I’m not much to look at now, but when I was 19, I could make anything look good, even that green polyester uniform. I liked the attention, and I learned to like the cops, the strippers, the drunks, and the grab bag of other weirdos that flocked to the neon light of Frank’s Diner Supreme that summer.
The one guy I couldn’t stand was Frank himself. He owned the place and acted like it. He’d come in, order black coffee, and smoke like a goddamn house on fire.
I was relieved when he croaked. Sounds mean, but there it is.
Frank was good by me. He liked his coffee and his smokes and keeping himself to himself.
I’m lucky to know Frank cause I wouldn’t have no job otherwise. You do 15 years for manslaughter and tell me how easy it is to find work after. I learned how to cook when I was inside, though, and that helped.
I was a good enough cook alright, but I think Frank liked having me around on the hoot owl shift because then nobody would fuck with the place.
I’m Bill and they call me Don’t Fuck With Bill. And they’re right.
Marky boy would come swerving into the parking lot at 2 after the Slovak Club closed. I would just look away when he’d stumble into the place. Same for the kids who would come in there stinking of pot. If I had run into them in town it would be different, okay, but at Frank’s? Frank’s was a neutral zone.
I looked at that place like a kind of sanctuary. People could come there and be safe and not be bothered. So could I. It probably helped to have them at Frank’s. Better there than running around town anyway, right?
The food at that place wasn’t great, but the jukebox was perfect. I mean that the volume was just right–soft enough that you could have a conversation if you wanted, but loud enough to cover the silence if you didn’t feel like talking. Ain’t it funny how that works? If there’s no music in a place, it feels odd sitting there not talking to anyone. But if thereâ€™s music playing, it feels just fine.
I needed a place like that then. A place to get my thoughts together and talk, or not talk if I didnâ€™t feel like it.
Me and my buddies used to go there when we were stoned. Weâ€™d get waffles and cheesesticks and all that shitty food you feel like eating when youâ€™re high. We tried smoking out back once, but Bill saw us and told us that if we ever did it again heâ€™d fuck us up. I think he would have, too.
Oh yeah, there was this cop who would be there sometimes, too. Man, he must have been dumb as fuck. We were completely out of our heads half the time and this dumb bastard had no idea. Not a fucking clue.