Old Home Café: The Next Generation

By Edward Floden, based on characters and situations created by William D. Fries, Jr.

Episode XI: The Happiest Mob On Earth

(Originally published in The Legend-News of 2003 February 17.)

Pisgah hadn’t seen this much excitement since the last Fireman’s Ball in 1987. That was the year when local boy and outgoing mayor C.W. McCall was honored as Pisgah’s “Man of the Year” for his efforts to promote Pisgah as a nice place to visit. Town events since then had attracted many visitors; but no one could have anticipated the townfolks’ reaction to the reopening of the only restaurant in town.

In the middle of the dining room of the Old Home Café, Sergeant Roy Hudson confronted a stunned Jon Bach. Surrounding them were about five dozen people, most of them awaiting table service, some of them actually eating breakfast, and the rest looking as bewildered as Jon. But despite the obviously too-large-for-the-room population, no one was angry. The customers were happy, talking to their friends and neighbors and marvelling at the crowd. A few people remarked that the Café could use another waitress or two.

Sergeant Roy was there to investigate the report of a disturbance. The cause was obvious: too many people in a too-small area. But before he could act, he had to know the facts. “Are you the owner, sir?” he asked Jon.

“Yes,” said Jon, slightly emerging from his deer-in-the-headlights daze.

“What’s your name?”

“Jon. Jon Bach.”

“Hello, Jon. I’m Sergeant Hudson, Harrison County Sheriff. We’ve had reports of a disturbance here.”

“Disturbance? There’s no disturbance here, officer. A lot of people, though.”

“That’s ‘Sergeant’.”

“There’s no disturbance here, Officer Sergeant.”

“No, I meant that my title is ‘Sergeant’. It’s not ‘Officer’.”

“Sorry, Sergeant.”

“What’s the maximum occupancy of this room?”


“Looks like you’ve got more than 47 people here.”

“Looks like.”

“You’ll have to ask some of them to leave.”

“Leave? They haven’t been served yet.”

“That doesn’t matter. Some of them need to leave; you’ve got too many people in here.”

“I didn’t ask them to come.”

“Doesn’t matter, sir. They’re still here.”

“I didn’t ask them to come.”

“But you’ll have to ask them to leave.”

“But I haven’t served them yet. Not even a cup of coffee.”

“They still need to leave. If you don’t reduce the number of people in this room to 47 or below, I’ll need to close the restaurant.”

“That would reduce the number, wouldn’t it?”

“Yes, it…” Sergeant Roy began to say. Then he realized that this conversation wasn’t proceeding in any useful direction. “You want me to close the place?”

Meanwhile, outside the Café, the Berry brothers had arrived. Normally, 6 A.M. would not be an hour at which they were awake. But school wasn’t in session, so they didn’t have a need to sleep at any regular hour. In fact, they’d been up since yesterday morning, and a few minutes earlier had decided that breakfast was a good idea. That’s when Jerry remembered that the Old Home Café would be open at 5, and it was only three blocks away, and so they walked to the Café.

And as they approached the busiest corner in all of Harrison County, Larry had a thought. “Did Jon hire a waitress yet?” he asked his companions.

“Not that I know of. The ‘Help Wanted’ sign was still in the window yesterday afternoon,” said Jerry. Jerry Too nodded in agreement.

“Did he hire a cook?” asked Larry.

Again, Larry said “No.”

“Then who’s handling the capacity crowd?” asked Larry. They stopped to watch the crowd, and noted the Sheriff’s car outside the Café. “Think he needs help?”

“Well,” said Jerry, “I wasn’t planning to actually cook breakfast.”

Larry agreed. “Neither was I, but if we want food we need to get inside, and that line is pretty long. However, if we worked there…”

“I’m on it,” said Jerry, as he lead a charge into the Café. “Employees! Comin’ through!” he cried as the trio politely worked their way through the front door. Jerry Too was the last inside, and he grabbed the ‘Help Wanted’ sign from the window and waved it over his head. Larry attracted Jon’s attention. “Hey, boss! We’re here! Whaddya need us to do?”

Jon looked up, his expression still a bit blank. Seeing Larry finally brought him back to reality. “Larry! Jerry! Man, am I glad to see you!”

Sergeant Roy interrupted. “You still need to get some of these people out.”

Jon thought for a moment. “Which one of you can cook?” Larry raised his hand. “Good. Larry, check the grill; Jerry, ever waited tables?”

“Does McDonalds count?”

“Barely, but it’ll have to do. Get a pad, next to the register.” Jon turned to the third member of the cavalry. “Jerry, can you do crowd control? Ask ’em politely to queue outside, and make sure that the only people inside are those with a seat.” Jerry Too gave a thumbs up.

“Sergeant,” said Jon, “give me a couple of minutes, and we’ll have this under control. Would you like a cup of coffee? A seat’s just opened up by the counter.”

“Thanks,” said Sergeant Roy, as he tipped his cap and walked to the back of the room. He was planning to stay anyway, until this mess got straightened out.

Jon took a deep breath, and turned his attention back to the customers.

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