free Word or PDF version of the complete story.Copyright is owned by the author. This story was first published in SHORTS Vol.1





The TGOM café is open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday to Friday for breakfast only. If the two Canadians that owned the place had to stay open any longer they wouldn’t be just grumpy, they’d be downright inhospitable. At 77 years of age, Wilmot Parker III is an avid golfer, not a very good one mind you; in fact his fellow hackers call him Trap. There is always enough sand in the cuffs of his golfing pants at the end of a game that management accuses him of trying to steal it. If he ever played eighteen holes under ninety, it was likely his turn to keep score that day. Nonetheless, he loves the sport and has to be at the clubhouse by 1 p.m. every day except Sunday, which is church day. He’d been a financial advisor most of his working life, a golfer for about nine years, a widower for twelve, restaurateur for three.


Clarence Jerome Parker (no relation), known as CJ, is 75 and has never been married. When questioned about his bachelorhood, his defensive phrase is “there are too many lovely ladies, and I only have one lifetime. It would be unfair to womankind for me to impose myself upon one partner for the rest of my life.” His afternoons are spent in front of his computer writing what he calls “smut novels” under the alias of John T. Boner. The series is a moderate internet hit, available exclusively on his web page. Other people manage the site now, but every day except Monday (restaurant accounting day) and Friday (happy hour day), he writes from 1 to 5 p.m. He’d been a building contractor for thirty-five years, a hobby writer most of his life, a restaurateur for three. He cooks the biscuits in the mornings.

Estero Boulevard in Fort Myers Beach is mostly deserted at 5 a.m. The café sits down a side street off the main road, third business from the corner. It’s tucked neatly between a family-owned hardware store appropriately named Family’s Hardware and a used book store called The Author’s Index, run by a retired couple from Burlington, Vermont. All the buildings are constructed of rust-colored bricks and flat roofs. The café is the brightest on the street. The brick is whitewashed under large tinted glass windows that are shadowed by a four-foot awning of wide black-and-white strips. The dark green letters TGOM dominate the center of the twenty-six foot canvas held taut by black wrought iron stays that had been installed by the former occupant, Mel’s Big and Tall, a haberdashery that suggested they “have you covered up to size 6X.” The inside had been gutted to expose the overhead metal joists and the raw brick walls when CJ and Wilmot bought the building four years ago. 

The coming day is a sliver of pink and orange that winks across the eastern horizon, threatening the night, forcing it to flee. The air is balmy, scented with palm and sea salt that CJ breathes deep as he unlocks the door to enter the pantry/office at the back of the restaurant.  A beeping warns him the alarm system is armed and needs the proper code or it will call the police.  He flips the light switch just inside the door, keys in his code – dthroat1 on the finger pad just below the switch. He grins as he does every morning when he enters the premises, liking how tidy Wilmot keeps his desk and how Taffy, their only employee, keeps the stores. The floors, shelves, refrigerators, cupboards are so neat and clean they look like they’re in an ad.

There is a staff washroom on the left, to the far right. The remaining portion of that side is a makeshift office. A shelf-filled wall that faces the back door is broken by a wide antique French door with translucent glass that separates the back room from the main cooking and seating area in the front.  The ceilings are tall and filled with sprinklers, water lines, wire conduits, air-conditioning and exhaust ducts that all roam the steel rafters in balanced order. The whole apparatus was sprayed a soft brown, like milk chocolate.  The brick walls that line the outer dimension of the restaurant were sandblasted then painted a buttery color much like the tiny yellow flowers in the center of a common daisy.
Large portraits of well-known Canadians – Karen Kain, Lester B. Pearson, Burton Cummings, Stomping Tom, Donald Sutherland and Celine Dion – adorn the walls in mismatched frames: black-and-white close-ups with large dark eyes that follow your every move.

CJ wears one of the “company issue” black golf shirts with TGOM tastefully stitched in gold over the left breast. A pair of leather sandals and khaki cargo shorts, pockets bulging like squirrel cheeks, complete his ensemble.  Shutting the door, he opens a narrow closet on the right, next to a food prep area, where among other things seven chef jackets hang, all black, double-layered cotton with the same logo as the golf shirts. Four are still in the plastic from the cleaners; three are stained and ready to be picked up tomorrow, on Tuesday. Two of the clean ones are a 44 regular; they belong to him. Wilmot wears a 42 tall. Shredding the clear covering on one, CJ puts on a jacket and buttons it up as he wheels about the pantry collecting bowls, spatulas, eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, shortening and buttermilk – all the ingredients needed for by his grandmother’s recipe, committed to heartwarming memory.

Soon, the oven is turned to 450 while the coffee finishes brewing – just one pot for the staff for now. The biscuit dough is rolled out on the counter, emitting a raw floury scent. Not long after, a two-inch round cookie cutter is poised to form the delicious circles when the back door roughly opens. High-pitched female chuckling precedes her as she bursts in with all the energy of a freshly lit flare. Taffy Fitzsimons’ whole being is a kaleidoscope of colors, emotions, kinetics.  Often reminding the owners of the drabness of the black golf shirt, she countermands their strict policy on company dress by wearing the most colorful of pants, often the stretchy version. Notorious among her peers for second-hand shopping, she always has something new on Mondays; there will be no disappointing the regulars today.  Her lower portion is clad in fuchsia tights; beige denim cut-offs with cuffs rolled at the knee cover her thighs; her shoes are high-heeled and orange. The golf shirt is just right clutching her tender curves.

At 68, Taffy is still an exotic sight. Her light brown hair is always pulled back into a delightful knot, highlighting her diamond-shaped face. She’s a beautiful Polynesian and Caucasian blend, originally from Hawaii. Eyes a rich brown find delight in almost everything; few wrinkles line the edges. Charming and witty, she trades gaffs with the Parkers, as she calls them, with aplomb. Insults come easy to her, she’s a retired firefighter. She followed husband number two to Florida, never to return. He died five years past, leaving her a mountain of money. No one would think to describe her as shy. The patrons love her.

Wilmot enters close behind, laughing at some joke he probably told Taffy. He brings her a new one every day.  How he remembers them is no mystery; he can even remember the one he told her last Monday. His memory is measured in terra gigs, fathomless. He’ll know what Apple’s shares are trading at as of a half hour ago, what they closed at yesterday, the day’s high, the low and what they were last Monday and the Monday before. He’ll know the final scores of every NHL game this weekend, which everyone will hear about whether they like hockey or the Toronto Maple Leafs or not. Except for the biscuits, he does the cooking.

He’s wearing his usual “business casual” shorts, dark grey today. The pleat is perfect, thin and sharp as a piece of paper. His golf shirt drapes his long frame and hangs out over the shorts. Every inch of his skin is tanned to a dark oak finish. His hair is greyish blond, like old age ripening in the sun; it’s full and sweeps back from an extended forehead. The nose is thin and the grin is wide. His eyes tell the world he is happy, it’s difficult for him to be grumpy. He heads to his desk, where he fiddles with the computer that is always operating. The ten speakers hidden subtly throughout the premises begin to emit the most soulful saxophone music via their favorite Internet station, The Jazz Groove.

“G’morning.”

CJ is cutting and sorting the biscuits on cooking sheets; Taffy grabs her waitress’s apron and, while tying it on, heads out into the main restaurant to start the coffee. The first customers will be here soon.

”Mornin’ to you, too, Wilmot. How’d the golf go yesterday?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“That bad, huh?”

“Yeah, I don’t know why I torture myself like that.”

“I’ve been saying that since I’ve known you. Why don’t you find another hobby?”

“Whatever. Did you get a hold of the electrician? We need those extra plugs.”

“Yeah, he’ll be here around ten... Oh, and Mrs. Tucker called and wants scrambled this morning.”

“And when she gets her she’ll swear she said fried. Dumb biddy.”

Wilmot just shakes his head as he slips out of sandals and shorts, placing them on the office chair. His boxers have Ninja Turtles with menacing stares. He opens the closet to remove a pair of plaid chef pants from a hanger. Quickly pulling them on, he slips the sandals back on while removing an apron from the top shelf.

“It’s been hot lately; think I won’t bother with the jacket today.”

Donning the dark green apron, he chats with his friend for a few minutes, some business, most not. Their organization is pretty simple. They each own one half of the company, which includes the building. There is no debt. Like Taffy, they don’t need the money. This venture came not only as an outlet for the three friends, in alignment with the need to be around people for part of their day, but as a commitment to what the end of each shift would bring. After expenses, which are meticulously accounted for, they give the rest away. It all started with three friends drunk in a hot tub. It would end anytime one of them wanted out, no arguments.

Its five minutes until opening when Wilmot slides the first two flats of biscuits into the oven. CJ finishes cleaning up his mess before removing the jacket to re-hang it for tomorrow. He dons a short black apron over his khakis and will serve the clients that line the horseshoe counter that enfolds the cooking area, which is open to the patrons. Wilmot keeps everything spotless, as if the room is full of health inspectors. He’s fast and a damn good cook. Taffy serves the other customers that choose to sit at one of the wrought iron and glass tables for two along the front windows – the most popular seats – or one of the three booths for four along the right wall. Mondays are always busy. The first customer is outside the door right now as usual. CJ is in the back washing his hands when he hears Wilmot exclaim.

“I’m warning you two, no will-not jokes today, okay, I’m getting tired of them and they aren’t funny anymore.”

Neither CJ nor Taffy can respond because they’re laughing so hard. Taffy gets her snickers under control as she goes to unlock the door but can’t resist,

“Okay, we will not.”

The door quickly opens with a hydraulic whoosh to admit a disheveled middle-aged man clad in a black T-shirt half tucked in that reads Bonnie’s Bistro in neon pink letters across the back, jeans with one knee “fashionably” ripped, and scuffed LL Bean hikers. Taffy’s bonhomie will normally thaw most ice cubes, but Horatio Rasmussen is just totally disagreeable. It’s why he comes here. She doesn’t bother being nice.

            “Watch what you say today, Horatio. They’re in a bad mood.”

“Yeah, well so am I.”
 
...........to be continued!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Please leave your email address in the comment box and I'll send you Part 2 in Word or PDF for free, for "the rest of the story"






Please leave a comment below and if you are feeling lucky, leave your email address (it will never be used or shared) for a chance to win one of two copies of Dark Side of a Promise on June 17th. An international thriller that will keep you turning the pages. Shipped free anywhere in the world.


5 comments:

  1. Hey Allan. Good stuff here. I'd love to read more. I saw your offer on BGS, and would like to learn more. My email is kathryn.harris.writes@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Allan!
    I found a link to your page on Susan M. Toy's blog.
    I see you are Canadian from New Brunswick. I have lived in Halifax, NS for a year, and I miss it terribly.
    I must say, it feels great to read prose imbued with a Canadian touch. Thank you for sharing. Here is my e-mail address hailieandersenwriter@gmail.com, we never know I might get luck enough to read more from you.
    Have a fantastic day.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you Kat and Hailie for leaving comments.

    ReplyDelete
  4. carolian@nb.sympatico.ca

    I would love to read your books, actually.. I will read your books. I just recently found out you were also a writer, along with all the other things you do!!!

    Congratulations and keep them coming! :)
    Carole Lirette Porter

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for your comments Carole. I'll make sure you are in the draw for a free copy of DSOAP.
    Allan

    ReplyDelete

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